I love a commute that initially sets off deliberately in the wrong direction and then loops almost back home some time later, before reluctantly turning for work.
Between me and work there is a chunk of coast, a river valley, some woodland and some hills. A lot of hills, if I so wish. Depending on which bike I grab heading out of the front door I have choices; bridleways, chalk paths, farm tracks, a concrete path squeezed between the cliffs and the sea, grass tracks, river banks, singletrack, and fire roads through the woods.
Some normal roads too, usually if I’m in a rush, but they are not so much fun, and some of them are downright dangerous. I don’t ride those routes too often if I can help it.
Perusing the map I don’t need to be constrained by urban tarmac. The dotted lines across the spaces empty but for contour lines are considered. Then there is all that squiggly stuff through the woods that's not on any maps. If I can afford to waste some time on the way in I can start combining this bit with that bit, maybe throw in that little bit there too, and a myriad of choices opens up. I don’t need to ride the same way for days on end.
Anyway, why save the fun rides for the weekend when you can squeeze them into the working week too? It might be raining at the weekend. Admittedly this time of year it will probably be raining anyway, and almost certainly dark when I leave home. Those days when the sky is clear though, oh my, how good are those! Watching starlight fade into the dawn, the planets the last to pierce the blue, catching the sun peek over a distant horizon, when the hills gently lay their shadows across the coombes. Stopping for a moment, to simply listen; to birdsong, to waves lapping at the shingle, to the silence of the valley. Those are fantastic, glorious mornings. The only problem on these days is the fact I do actually need to go to work.
Some days the shortest, easiest line to the office beckons, either the legs aren’t willing or I need to be in early (and not covered in mud). Most days though, I happily follow wherever my imagination leads me. I’d rather sit at work with legs aching under my desk than with sad eyes gazing out of the window, longingly at those chalk hills, just over there.
When spring returns and the daylight stretches out again all these winter routes can be linked up and strung together, sunsets can be chased. Then is the time for the long way home!
Gavin took these photos on one roll of 120 film over the course of a week of commuting by road, cyclocross and moutainbike*.
*and train. His legs gave up on Friday.