The first proper ride

Gravel bike in forest clearing
Gravel bike in forest clearing

Back in October 2019 I ordered a new bike via the Cycle to Work scheme, a government sponsored initiative to get more people cycling, not that I needed any encouragement, I just saw it as a way to get a new heavily discounted bike.
Back then there was a £1000 cap on what you could buy so after a lot of research I settled on the Cannondale Topstone Sora and placed my order knowing that with the associated bureaucracy it could be something of a wait until I received it, little did I know how long that would be, or how long before I could ride it.

Months passed with the occasional email saying this or that needed approval from my employer until mid January I got the mail I’d been waiting for saying delivery was scheduled for the beginning of February, only a couple more weeks to wait.


On the 24th of January this year I was rushed to ER as I was unable to pass urine, seemingly an effect of new Bi-Polar medication I’d recently started and a very painful and dangerous condition.
A Foley catheter was inserted to evacuate my bladder and I thought that would be the end, the meds would be stopped and I could continue as before, but no things are never that simple, it was decided that the catheter would remain for a while and there began 3 of the most painful and miserable months of my life.
Constant infections and blockages saw me housebound and bed bound, the slightest movement caused pain, or worse, the catheter to block requiring more hospital treatment, unable to work I just lay feeling sorry for myself and wishing for an end to everything.
And just when I thought nothing could bring me lower a knock on the door heralded the delivery of a very large box, a delivery that had completely slipped my mind given all that had happened since I received the notification.

For the next few weeks I stared at the box that remained propped against the wall in our living room as I had neither the motivation nor energy to open it and my wife was unable to move it out of sight on her own.

April arrived and the catheter was removed, after a couple more trips to hospital to ensure all was well I finally got around top unpacking and assembling the bike, a task that took me far longer than normal as I was still pretty weak.
The box was discarded but the bike remained unridden for a while longer as I didn’t trust my ability to ride it at the time, I wanted the first ride out to be enjoyable and not full of apprehension and doubt, plus the day I had the catheter removed I also received a letter telling me I was to shield from Covid-19 for 3 months.

Shielding passed and I chose a bright morning to head out, I had no plan or route I just wanted to see how she felt, a shakedown ride to ensure all was well with no intention of getting off road at this point.
A wrong turn however saw me riding along the perimeter of a forested area and the call of single track was just too strong to ignore, the above photo was taking in a sun dappled glade on that ride with a cheap Honor 9 lite phone which just goes to show that if you have good light it’s hard too take a bad shot.

As for the ride?

I wasn’t disappointed and had no regrets in my choice, component wise a few upgrades were called for, chiefly clipless pedals.
I’m happy with the frame wheels and Sora groupset for now and it has become my go to for daily rides though it’s yet to take me to my office given I’m currently working from home.
Perhaps there should be a cycle form home scheme…

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