Bonus Miles

One of the great things about being on the bike is that you get time to think: you get a lot of time to think, up to three hours a day, and in three hours of quality thinking time, you can come up with some real wacky stuff.

Today, I invented both a Concept and a Theory, not bad for working out at freezing point into a 25 mph headwind. But therein lies both the catalyst and the incentive for doing this stuff.

The Concept was Bonus Miles and the Theory goes that if I can bag enough of them before daylight sets it again in four months, then nothing’s going to stop me from successfully completing this project.

So what are Bonus Miles?

Well, see when you buy a CD (remember them?) and you leave it running past the last track that’s listed on the sleeve, sometimes you’ll discover a hidden bonus track. It’s something you feel like you got for nothing. Well Bonus Miles are the LifeCycle equivalent, with the real advantage that they don’t cost you (my supporters) any more cash: except they do really, because I shouldn’t have been doing them in the first place. Y’see Bonus Miles are really Bonkers Miles.

Let me explain…

When I left the house yesterday morning at 5:40am, it was cold. Actually it was very cold. I have around 200m before I hit the main road and those 200m include a bend out of our street onto the feeder road that leads to the main road. In those 200m, I have to decide which route to take to work. My preferred route is what I call ‘the 77’, which is local speak for the old A77, the old main four lane highway into Glasgow before they built the M77 motorway. Now that the motorway’s complete, one lane of the old road is a dedicated cycle lane, separated off from the rest of the carriageway by a kerb. It’s a commuting cyclist’s dream: but it’s never gritted. And to get there from my house, which is four miles away, there are six climbs, four of which are significant category four jobs in Tour De France parlance. The first is less than half a mile from the house and on a morning like yesterday, experience has taught me that if you’re clipped onto the bike and you can’t make it up the first hill because the back wheel spins you to a standstill, there’s every chance you’ll fall off sideways. I have those precious 200m from leaving my front door to make the judgement call whether I’m going to take that chance. Yesterday I turned it down and took the busier, hairier Old Glasgow Road out of town, because that road is always gritted. The sign is water splashing up off your front wheel, in the glare of your front spotlights. No water splashes on an otherwise wet road means danger. Anyway I digress…

Yesterday morning, the Old Glasgow Road was absolutely fine. Gritted and wet, despite the -4C air temperature (and that’s before you throw in the wind chill), all was well until I got to, well… Glasgow! The Old Glasgow Road meets the old A77 at what was once the Malletsheugh pub (now an Indian restaurant). From there into Giffnock, it’s a fast 3 mile descent on a road which, at 6:30am, has precious little traffic and offers the commuting cyclist a dream trip into work. But that wasn’t yesterday. Imagine trying to stay upright on 3 miles of black ice: ice right across the carriageway from one side to the other. Forget the cycle lane, it was every bit as bad on the main carriageway. That’s what happens when one local authority grits their roads only for another ten miles away to do no gritting at all. Had I known what lay in store before I set off, then the bike would have stayed at home yesterday, As it turned out, I bagged 32 miles on the round trip. They were Bonus Miles.

Then last night it rained. Actually it did more than rain: it absolutely hammered it down so hard, and with such a gale force wind, that it woke the whole family several times. I distinctly remember whispering to my wife at 2:48am (I checked the time: how sad it that?) “hmm, spot of drizzle in the air by the sound of it”, to which she replied “I think you should leave the bike at home today”. “It’ll pass” said I, hopeful that by 5am things would have quietened down, and fortunately they did, although it was still windy enough to make staying upright a real challenge on the more exposed parts of the route (and there are plenty of those over the Fenwick Muir). Of course, having made it into work, you have absolutely no excuse not to make it back again so that bagged another 34 precious miles, this time courtesy of the preferred route 77 both ways. It was another day that, maybe, just maybe, I might not have been on the bike.

And these last two days set me thinking on the way home tonight: these are 66 Bonus Miles, miles that in reality, on another day or at another time, I wouldn’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) have done. They are miles that will be hidden in the grand total of 25,000 before this job is done, that I will look back on and say “y’know they were the miles that made the difference between success and failure: they were the miles when I refused to give in”.

In short, Bonus Miles are the miles that reflect the fact that Vanessa Riddle, Oscar Knox and Mackenzie Furness refused to give in when the going got tough, and they came out fighting on the other side.

Bonus Miles are going to be the difference, not just in financial terms, but in mental “I can do this” terms throughout the next dark, cold and potentially dangerous four months, until the sun finally comes out again. Right now, all I see is darkness, darkness and more darkness, just like the families who are going through Neuroblastoma.

But if I can bag enough Bonus Miles between now and February, then LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma is there for the taking. Because if I can get through one dark, cold, wet winter (on unlit roads), then I’m sure as hell gonna manage the next four until the job is done.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for -2C, a wind chill that’s going to make it feel more like -7C, and a headwind the whole 17 miles into Glasgow. More of those lovely Bonus Miles….

Bring it on!

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