We rode out of Ipswich at dusk, with rain coming on, a high wind whistling behind us in the telegraph wires, and every sign of a stormy night. We had scarcely climbed the hill from the town, when an incoming cyclist warned us of bad roads; and indeed the roads proved worse than his account of them. Nevertheless we rode every foot of the twelve miles to this place. Soon after 9.30 it was quite dark, the rain was coming down steadily, the wind (fortunately at our backs) had increased, and we were riding warily across a wild naked country on a road of which the narrow cart-ruts formed the only rideable surface; all else was loose sand, sticky and dangerous with rain.
For miles we rode on hardened strips of road scarcely a foot wide, the wheels of the bicycles continually grating among sand and pebbles as we groped our way forward. The rain gradually penetrated our clothing and settled in our shoes, till my feet at least were stone cold. At every few yards we started a rabbit or a stoat or some unrecognizable creature of the night. There were no houses or cultivated ground till we passed through a village only two miles from Felixstowe. After this we lost our way, having Felixstowe on our right. My lamp went out, and on dismounting I found that my invalid right arm was useless, and so we walked the last mile to a hotel in the pouring rain.
Marriott vowed he enjoyed the ride thoroughly. I was anxious, uncomfortable in my saddle, and nervous. Clearly my nerves had not yet recovered from the accident in March when I dislocated my elbow and had to have a chloroform operation. My arm was in splints for a month, and in a sling for six weeks. I imagined every possible sort of accident, in each case following out a train of circumstances to the direst possible climax. In particular, I dreaded a puncture, and that I might take a cold, to be followed by rheumatic fever. Yet underneath this surface discontent, discomfort, and sick imagination, there was a sense of deep satisfaction, the satisfaction of facing and overcoming difficulties, of slowly achieving a desired end, in spite of obstacles.
I have a great passion for this new sport of bicycling, in spite of occasional accidents. Arguably the bicycle has liberated a whole generation of youths, done a great deal (indirectly through the bloomers) for the emancipation of women, and changed the kinship structure of British village life, possibly saving many a pocket of rural England from genetic decline. It is a convenient democratic pastime which suits my nature particularly well; riding a bicycle is not unlike writing a novel in that both are good for exercising the will.
We did the twelve miles, and a detour of a mile or so caused by losing our way, in a little less than two hours.
See also, 'Bicycling in France' - August 26th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/monday-august-26th.html