The Cycle Diaries

The Cycle Diaries

‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.’  ~ William Wordsworth

I moved to Dartmoor and began exploring various trails by mountain bike, which evolved into the idea of writing an existential poem aiming to capture a sense of the authentic unearthed via an experience of unbridled joy.  Each canto represents a ride written on location that I typed up when I got home.  I allowed myself to correct certain errors for clarification, but otherwise each canto (or ride) is written exactly as it was in my notebook.  In some ways, I liken The Cycle Diaries to Jack Kerouac’s ‘Mexico City Blues,’ though I do not consider it to be a product of spontaneous prose, rather a poem intended to be written in direct response to an authentic sense of being.

Below are the opening cantos written 6 and 14 July 2019, plus readings from a selection of cantos recorded on location.

The Cycle Diaries is available in paperback edition here.


Canto I

Young girl on a horse,
I slow down
after passing the village fete
I reach the edge of the wood
check the RockShox
80/20 in favour of the hare –
following the online advice
and we’ll see how it goes.
Warmth of the sun
pierces through shadows
from the over-looking trees
as the track winds its ascent,
I’m feeling annoyed
but as I near the top,
I see a gate –
one from the video, great,
this must be it!
The tannoy has given way
to woodland sounds
rabbits and squirrels
scurry along
birds chirp
amid the swaying breeze,
sweat pours from pushing
up the hill, now,
the fun begins!
Gliding down a wide track –
loose rocks, twigs
littered with leaves
I turn down a narrow
technical descent
new bike, first ride,
twice my feet are
required to stop me sliding –
I intended to do this
descent at a later date!
No matter, I reach the
main path again.

Canto II

Why the hurry?
There is no need to hurry.
Tall fescue
and buttercups
bask in the shade
overlooking fritillaries
gliding above dandelions
looking up to the sun.
The breeze,
covered in mud,
soaked in sweat,
a bird of prey in the distance
silence weaves through the wind
after the rush,
jumps, bumps,
through streams,
through mud,
splattered on my face,
all over my body
oh, how I love the jumps!
Another stream
a rush so quick
has no room for thoughts –
this is what
hills are for.
The smell of cut grass
hovers over the motion
upon bumpy stones,
reach the junction,
no cars,
steepish descent
winding down the wood,
startle a squirrel
as I turn the corner,
he’s off the track,
though quite safe,
he turns this way and that
as I ride on
down a dry, steep track –
more jumps, though careful!
There are low-lying
branches here!
Down the steps,
over the bridge,
aftermath of the rangers,
a speedier route,
more jumps and turns
until I reach a meadow,
a bird hops in front
am I on his path?
Are we on the same path?
He disappears into the hedge,
I set the bike down,
a casualty squashed against
the frame – poor wood ant.
I brush away the sand
and look across the tall grass
to green woodland,
silence, birdsong, the breeze
and the river
for company.

© Christopher Sharp