Riding Home

03 08 23

Words by Tom Reynolds. Photos by Dave Beckitt.

“Why don’t we just ride home?”

A simple question that anyone with a bike, and friends who ride, probably first posed as a teenager in the days when riding all the way across town was something to be weighed up.

This ride was borne out of that same question, we’re just older and so our concept of all the way was 200km halfway across the county from Leeds to Lincolnshire in a spring heatwave on gravel, grass and everything in between.

Off-road and on topic. One topic – home, in its various forms.

And one goal. Riding Home.*

*NB There were three of us, including two Tom’s so let’s quickly set out the cast list.

Tom R – “From”, kind of, Louth, Lincolnshire; Dave B – Definitely from (born & raised) in rural Lincolnshire; Tom H – From Halifax, but happy to become an honorary Yellow Belly (someone from Lincolnshire for the weekend).

Where/what does home mean to you and how did a riding trip change your relationship with it?

Tom R: Home is complicated for me. I’m an army kid so I was all over the world until I was six. When my family settled, it was in Louth in Lincolnshire but I’ve never been back “home” properly since I left for university and subsequently lived in London and Manchester.

As a result of that peripatetic life, home, or more accurately, where “I’m from” has always felt complicated. I don’t feel like I’m from anywhere. However, that said, Riding Home as an adult was a profound experience. On day two we rode up to my old front door. Getting there on two wheels meant I’d had two days and 200km to prepare myself but it didn’t stop the tears coming on the final descent.

 Dave: That’s an interesting one; especially when you consider that I haven’t lived at the place that gets referred to as ‘home’ for a quarter of a century. I swapped Lincolnshire-life for student-life in 1998 after heading to ‘The Big City’.

For me that meant Leeds, although pretty much all cities qualify as ‘The Big City’ when you grow up in a small rural village – and I’ve never considered returning for anything other than fleeting visits to see family and friends ever since … and yet it remains, to some extent at least, ‘home’, and I have a deep-seated pride associated with the place. This became most evident to me as we rode across the Wolds on this ride. It is an area that I now realise I have a profound connection with, and a deep fondness for. I was desperately willing the area to put on a dazzling display of its redeeming qualities – of which there are many – and for the others to be suitably impressed by my little corner of the world. 

Tom H: In some ways I feel like it’s easier to describe what “home" isn’t to me. It isn’t where I was born, and it no longer feels like it is where I grew up. I still have strong connections to my childhood home of Halifax, but my parents no longer live there. The building that was “home” is now somebody else’s. Home is not my parent’s new house, as homely as it feels.

Maybe home is where I currently live in Bradford, but again, while I like where I live, my emotional ties to the place are not particularly strong. I feel most at home when I’m with loved ones - regardless of where in the world that is. Which is why it didn’t matter much to me that Lincolnshire wasn’t my home; it was an important place to two of my dearest friends and I was looking forward to seeing a place that may as well have been a foreign land (I know some far flung parts of the globe better than I know Lincolnshire) through the eyes of a pair of repatriated locals. 

What is your relationship with riding and home and how has it changed/evolved as you’ve got older?

Tom R: “It’s a cliché but riding was once an escape. A means to travel as far as possible away from home. The Alps, Dolomites…..big rides, big challenges.

Now, and Riding Home perfectly embodied this, I try and take as much joy from the familiar. Local roads, local routes.

Lincolnshire for me was a paradox. A familiar discovery. I knew the roads. I knew the towns. I knew its big sky and even bigger portions of fish and chips.

But it had been too long to really remember.


Dave: Riding for me has taken many forms since childhood, and what I take from it has also changed, but for the last twenty or so years the emphasis has been on fitness and speed, be that off-road or on- (mostly on). ‘Hard and fast’ has almost exclusively been the aim, but this ‘ride home’ was different. The pace felt more in keeping with the landscape, in fact it felt almost dictated by it. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense to rush, seeing as we were there to experience the place for what it is. This afforded me the time to reflect on how differently I now see my old home. They’re no longer simply roads and trails … they’re moments in time that are umbilically connected to a lifetime’s worth of memories, and anecdotes, and relationships, and of course … nostalgia. So much nostalgia. From someone who really tries to not ‘do’ nostalgia.

Tom H: Riding feels intrinsically linked to my experience of home growing up. I got my first mountain bike back in the mid-nineties as a teenager, and quickly became a tool to explore the tracks and moors of home. It broadened my sense of home from a building to an entire landscape. And as I’ve grown older, riding has gone further than that. It has broadened my sense of home into an entire community. I have friends – or friends to be –  across the globe that I know will turn pedals with me, show me their roads, their trails, their home. 

 Riding has meant many different things to me over the years; from racing to commuting to escapism from “the real world” to forging a life that placed bikes at its centre. Riding has been instrumental in forming some of the most important relationships in my life; and sustaining them. This journey was no different.

How did you find the experience of sharing your ‘home’ with others, or having others share their version of ‘home’ with you?

Tom R: This was quite the emotion. Riding into “my home town” of Louth I felt a sense of parochial pride. I wanted, maybe even needed, the other two guys to like it/admire it. But I was also very aware that my home was empty. My Dad is no longer alive and my Mum lives elsewhere. As a result riding 15 miles down the road to Dave’s family home in Grimsby was quite a jolt. From my empty hometown to his full former home, Mum and Dad making us tea and chatting.

The chips helped (when do they not?).

A figurative and literal transition from empty to full.

“Where’ve you lads ridden from then?”


“Really? John, put some extra chips on these lads’ trays, they’ve come from Leeds.”

Gone but not forgotten. Riding Home has its benefits it seems.  

Dave: I was in my element. The fine spring weather meant that the landscape, illuminated perfectly by the late spring sunshine, was being seen in its very best light. The sense of connection and pride – that I have only just realised I have for the place – was in full flow and I was loving showing off my home county (even though it was only Tom H who was unfamiliar with the area).

 However, there were two things that were distinct about the experience: firstly; long-faded memories and anecdotes bubbling to the surface once more as we traversed the land, triggered by familiar sights and sounds. “Me and my ex-girlfriend found a suspected body in those woods” … “my mates got beaten up by the gamekeepers down there” … y’know, happy memories(!). The second thing I noticed was the realisation that I was seeing the place not through my own eyes but through the eyes of others, and for the very first time as I’d only ever ridden there with those familiar to the area or by myself. Suddenly I was aware of how eerily quiet the roads are, how vast and expansive the horizons appear to be, the uniquely undulating landscape, and so on. It was fun, to see it as others might.

Tom H: I want to say it was a strange experience for me; I was the outsider in a new to me area with two locals. I was an observer in their re-connection to place and memory. Except it didn’t feel strange at all. Partly, I think that was down to the journey. A gradual transition… familiar canal tow-paths and sign posts gave way to the unknown. Accents in pubs, corner shops and cafes morphed. We rode together. And as such, I was no less of an observer as Tom R and Dave were. I was just as immersed, just as connected to the experience. Each name, smell and sightline might not have evoked a direct memory, but the stories they elicited were mine to listen to. And there is no better place to listen to a tale or three than when you are side-by-side with a friend on bikes. 

 On a superficial level, this was a bike tour like any other, and a wonderful one at that. It gave me a sense of exploration into a new-to-me area. It was a reminder that the exotic need not be particularly far from “home”. Look a little deeper and I had two expert tour guides to show me the way. And a little deeper still… I got to learn more about them too. So two days with a couple of yellow bellies left a profound impact on me. It reminded me once more that “home” isn’t the place; it’s the people. It’s always the people.