On the road
Inspired by the Yorkshire stages of last year's Tour de France, I recently took up cycling. "It will be good for my health and good for the environment," I explained to my wife, neglecting to mention that it would also be good for transporting me away from her holiday to-do list.
"And it won't cost anything! There is no charge for the wind in your face and the freedom of the open road under your wheels."
Actually, there was an initial investment of pound;499.99 for a basic road bike. Mine is a lightweight alloy construction with 16 gears, making it suitable for every gradient. So far I seem to be getting by with the one gear that allows me to go very slowly uphill while pedalling like the clappers. I need only my dual pivot calliper brakes and nerves of steel to go down the other side.
As the heroes of Le Tour know, Sheffield is surrounded by hills. To get from my house to the picturesque beauty of the nearby Peak District National Park involves ascending two especially steep roads before turning left on to the A625. This winds its way relentlessly uphill for 3.9 miles before finally arriving at the breathtaking heights of Burbage Moor.
Breathtaking is a particularly apt description because by the time I reach the highest point, mine is all gone. While I stop and wait for it to return, I enjoy the scenery. It reminds of when the hectic last days of the summer term gave way to the wide, open calm of six weeks of freedom. City streets have been replaced by moorland. Ahead of me are big skies, spectacular views and a glorious four-mile descent to the village of Hathersage with its selection of welcoming pubs.
I resist the urge to shout "Yippee-ki-yay!" and content myself with being a focused blur of multicoloured sporting excellence zooming down freedom's highway. I was introduced to the colourful world of cycling accessories by the same man who sold me my bike. "A hi-vis helmet and performance sunglasses are essential," he said. "Now, what about some proper clothing?"
Apparently compression clothing improves performance during endurance exercise by optimising the muscles' oxygen usage. He handed me some matching fluorescent shorts and a top. "Lycra fits snugly, has excellent aerodynamic qualities and is quick-drying. And with a colourful design like this, you'll be guaranteed to turn heads."
I certainly drew the attention of my neighbours, although I suspect their heckling and cries of "Get off and milk it, grandad" were born of jealousy. They would certainly be jealous now, seeing me sitting outside the Plough Inn at this picturesque Derbyshire beauty spot, enjoying a well-earned pint. It is only when my glass turns from being half full to half empty that I remember I have a steep four-mile ascent at the start of my journey back.
Maybe I should get on my bike and look for a teaching job in Norfolk?
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield