.citycycling

.lewis

A change is as good as a rest, so they say. And if that change happens to be a holiday in a remote part of the country then it's pretty much a given that it's going to be restful. Even more so if you take a bike with you to sample the local roads. And so it was that at 7.30 in the morning, in a dead-end corner on the Isle of Lewis, I found myself looking out over the Atlantic, feeling the city slowly draining from my feet.

This wasn't a moment of epiphany, I'm a regular on the Isles, using them as the perfect antidote to life. Someday I'll move there. But this particular morning the hills and the roads and the sea were mine alone. As they had been the two previous mornings. Aided somewhat by being a couple of weeks before tourist season starts in earnest, perhaps, but revelling in the traffic-free passing-place roads around our home for the week. Coming back for breakfast two cars came the other way. Both slowing, waving, at a time of day I'm normally filtering in a rough cycle lane alongside frustrated queues and having to assert my place in the ASL at their head.

I could get used to this.

Having the cyclocross bike simply added to the fun. A detour along a rough track, marked on the map as a dotted line apparently crossing the hill between my outward destination and the cooking sausages, turned into ruts and mud and rocks and clambering and smiling. The final chase by a couple of farm dogs peaked the adrenaline levels, before tea and rolls with a view sent from the Caribbean.

Driver guides in Harris and Lewis actually all warn of taking care on the roads, with cyclists directly listed as one of the reasons for such caution (the others being twisty drop-to-loch turns and the ever-present sheep). I've cycled on Skye and not enjoyed it half as much as heading out further west, where the hills are sharper, but shorter, the roads bendier, and those drivers more courteous and welcoming.

It's quite clearly not 'city' cycling. Even if you venture to Stornoway it's a town of 9,000 people (the whole of the Western Isles only contributing another 18,000 more), but it re-appraises you of the fun and utility of a bike within the city. Stopping frequently for some view or spotted wildlife is akin to stopping by the shops or on seeing a friend; taking the time to actually enjoy the road itself is a universal that can be applied no matter where you are; and remembering that the poor souls in a car are people, just like you, gives an understanding to the melancholy the urban driver must labour under constantly.

I hadn't fallen out of love with cycling while trapped in the confines of the city; but I've rediscovered some aspects I'd simply forgotten about. And until the next time I get beeped at for simply 'being there', Lewis will live on in my legs.

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