When I first convinced myself that my weekend rides needed to start early if I wanted to get a good amount of saddle time in, I didn’t really think it would stick. But what started as way to get 2 or more hours on the bike as well as get to spend time with my family, has now become routine by choice.
As cycling went from being a means of commuting, to a hobby (now a passion), ‘life’ meant that I needed to adopt the mindset that you ride when you can. Commuting each way gave me about an hour a day on the bike but I looked forward to the weekends when I could really stretch my legs. The only problem was my wife worked on a Saturday until the afternoon, which meant some quality time with my two young kids but also meant that anything we wanted to do as a family had to be done on a Sunday. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that this meant if I wanted to be a weekend warrior and get a good couple of hours plus – ride in, I had a small window on a Saturday afternoon, or I could attempt to get my backside out of bed on a Sunday morning. Sunday mornings won. The early Sunday ride quickly became part of the weekly routine in my house, like going to work or school, or putting the bins out on the Thursday. My kids went from being upset that daddy wasn’t home to being surprised and perhaps a little disappointed on the Sunday mornings that I didn’t leave the house before they work up.
The 5.30am alarm is too loud
My first early Sunday ride was a solo effort and I was determined to make sure that what I lacked in motivation I would make up for in preparation. So being super organised I did all of my pre-ride bike checks on the Saturday afternoon. I got my kit ready the night before and like packing for a holiday, I laid my kit out to make sure I had everything that I would need. I even worked out a 30 mile route on Strava’s route builder. Strangely my motivation began to kick in when I set my alarm for 5.30am.
like packing for a holiday, I laid my kit out to make sure I had everything
I usually manage on around 5-6 hours sleep most nights. My mind and body seem to function well on this and a development of insomnia in recent years means I can’t tend to switch off much before midnight. But I made the effort to get an early night so went to bed around 11pm. I must have been feeling pretty anxious about the alarm clock going off because it was a broken nights sleep to say the least. But at 5.30am I was awoken by the loud and god-awful alarm tone that I had set. I slid out of bed and bleary-eyed, I crept down the dark stairs so not to wake my wife or the kids.
The first thing that went on was the kettle and my breakfast consisted of a strong cup of coffee, a couple of flapjacks and a banana. By 6am I was ready to ride.
I often tweet that its a time to enjoy the world at it’s calmest – this is the time when I really fall in love with cycling.
The first thing that always hits me on an early morning ride is the silence. I live in a suburb which nestles nicely between a built up area and country lanes and less than a mile from a busy, dual-carriage A-road. But at 6am on a Sunday morning, everything is still, quiet and calm. I often tweet that its a time to enjoy the world at it’s calmest – this is the time when I really fall in love with cycling.
Rule #6 – Free the mind and the legs will follow
If I am honest, I am not an avid follower of ‘the rules’ but there are a few numbers in there which make sense and rule #6 is probably my favourite – “free the mind and the legs will follow. For some, cycling is just a means of transport or a way of keeping fit. For others – myself included, it is something more. It’s a feeling you embrace every time you ride your bike. The early Sunday/weekend rides began to take that to another level. Not only did it become a good time to think and improve how I ride by thinking about my techniques like pedaling and breathing etc. But those rides soon became my head-space time too. As I had written in my cycling through loss blog, a solo bike rides became a chance to reflect, think and plan. Despite always be alert to the dangers of cycling on country lanes, the quiet morning roads gave me the perfect space to do this with little interruption. The rule of thumb became – the more head-space time that was required, the further I’d ride.
I planned various routes to ride with varying distances in my GPS. And for the days I wanted to go back to basics and just ride, I would just let my legs and bike decide. I guess these days would be decided based on how tired I felt. Although sometimes I’d ride a bit further than my legs would be expecting, and then we’d fall out with them getting cramp.
And once I got into the ride – you know, when you’re pedaling to the rhythm of your breathing, I’d remember why I’d set my alarm so early.
Please don’t be fooled into thinking I am some obsessive, early morning person who jumps out of bed every Sunday, ready to ride my bike. There have been many occasions where I really….really do not want to get out of bed, especially on a cold morning during the Autumn or Winter. But on those days, I keep telling myself – don’t think, just go! And once I got into the ride – you know, when you’re pedaling to the rhythm of your breathing, I’d remember why I’d set my alarm so early.
A friend who rides is a friend indeed
Generally my weekend rides are just me, my bike and the road. My friends that ride usually telling me “I’d love to, but….” or “6.30am on a Sunday morning – are you having a laugh?”. But sometimes I manage to convince them to join me and I ride becomes we ride and my solo becomes a social. Whilst they may not have been quite convinced by my enthusiasm that it is simply the best time to be on a bike, when they say “wow, 25 miles in and it’s not even 8am” or “look at that sky”, you know they are on the same page as you.
If you haven’t ridden before the world wakes up on a weekend, try it once – you might just be surprised at how awesome it is.