Until yesterday, I’d been hoping that Lev would be stolen and that insurance would pay out so I could buy a different bike. However, yesterday’s cycle from Birmingham to Worcester has changed my mind. Lev isn’t a fast bike but he kept going, despite carrying 2 full panniers, a below-saddle wedge bag full of tools and a rucsac strapped on top of the panniers. The journey took just over two and a half hours.
I cycled almost the same route in April on Vilior, taking over 3 hours. When I arrived yesterday, I felt ready for far more distance. In April, I arrived fit to drop and lay on the sofa for an hour quietly moaning as my shoulder throbbed. (It didn’t hurt while I was cycling but began to be painful almost as soon as I arrived.) So what’s made the difference?
- I don’t think I’m fitter: it’s possible I’m fatter than in April. In fact on Saturday, I was overtaken by a Brompton!
- The weather yesterday was almost perfect for cycling: bright, no wind, cool, warm enough for me not to wear gloves. (I recall April being significantly warmer.)
- The streets were fairly empty this time, but that shouldn’t have made much difference. It seems that most traffic lights turned green as I approached them: that will have made some difference because it’s tiring to stop and start continually.
- I knew the route better:
- there’s a potentially confusing turn in Selly Oak (a district of Birmingham) where the main route rejoins the A38, having diverged to avoid the town centre;
- there’s a potentially horrendous roundabout north of Bromsgrove (get the approach to this wrong and you’ll be on a slip-road leading to the M42).
- I enjoyed doing over 24mph on the Rubery bypass (around mile 10 on the Google map). In April I laboured along here being somewhat scared. If my memory of a previous Birmingham to Worcester cycle is real, that time I was too afraid to use a bypass, instead meandering through Rubery itself.
- I knew I could do this route: it’s only 30 miles and I’d done it at least once before. (I know I did it in April and I have a sneaking feeling I’d done it once before then.)
None of these seem significant. What does seem significant is that I could use Lev’s momentum (he’s noticeably heavier than Vilior) and gears to achieve a tolerably constant cadence and hence just keep going!
So Lev has finally won himself a place in my heart and I’m looking forward to more distances with him. He’s not a fast bike: standing starts are slow (and nigh-impossible in top gear) but once he’s up to speed on reasonable tarmac, he’ll do the miles with little effort by me. I don’t think I could ask for more. So long as we don’t encounter Stalinists with ice-axes, this could be the long-awaited start of a beautiful friendship.