My title is the opening line of John Keats’ poem “To Autumn”. It was written on 19th September 1819, 200 years almost to the day! I’ve always been curious as to why the bicycle took so long to invent and coincidentally the first “Dandy Horses” were appearing at around this time. Dandy horses were propelled by pushing the machine forwards, the feet contacting the ground. They were never very popular. It took around 40 years for pedals to appear, culminating in the “Penny Farthing” with a very large front wheel for propulsion, which also provided the steering. The danger of these bikes, where the rider could be 10 feet above the ground, was mitigated by the “Safety Bicycle” in the late 1880’s. The roller chain allowed the smaller wheel to rotate faster than the pedals were turning and the pneumatic tyre gave a much improved ride quality. The 1890’s were a period of great popularity for bikes. I imagine the greatest difficulty in making early bikes was the availability of suitable materials. Now we can use steel tubes, brazed together like the first mountain bikes from 1977 or even very high tech. methods like carbon fibre moulding, a technology I have yet to buy into. Excitingly enough (for me at least) I’ve just bought a very early full suspension bike from 1996, to add to my small collection. It has an aluminium frame and micro cellular urethane (squidgey rubbery chunks) providing both spring and damping for the suspension. It should arrive around Tuesday and I can’t wait to ride it. I took the picture at the top as I was about to leave home for a ride today. Not a cloud in the sky and the tree, an acer, is just starting to give it’s spectacular autumn colours. It looks as if autumn is coming early this year.
I was hoping earlier in the week that the trails would have dried up for a last chance to try to achieve my target of lapping Healey Nab in under 11 minutes. So why didn’t I ride my 15 year old Whyte PRST4, which I firmly believe is faster on the circuit than my modern bike? Why, as I climbed to the trail head and down to the start of the lap was I sort of hoping for damp ground, which would make the target impossible? Maybe I just didn’t fancy the massive commitment of a flat out lap, especially after a day’s gardening work yesterday? I started to speed up on the shallow drop to the back gate of the woodland where the lap begins, according to the cycling app. Strava. The trail had been slightly damp on my climb so I thought that it would be sensible not to fully commit to maximising speed and ride a fast but enjoyable circuit. The metaphorical starter’s pistol fired and things changed. Fast up the first climb and frankly as the lap progressed I knew I was working hard. OK, I didn’t push to exhaustion on the final climb but that would only have saved me a few seconds. I made one mistake in the only really muddy section, where I ground to a halt, costing me around 10 seconds. Sub 12 minutes would have been possible but never sub 11 minutes. My time, according to Strava, was 12 minutes 17 seconds. I’m quite pleased with that in the circumstances. During the afternoon I’ve been tired. So why did I put so much effort in with no chance of making my target? Do other mountain bikers push themselves as hard? I’m sure they do because the after effects of really hard exercise are like abusing a, hopefully, safe and natural narcotic. Add to that the physical thrill of flying down the trail and I’m never surprised that after so many years I find mountain biking to be the most thrilling sport you can do. Below are 2 more pictures of England in the autumn. I wonder if dogs like Freddie are aware of the seasons?
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