There’s a certain sense of freedom on a beach. It’s locked like a border between the land and the powerful sea. The beach can provide tranquility, interest in washed-up sea shells, dead fish, international litter and wood that has travelled the oceans, only to be finally deposited with a smooth, worn surface on the sand or in the rocks. It can also be a spectacularly wild location. The beach is a great place.
For all of the above reasons, humans are attracted to beaches, in all seasons, weather and temperatures. Some people say that everything in life is better when you’re on the beach. Even if you’re on your own on a vast beach exposed by the sea at low tide, it’s not a lonely place. It’s quite embracing in a strange sort of way. It’s a powerfully romantic place, and for many reasons.
Beaches are the home to a vast array of activities from beach-combing to family picnics, to walking the dog, to sex in the sand dunes, to riding a horse, motorcycle or importantly for this post, a bicycle. There’s a famous film, and one of my favourites, from the early 1970s called On Any Sunday. Whilst it stars Steve McQueen and a group of other famous motorcycle racers, the final sequence of the film shows McQueen and two other riders all playing on a deserted, sun-set beach on motorcycles. The scene is of perfect harmony of man, machine and deserted beach, and with an amazing music soundtrack. In reality, the serene calmness of the filming and music would be shattered by the three screaming two-stroke motorcycles and sand being thrown everywhere. It is an iconic movie, location and scene.
You can apply the title of this film to beaches the world over, because humans do actually, and regularly, go to the the beach ‘on any Sunday’. This is of course, if you live close enough to a beach. If your nearest beach is in the next country, it’s obviously less accessible. We all go to the beach to walk and play in the sand. Sand is a very granular material composed of finely divided rock, shells and mineral particles. Sand is abrasive. Sand also has a high salt content due the sea. Sand and salt combined are really not good for mechanical things like motorcycles and bicycles. Sand is small enough to get inside bearings and just wear them out in record time. This abrasive work is also complemented by the sea salt, which moves in quickly to corrode any metal part that has had its surface damaged by the sand. So, the beach is not recommended for motorcycle or bicycle riding if you’re interested in the longevity of your metal components.
However, whilst there are few beaches in the world nowadays where the final scene of On Any Sunday can be re-enacted on a motorcycle, it is possible to race or ride along the beach on a bicycle. This is assuming that there is adequate space on the beach between other humans (and their kids and dogs) to ride. Riding a mountain bike on the beach is great. A firm sand provides grip, traction and speed. Deep, very fine and dry loose sand, doesn’t. Seeing the tread of your tyres being left in the sand is like leaving your own temporary signature there, because you know that within 6-12 hours, it’ll have been washed away by the incoming tide. This is assuming that you’re on a beach that is tidal of course.
So, on one early, Sunday morning, I unload the bike from the van and set off down the slip-way to the beach. The bike is a recent acquisition, which I’ve just renovated and serviced with a full strip-down and service. The bike is Cannondale’s first foray into full suspension mountain biking, and it was made in 1991. It is shiny, well oiled and sporting a brand new pair of Terra One Rider T1 tyres. I’m now going to get it covered in sand and salt. Why? Why not? It’s for all the reasons above.
I’m sure that nobody really wants to read about my beach ride. However, if you’re mildly interested, the number of seaweed varieties is staggering in this part of the world, with only a few ever being exposed by the tide. I can confirm that there are 14 varieties of seaweed found on this part of the coast and they have fabulous names like Peacocks Tail, Bladder Wrack, Sea Lettuce and Sugar Kelp. If you are very, very interested, you can read all about them here https://www.ywt.org.uk/wildlife-explorer/marine/seaweeds-and-seagrass
So, I can summarise my ride by the following; not wet, not windy, not cold, calm incoming tide, great new tyres, just perfect! Trust me, this an amazing and quite rare beach-weather description for the North East of the UK, in mid-September, on any Sunday!
If you want a pair of those fabulous new Rider T1 tyres designed specifically for vintage mountain bikes, you can buy some from the web shop and by clicking the Terra One logo in the side bar on the right.
And finally, in case you’re having a hint of concern about the moving parts on the bike, it was gently washed and re-oiled, and to date, I can’t hear or feel any sandy-salty grinding going on inside the moving bits✌️
All photos by the Author apart from the last one of the Author, which is courtesy of the Author’s wife?