How many shades of grey?

Following text isn’t a late review of an erotic best-seller, more likely a sketch of one particular Saturday in February, the last day of Chinese year of a dragon.


We haven’t been anywhere out since the (Christian) New Year, being caught up in a winter sleet between work, planning and work again. By the end of January when the freezing grip lessened, we’ve met some friends at Sunday’s acoustic evening event at Band on the Wall club and in a sudden euphoria of a sunny Friday later on (that we’ve spent at work) we outlined a trip for the next day to a coastline near Liverpool. Sunbath, spring temperatures, humming birds and sprouting flowers, none of this happened, but it wasn’t snowing and dramatic clouds promised a photogenic sceneries. Waiting for an ideal day does not pay off in these parts of the world. We packed our bikes and soon we were taking off the sweaty train at a railway station of a lazy bath town of Southport. I think it started drizzling by that time…


Not a pot of coffee and a mincemeat pie on a promenade tearoom of Mr. Pickwick or the attraction of a second longest sea pier in whole UK, not even the massive low tide showing beaches hundreds of meters wide were barely able to compensate for the insisting cold, monotonously greyish reality of a rainy February weather. We could hardly appreciate the beauty of a nearby bird reservation hidden between the sand dunes, or a particularly wide cycle path running directly along the edge of a beach. The fingertips soon felt numb and the bashing of the sea was barely noticeable, hidden somewhere further in the mist. You know that haunting feeling, that it is all about the urge to prove “something” to yourself, to overcome “something” without admitting the apparent insanity and futility of it all? Do you remember some of your childhood family trips?


Despite all this, we were over the moon! We made our way through the humid beaches down south towards Liverpool, where we wanted to see other anthropomorphic installations of Anthony Gormley. Cycletrack has led us through the sand dunes and half flooded roads onto a muddy path dug up by tractors and heavy timber-mining machinery, where we experienced quite some fun riding our city/road bikes. The peak of that was an encounter with a super-human creature covered in lycra suit, ingloriously pushing his fully suspended machine over the puddles and branches in opposite direction – boo!


We haven’t found Gormley’s iron men in a rapidly darkening afternoon, in fact it was just enough for us to find a railway station. We have to return someday, not only because of those statues, but also for at least some of eight shipwrecks scattered along the sands from Liverpool to Southport. We hope for a better weather too…
And lesson learned? Dress better? Plan better? Relocate? Perhaps… Our interpretation runs more along the lines of the particular ability of a bicycle to transform no matter how ugly the experience of misty and rainy trip might be into something utmost positive. As has already been noticed by author of an article about cycling published in New York Times in 1986: “in the nature of the motion is another unique combination. With the great speed there are the subtle glide and sway of skating, something of the yacht’s rocking, a touch of the equestrian bounce, and a suggestion of flying. The effect of all this upon the mind is as wholesomely stimulating as is the exercise to the body.” And our experience fully supports this observation. We were coming back tired, soaked, covered in mud and sand, not seeing the one thing we came for in the first place, but even today we draw energy from that. The fact that cycling has a complex positive impact (not only) on a human psyche is supported by a number of studies, researches and publications, which you may practically try out and critically assess by yourself.

The year 1896 has marked the peak of the first wave in the triumphant way to popularize bicycle worldwide. The closing message is elegantly summed up by Sir Arthur C. Doyle from Edinburgh in his very down-to-earth note printed in Scientific American on 18th January 1896. It says a lot not only about the brilliance of his mind, but also about a time, when science stood firmly on the ground:

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on an early tandem bike with his wife (1892)

You will find more photographs on Slow Motion photo blog



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