Boots v Bike

There is nothing like planting your well-mudded boots in new turf, gazing ahead to yet unexplored vistas. Or is there?

There is nothing like the coursing of wind through your hair as you slip with ease past green fields and far cottages. Or is there?

Walking away, far from the oppressive bustle of life and the tyranny of the clock, with all modernity shut away in its own box and just you and the seasonable clothes on your back, and a bag with a rough hunk of bread and meat, as could have been carried by an ancestor who walked similarly equipped and talked on the way with Chaucer, or Caesar, and spending all the day immersed in new, energetic endeavours is not to be bettered in any age. Unless. . .

Stepping from the concrete and tarmac and the petrol fumes, from confinement in steel boxes and in regulations, a little frame of metal with two wheels awaits and no more power than your thighs can supply awaits, but what power those thighs can supply even unmetalled, out to the road where a subtle increase in the press of your feet set you at dazzling speed along the lane to new horizons.

On foot you are part of the land, connected intimately with creation in all its wonders, if not feeling every bump (not if you have good boots) then still rising and falling with each rise and fall of the breathing path, tempering your walk to whatever the ground provides in mud, rock, bog, heath, sand or water. Each moment is yours and you are challenging yourself alone. If you walk all day across twenty miles, you feel the richness of every yard as you are part of it. You feel alive because you have exercised the very essence of life and been once again a part of nature, in which you were born.

On a bicycle, twenty miles is nothing: I have zipped off to have lunch forty miles away. The speed shames the plodding feet, but it is all the same strength of the same legs, not faked by a machine, not burning choking oil into the good air but all from the force of your own muscles; you own every thrust, turn, bump and swerve. When you want to stop, you stop – you do not need to patrol around to find a car park and fiddle with change, but just haul your bicycle onto the verge and pull out a sandwich. Where even a bicycle cannot go, lift it onto your shoulder and carry it to the next bridleway or road (now just try doing that with a car). This is a machine of liberty: nothing but the clothes on your back and the light bike beneath you, and off you go.

So, bike or boots; wheels or walking? Make your own decision, but stop reading this and get out there and find out.

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