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In the end the catalyst came via an external source. Bill and Sophie, friends and riding buddies, invited me out for a Sunday ride in Epping Forest. Hannah, their recent addition to the family had also meant their usual roster of an offroad ride just about every weekend had been somewhat curtailed. Anyway I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance to catch up with friends who’d secured a babysitter in order to bag a ride and some precious “adult” time—”adult” time here meaning dicking around on bikes in the woods of course!

Sunday morning came and commuter rubber was hurriedly exchanged for something toothier and more suitable. Yet all the time I’d seemed to have on rising from my sleep pit soon evaporated thanks to industrial amounts of faffing. When I finally got under way I had 10 minutes to do over 4 miles offroad.

Fashionably late and puffing like a steam train I pitched up at the High Beach rendezvous with just enough breath to say “Hello!” to Bill and Soph. And it was a great ride; the Forest was surprisingly dry, trails were very buff. Any lack of specific offroad fitness was partly made up for by a little handling finesse and speed of thought both honed daily on the streets of the capital. The company was top notch too and we celebrated our ride with mocha and cake at the King’s Oak café newly opened that very day. I bade Bill and Soph farewell before heading homeward via yet more singletrack. On reaching home (tired and very happy) the bike was gratefully rolled into its stable for the night still conspicuously dressed in offroad rubber. Maybe I felt too idle to swap back to commuting tyres but mental cogs were turning and in the back of my mind I had a cunning plan for Monday’s commute. I’d done it previous Summers why hadn’t I yet got round to it this year? Mm, well there was the small matter of dislocating my shoulder for about the fourth time back at the beginning of July.

Anyway it was kicking on into late August now and I was putting the spicy on/off road commute back on the menu at last. You see that previously mentioned proximity to Epping Forest makes it possible for me ride the first four miles of my journey to work (or the last four miles home) almost entirely on woodland trails. And that’s exactly what I intended to do. The next day I would join the Forest in its rebellious push southward into the urban sprawl through postcodes E11 to E4. I was going to ride that secret garden.

And sure enough Monday came, as they always seem to do. The bike was rolled out of the shed yet thanks to heavy cloud cover and the obscenity of the hour that task I’d defiantly been putting off for a little while seemed suddenly essential; lights had to be dug out and fitted. Hmph—how could I have not factored that into the plan? Add to that the heavy tree cover where diaphanous greens of early spring had long since been replaced by the opaque, deep, tired greens of late Summer and Mr Excuse here didn’t really fancy the ride through a dark verdant vault too much. OK so Plan B: I’d ride to work on the road and then homeward blast the length of that embattled and less than pretty arterial tarmac of the Lea Bridge Road, popping off asphalt and on to dirt just after the Whipp’s Cross roundabout. Sorted.

Riding the road to work on rubber that sounded like a TIE fighter in pursuit of an X-Wing, thoughts of previous Summers flitted through my mind. Summers where I’d engaged in the aforementioned extra-curricular activity a little earlier in the season. When I’d communed with the morning, ridden through clearings where the dewy long grass had kissed my legs as I glided past, filled my eyes with verdant green and the glow of the rising sun, smelt the warming earth, stirred the leaves like a ghost