I was sat outside a café in Grindleford with a piece of cake a few weekends ago when a fellow cyclist pulled up, leaped off his bike and clambered to the table next to mine. I could tell from his multicoloured, damp Jersey that he had cycled considerably further or harder than I and, although he was keen to come across as stable and unwithered, the waterfall of sweat dripping down from his pink helmet said otherwise. He jogged inside and returned several moments later with a refilled water bottle and a Wagon Wheel – grabbing his phone from his bike and slouching in to a nearby chair. From his numerous cycling gadgets, I could tell he was a keen rider and my mind wondered to guessing how far he had travelled or where he was headed. Grindleford is right on the border of the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales, which is home to some of the best cycling routes in the country, so it made sense to me that he was possibly doing a challenging multi-day route. His bike also had several small bags, gizmos and two water bottle cages – a key clue in spotting any long-distance cycler. My curiosity was eventually too much.
‘Lovely day for it’, I said. ‘Have you travelled far?’
‘Only from Sheffield’
Sheffield was just over an hour away from Grindleford by bike, so my immediate thought was that my deductions were right and this was the first stage of his trip. ‘I’m going back in 10 minutes or so’ he continued. ‘I cycle out here, have a twenty minute break and then cycle home’. I was pleasantly surprised – I wasn’t the detective I thought I was but the route from Sheffield to Grindleford was a lovely ride, sending you over the Sheffield mossy moors on fast, bike-friendly roads. ‘That’s a fantastic route’, I replied. ‘The ride down through Ringinglow is an amazing line’. His ears perked up and he put his phone away – he almost leaned in as if I was the first person he’s ever spoken to that knew the area. ‘I can get from the top of the Dale down to Ecclesall Road in 13 minutes on a good day’. A very impressive feat indeed.
After further conversation, it became apparent that the gentleman cycled to the café almost every day, and had done so for the last 4 months. He would cycle from his house somewhere in the north of Sheffield to Grindleford, stop for a coffee and a piece of cake, and then cycle home. He timed both stretches of the journey and competed with himself daily. There were three or four different routes there and back so he tried a slightly different route every day – I found this fascinating. His face lit up when I showed my interest and he was quick to let me know that the fastest time he ever set was several months ago, when the roads were particularly quiet in the morning and the wind was heavy in the afternoon. ‘I’ll never beat it’, he expressed. He recorded his times on an excel spreadsheet on his laptop and tried to find correlations between fast times.
‘Going without cake might help’, I joked. ‘Do you cycle frequently anywhere else?’
‘Not really’, He said. ‘I’ve done the odd day in other parts of the country, but doing this is the most fun I’ve had with a bicycle’
‘Have you thought of joining a cycling club or even racing?’ I asked sincerely.
‘Why bother? He laughed. ‘I always win on this route’.
By Matt Adkin