The Common


So I found out I’d entered the same bikesportiveridetypething in that land of lakes and stupidly steep hills that lies over our western county line as someone else at work. ‘Who’ll get round quicker?’ asked someone who knows us both. ‘Well’ I replied, ‘the other person is taller and slimmer than me, has bigger hills on the doorstep than I do, thinks time trials are fun, rides with a hard-as-nails cycling club and has ridden further in a day than I can manage over a whole weekend’. I thought that covered pretty much everything. ‘Plus they are twenty’ added our mutual friend, helpfully. Today was supposed to be the first day of spring and in fact apart from the bare trees, black ice, snow showers and the digit in front of the big letter C remaining obstinately single all day it could have been the start of summer so I reckoned I should head up out of the valley to where you can see the fells we’ll be riding over in May as it has been scientifically shown that looking at hills from a safe distance is almost as good as riding up them in terms of training benefit.

Birkdale Common is crossed by a lonely road which leads up to the high flat bit on the edge of the escarpment known as Lamps Moss. It’s not just the lack of traffic that makes it lonely though, it just feels a long way from anywhere, a place I shy away from over the winter not just because the weather often makes the roads bike unfriendly, or in fact unfriendly to anything without skis, not just for fear of having some kind of problem up there when you really wouldn’t want to be hanging around, but something more unexplainable and intangible. Leaving all that long dark teatime of the sould stuff aside though the sweeping descent down unto the Eden valley after one of the best views to be had for miles; the Lakeland fells laid out in the distance, the Mallerstang valley heading off the the south and the high fells of the North Pennines sweeping down the the Vale of Eden to the north, is a very cool bit of downhillness worth a touch of anybody’s existential angst from time to time.

It’s quite a long ride for this early in the year though and the spring sunshine faded about the same time as my legs. In terms of the little event coming up in May I don’t think there’s a way to win in those few short weeks’ time but as Robert Mitcham told Jane Greer, there is a way to lose more slowly.

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11 comments

      • secondratecyclist

        Well, it really depends on where I’m riding in my state (Alabama). In the northern part of Alabama (where my in-laws live) the climbs can be steep in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Where I actually live, we periodically have fairly steep climbs, but only for around 2-3km. I lived in Germany for 2 years and know some of the mountains in and around that area. In comparison to the states, I’d say that European topography is more like our Colorado mountains.

      • secondratecyclist

        . . . and all three are incredible 🙂 The areas I’ve been has been very bike friendly also. Good people in the hills . . . it’s where I found my wife.

  1. Rachel

    Your photos are beautiful as always. I see there’s even a sprinkling of snow. It does look very isolated and lonely and in fact it’s hard to believe this is in the middle of a place with more than 60 million people.

  2. ragtimecyclist

    I like that, “a way to lose more slowly”, must remember that. Lamps Moss is a great spot and i too have had that early in the year feeling out there, where the legs fade far quicker than the hills require!

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