#1: Big hills in the Peak District
We went to the Peak District for four days over 'Royal Wedding Weekend' in April and had a fantastic time. We had sunny skies, well-paved roads, and beautiful views. On our first day (only a half-day of cycling) we cycled from Derby to Matlock over some massive hills. And I made it up all of them! I was still getting used to the new road bike, which was so much lighter than my hybrid. I have walked up a fair few hills since then, but making the whole ride without walking was a big rush.
The entire Dunwich Dynamo (in July) was magic, but during the second half of the ride, dawn began to break at around 4:00am as we cycled eastwards towards the sea. The ride had spread out after the halfway stop, so we were on our own, cycling through deserted roads. It wasn't quite light yet, but we could start to get a better sense of our surroundings with the sunlight coming over the horizon. It really felt special.
#3: Watching the deer in Richmond Park
In August, we went to Richmond Park to watch the London-Surrey Cycle Classic. Afterwards we cycled around the park and stopped to read in the grass in a quiet area. Soon after, an entire herd of deer came walking right past us, crossed the road, and disappeared into the woods on the other side. It was a really special moment, as the deer emerged one by one out of the woods, looked both ways before crossing the road (I swear!), and then walked on. We would never have seen that if we hadn't cycled.
#4: The last 500 meters up the hill to Newlands Corner Carpark
I had my highs and lows on our 200km audax in October, but one moment I will never forget is the last 500 meters before the finish. We were cycling up a hill so the meters were passing slowly, and Alberto was watching the route on his GPS. He kept shouting out how long we had left to encourage me to keep pedaling. We rolled into the carpark with 30 minutes to spare, and became randonneurs!
#5: That one minute in Epping Forest...
...where I actually felt like I knew what I was doing on my mountain bike! I've only had a few chances to take the mountain bike out so far, and have spent most of the time either terrified, walking my bike over tough sections, or falling off. But there was one moment at the end of our first time out to Epping Forest in October when I, just for a second, got it. I was cycling along the path smoothly, "letting the bike do the work," and I glimpsed what all the fuss is about with mountain biking.
Well, there you have my top five cycling moments of 2011. Roll on 2012!