Oxford in autumn is swathed in colour, when the richness of the light casts a translucent hue over the city, mellowing the vibrancy of the summer. Blended pastel shades are mixed with a glowing voluptuous orange. The smells are earthy, of decaying vegetation and smoky air. My absolute favourite time, when nostalgia stirs and the senses are awakened. It’s a seasonal transformation that can be fully appreciated on two wheels with a flask of coffee and an afternoon to kill. 

Agne and I decided our first ride would be by the river. We cycled along the River Isis, which is the Oxford part of the River Thames (we hope to continue on this path and complete an Oxford to London cycle one day…). We had lunch at the Isis Farmhouse, feasting on casserole and chilli - glorious sustenance for the cyclist - and turned back when we got to Sandford Lock. We cycled home mostly in silence and without stopping, absorbing the peaceful stillness that had settled over the river as the sun was setting. A pinkish haze rested delicately upon the water. It was compelling to see how the optimum conditions of light, colour and moisture combined to create this effect. 

Cycling through the city to get to the river. 

Cycling through the city to get to the river. 

Old bikes make sturdy companions for the unpredictable terrain of river cycling

Old bikes make sturdy companions for the unpredictable terrain of river cycling

This is me with my bike that rattles as I cycle because the lock jangles in the basket. All the best bikes rattle.

This is me with my bike that rattles as I cycle because the lock jangles in the basket. All the best bikes rattle.

Isis Farmhouse. Crazy amounts of bikes. 

Isis Farmhouse. Crazy amounts of bikes. 

A hearty lunch to fuel our ride heading South of Oxford. It was beautiful to feel the gentle heat of the autumn sun in late October.

A hearty lunch to fuel our ride heading South of Oxford. It was beautiful to feel the gentle heat of the autumn sun in late October.

With Agnyte, the founder of cycle.land. Crossing one of many bridges.

With Agnyte, the founder of cycle.land. Crossing one of many bridges.

This was an unexpected find. We didn't hear the sound of the rushing water until we were on the bridge. 

This was an unexpected find. We didn't hear the sound of the rushing water until we were on the bridge. 

It was mesmerising to watch the way the light formed on the churned-up water. A magical pool at the base of a waterfall.

It was mesmerising to watch the way the light formed on the churned-up water. A magical pool at the base of a waterfall.

Complete serenity on the other side of the bridge.

Complete serenity on the other side of the bridge.

Our old bikes handling the puddles and mud with class.

Our old bikes handling the puddles and mud with class.

Off-the-road cycling through waterlogged mud, like pedaling through treacle. 

Off-the-road cycling through waterlogged mud, like pedaling through treacle. 

Checking the map beside a sunny, enchanting field.

Checking the map beside a sunny, enchanting field.

Destination reached - Sandford Lock.

Destination reached - Sandford Lock.

Evening light on the way back. The water, like puckered glass.

Evening light on the way back. The water, like puckered glass.

Rowers on the river as the sun started to set, barely disturbing the stillness of the water.

Rowers on the river as the sun started to set, barely disturbing the stillness of the water.

Here's a map of the route we took. We started at Zappi's bike cafe, a one-stop shop for bicycle and coffee lovers, where we drank coffee, ate toast and inflated our bicycle tyres. Isis Farmhouse, where we stopped to have lunch, is about half way between our starting point and destination. We then cycled all the way to the Sandford Lock where we could have had dinner at Kings Arms. Instead, we turned around and came back to Oxford while there was some light left. 

first.bike.trip

“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.”

- Arthur Conan Doyle