Up hill

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am not a health freak. I am not careful with my diet [there is Someone who says that I do not eat enough vegetables!] and I do not participate in any organized sporting activities. However, my health has mostly been good, so I do not worry about it. It is not because I am lazy [I am lazy and have explained before why this is a good thing] – but I do like a challenge.

I drive a car, obviously, but I always prefer to walk if it is an option. In the last couple of years, I have started to enjoy another form of transport: a bike. Somehow it seems to combine the best of both worlds: I can cover significant distances, like I can in a car, but I remain aware of the environment, like I do when I am on foot. Speed does not particularly interest me. I do not have a fancy bike, as all I need is a selection of gears to let me deal with the odd gradient. It does open up new possibilities when we are on vacation …

A while back, we had a couple of days in San Francisco. It is a beautiful city and I never seem to tire of it. I think the Golden Gate Bridge is such an amazing structure. I have walked over it 2 or 3 times, thinking that this was the best way to experience it. However, on this visit we rented bikes and rode around the bay and over the bridge. The sidewalk on the western side of the bridge is dedicated to bicycles. I strongly recommend giving that a try.

Last year we went to Formentera, a small Mediterranean island near to Ibiza. It is a very relaxed and relatively unspoilt place, which we liked a lot. As well as being small, the island is mostly quite flat, except for a hill at one end: La Mola. The rep from the tour company told us that there was a good bus service around the island and renting a bike was another option, except for going up La Mola, as that was too hard. This was meant to be a warning; I took it as a challenge.

So, we rented some bikes and, one morning, I set off up the hill. I gradually changed down through the gears as the road became steeper and steeper. Eventually, at a point that I later discovered was more than three-quarters of the way up, I realized that I needed to stop – I had no breath left and my heart was pounding. After a while, I felt able to continue and, before long, I was coasting along a straight stretch of level road into the town. A quick drink of water and I headed down the hill jubilantly. Going down was mostly a pleasure, though I was not confident about my bike’s brakes. The highlight was encountering some people pushing their bikes up the hill and they were at least 10 years younger than me!

This year, we went back to Formentera. I realized that I had to prove [to myself] that I could still do it. So, I rented a bike [a better one than last year, I think] ready to try the ascent again. The ride up was hard, but I felt that it was easier than last year. I also stopped 2 or 3 times, each time before I was desperate. I just got my breath back and continued, not worrying about my heart rate – that pounding in my chest was a reminder that I was still alive. This time, my Other Half was very supportive – she caught the bus so that she could meet me at the top. She was quite surprised as the bus struggled up the hill and wondered whether I would make it. She was even more surprised when I coasted up to meet her, barely out of breath.

Will I do it again next year? We shall see. Anyway, I have moved to an area with many hills in the vicinity, so I have lots of cycling goals with which to stretch myself, without the need to travel anywhere.

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  • I’ve grown to adore cycling in the past few years – both ordinary and unicycling! There’s a feeling of genuine progress when you cycle somewhere; when I drive or ride in a car I always feel like I’m simply being conveyed over a distance indoors. With cycling you’re outside experiencing the outdoors and when you arrive, there’s much more of a feeling of achievement.

    Not to mention the health and fitness benefits, as well as the fact that the cycling community is generally very friendly! I’m a member of Stroud’s cycling club and I love every ride I go on with them. At the moment, one of the members of the club is helping me to build a fixed wheel bike out of an old frame I bought. It’s great fun. 🙂

  • All good comments Adam. Funny – I thought of you the other day when I saw this guy riding what looked like a modern penny farthing. It had the big and the tiny wheel, like you’d expect, but all the hardware looked 21st Century. It looked very cool, but I think I’ll stick with 2 wheels [of the same size] for the moment.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2010/10/15/up-hill/