Do you remember in the dim distant past (or about 8 months ago) when I started this blog and included a few write-ups of my cycle rides? Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those. However, although I’ve left my cycling as unwritten on here I’m still pretty keen on the pedalling and enjoy it.
My peculiar MS seems to rule out running, surfing, paddle boarding, skateboarding and other similar standing up and balancing activities – I’m not sure about rock climbing and skydiving, I haven’t tried those. I did try skiing three years in a row but haven’t carried on with it. Although starting off a session fine my legs soon gave up, either not understanding fast enough or activating the necessary muscles and ligaments for doing what my brain was telling them to do.
I did go to Austria with Mrs B and get up to an Intermediate standard eventually, through patient teaching and my stubbornness. Ultimately though, I decided that needing to be aware of my increasing signal turn-off moments – sudden faceplanting in the snow or inexplicably and uncontrollably heading off the piste for no apparent reason – was somewhat spoiling it for her and I was also a danger to either me or anyone trying to recover my body from down on the cliffs.
Cycling strangely though, although it needs balance, doesn’t need my legs to also support or finely-tune my weight distribution on the fly quite so much. If one of my legs decides to go free of electrical impulse for a moment it just has to go round and round on the pedal revolution, following the foot it’s hopefully attached to, until it enters two or three bar signal-strength territory again, normally half a second later.
My input through the handlebars can be subtle enough now that I’ve retrained the muscles too. At first, after my stroke six years ago now, that wasn’t easy to do either. Every hand movement on my right side was a few jerky, sudden and often surplus centimetres, not the expected and imperceptible but required smooth, almost automatic nudge of a couple of millimetres. I did a lot of exercise on the road bike static trainer to get my body to relearn all of this safely in a garage and practised being able to look over my shoulder while still pedalling too, which was almost literally a car-crash but mostly a hedge-trimming adventure or gulley-dive to begin with.
Before the MS I used to do a fair amount of off -road biking (I refuse to call it Mountain Biking due to lack of actual mountains where we live, only Snowdonia or the Highlands qualify for Mountain Biking on the mainland, off-road sums it up nicely) but that would need the control, balance and subtlety of weight-shifting again. More body recovery I fear, Air Ambulance crews or the volunteer Dartmoor hiker rescue services at risk this time.
Health, weather and now a new puppy has kept me away from the roads more than I’d like recently so I haven’t got long now to get fit and ready for our next cycling adventure, due in May this year. Two years ago four of us did the Velodyssey route, a linked network cycling journey of 1200km down the Atlantic coast of France, from Roscoff to the Spanish border at Hendaye. This was both eventful and fun, so this year, after missing last year due to moving, we are off to the European mainland again. This time we are cycling the EuroVelo Route 15, which follows the Rhine river from it’s source in the Swiss Alps to its mouth into the North Sea in Rotterdam. Theoretically it must be all downhill.
What we are planning is a motor-supported bicycle tour, probably an easy 50-80km of cycling per day and a slightly more relaxed ‘dreckly’ pacing. There will be three cycling and one driving each day. In France, Mrs B was the main driver but happily cycled when the sun was out. The first two weeks were therefore not Mrs B cycling weather.
The Velodyssey was a little bit target driven, we were always trying to get the desired distance done, but this time we don’t have the mindset of ‘we must finish it’ so somewhere just beyond halfway in our allotted 18 days and a few good days of sightseeing and sausage-eating on the way would be good.
So getting our fitness levels up to handle the demands of daily cycling is the aim at the moment but the weather isn’t helping much. As I write the ‘wintry polar blast’ has arrived in North Cornwall as a near-freezing deluge, which isn’t the forecast snow but will possibly also be measured in feet. It looks like the garage based static trainer might be getting some use. You’re safe, I won’t write about that either.