Bingley to Burnsall and other undulations

Over Ilkley Moor twice this last weekend, due to a desire to cycle from Bingley to Burnsall and a love of hills. A cool day, but cycle shorts none-the-less! Not many people around Bolton Abbey, and not so very many cyclists. And also over Langbar, now a firm favourite, it’s a pleasant bit of hilliness with some great views. The Tour de Yorkshire is next weekend, and goes through Burnsall, so the road closure notices were up. I love the excitement of bike racing, but bike culture is a bit too dominated by going fast – not many people taking it easy, panniers, steel frames, the occasional snooze in a hedge. It probably explains why some people will never get on a bike – if it means racing along scared of being overtaken or buying some carbon framed dream… It’s funny how the nation is divided up between the fatties and the sporty types compressed into leggings with go faster stripes. In neither case is exercise part of everyday life, it’s either something impossible (in BD3 the traffic alone would makes you retreat) or something rather technical, with added protein. They seem to be playing the same game, whereas the touring cyclist has transcended that entire ‘dialectic’, of course.

I’ve been reading the Southern Tier blog from four years (to the day) ago. We were in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. Wow! I think that’s one of the inspirations of touring – where might turning the pedals a few times more take you? The Southern Tier started outside an airport building in Florida, but wandered through swamps, across mountain ranges, many a scrubby desert, some with no settlement or water for about a hundred miles, through and across canyons, until it reached the Pacific. Wow. Let’s do it again….

I’ve been doing the Bradford Leeds bike route again. Doesn’t seem to be any greater number of people on the route though, in spite of a day when the temperature reached the 20s! The roads are uncivilised – the car drivers behave pretty badly to each other a fair bit of the time – cutting in, going through red lights, speeding. Curious that in a technological age it is still possible to get away with it, isn’t everything on camera these days? Probably can’t afford the staff to look. Anyway, pleasant bike rides on the whole. The problems are fairly evident – there’s many places where the route could be improved, ambiguous priorities made quite clear, bus users and cyclists separated more clearly. I guess there’s no money.

Reading Jean Giono’s La Chasse au Bonheur (The hunt for happiness). Wonderful evocation of Provence in its complex present and past. The book was written in the 60s when Provence faced ‘redevelopment’ just as anywhere else in the West, Giono is a genial, thoughtful, amusing and highly intelligent paysan. He has a great sense of the beauty of people and landscape, the squat farmhouse blasted by the mistral, with a couple of poplars, sheep, lavender fields beyond the sheep, some scrawny olive trees in the lee of the house, a pig in the yard, walls that are le couleur du temps. Not much has changed since the Romans, perhaps the weather is even less clement… And he’s pretty good on the romance of the open road – that feeling that I’d really like to see around the next turning – oh and let’s just see what’s around the next, and surely we should just see over that range of hills…. Some of Giono’s most famous characters (in the novels) are, basically, gentlemen of the road, tramps.. Perhaps it’s time to do Mont Ventoux, hmm.

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