Through all of our lives, there are certain milestones that are aimed for and hopefully reached… learning to walk, learning to talk and of course, learning to ride a bike.
The latter happened for me simply and painlessly over 50 years ago; with the help and determination of my father who fell in love with riding in his 20’s and still loves it now at 87. He has methodically planned each of his rides with his vast selection of Ordinance Survey maps, he has documented each ride in a series of small notebooks that have grown in number over the years and miles, and he has captured 1000’s of images from
each ride thanks to his love of and skill at photography. Through his early cycling life he toured extensively through Europe & Scandinavia.
He did the racing thing in the late 50’s, getting very close to beating the hour record and setting some national team records on a trike. Through cycling he met my mother, luckily, also a keen cyclist! He never raced again, much preferring a more leisurely pace combined with his love for photography.
Earlier this year, he mentioned in passing that he believed this year would be the year when he would pass his ½ millionth mile and would I like to join him for such a prestigious pedal. He assessed (and planned) that it would take place in July but due to the extreme Summer, (and the fact he rarely takes a drink out with him when riding), the date got moved back to Autumn. So, on a cool and damp October morning, we set out: father in front, me following close behind- just as it had been 50 years ago in the early days of us cycling together.
A long ride wasn’t needed as this 500k milestone wasn’t far away, less than a mile from home in fact… he had planned it well. So here we are out on the bikes: he, on his trusted Mercian and me on the spare and slightly newer Mercian. We pedalled out to a quiet lane on the edge of the village; he had calculated this would be the point where
the target would be reached. He marched out the yards to exactly where the milestone pedal would be while I held the bikes; and with a piece of chalk secreted in his saddlebag, he drew “500k” on the damp tarmac.
I stood to one side, aimed the camera and waited for him to pass this point. He did it as he always rode… with his usual smooth cadence, a smile on his face, and undoubtedly with the plans forming in his head for the next 1000th mile!
We all pass milestone markers whilst out cycling – etched in stone, with ancient, long forgotten spellings, and worn by the wind and rain, ignored by most. Some milestones are personal but just as important. Reaching this milestone was very special for him and for me. I’m very privileged to have witnessed a devoted cyclist achieving a massive mileage, but I’m also privileged to have a father who still finds joy in cycling at 87.
I regularly thank him for introducing me to this pastime which has kept me entertained, content, employed and healthy! Here’s to more riding in the Spring and riding with my hero, my Dad;
and here’s to the next 500,000 miles!
Words and pictures – Pete Gosnell