(a.k.a. Dibley) was the destination for a rather short ride early today, that I completed before the heat of the day really kicked in.
Somebody once told me that one of the milestones as a "silver" cyclist raises their game is when they realise that they have stopped avoiding hilly routes, and started to seek them out. I'm not sure that I've passed that point yet. But I don't avoid hills to the extent that I used to. I can handle most that I come across around here, though I sometimes route around them on longer rides and I'm certainly not ready to climb the escarpment between Watlington and Christmas Common. On the whole, though, I now tend to chose routes on the basis of interest and novelty rather than gradient.
In Scotland, however, I came to realise that there are hills and there are HILLS. If I'm going to attempt some more adventurous routes in more rugged landscape I really need to get some practice in. Seen in that light my short rides since I got back home have been embarrassingly flat and easy.
It's a hot weekend, and I'm falling behind on a few other tasks, so I wasn't up for a full day of riding today. I wanted to pick a fairly short ride that wasn't too wimpy, so I returned to an old favourite that loops through Marlow, Fingest, Turville and Hambledon.
From home this involves a short climb over Winter Hill to Marlow, then a longer climb north of Marlow. For once nobody passed me on the climb out of Marlow. Admittedly that owed most to the fact that I'd made an early start and there weren't many people around at 8 am on a Sunday morning. Nevertheless I was noticeably faster up the hill, and not puffing and panting to the usual extent. Once that climb is over it's an easy ride over to Turville, then down to Hambledon, where I stopped for a coffee at the village shop.
The route back into Marlow is more spiky, with a couple of quite steep sections. I've promised myself that one day I'll manage to climb those without getting off and pushing, but unfortunately that day is still in the future. I did a little bit better than usual though. By the time I was free-wheeling back down the long hill into Marlow there were dozens of perspiring cyclists puffing and panting in the other direction. If I'd had a couple more hours in bed, or if they had started a couple of hours earlier I'm sure some would have been passing me. But perhaps not all of them.
I'm wiling to make a bit of effort to tackle more demanding hills, but I'm not all that energetic. So from Marlow I chose the longer flatter route home through Bourne End and Cookham rather than climbing back over Winter Hill. After stopping for an ice cream and boat watch at Boulter's lock I arrived home just after 11 am.
When I first discovered this route I used to view it as a full day's outing. Today it took just under four hours for thirty-odd miles (including a couple of decent breaks). Not all that impressive, but an improvement which shows that even silver cyclists make some progress.