As I’m off on holiday this week and am doing more sunbathing than writing, here’s a ride report from earlier in the year when things were a wee bit frostier.
Ice Cold in Essex
I’d postponed the 7.30am start by three quarters of an hour in the misguided hope that the temperature would somehow be radically improved, but February is February and all things move slow this month.
Me included it seems.
In the end an 8.15 start was no warmer but at least it was still dry and, in town at least, there were few signs of ice on the roads. There was snow though – small and short-living its true, but still snow nonetheless – and for the first few miles I felt glad that I’d left ridiculously large tyres on the bike. Yeah, I thought, once we get out of the metropolis and hit those iced-up country lanes I’ll be glad of these bad boys.. I’d also be glad of the extra socks, overshoes, arm-warmers, long sleeve jersey, neck warmer, 3 pairs of gloves (not all at once), hat, jacket and gilet. I just stopped short of bringing the hip flask of whisky but actually regretted that later. No two ways about it – it was bloody cold..
Out to Essex was fine – not much ice and I worked out pretty soon that the big tyres needed a different approach to hills. I quickly got into the habit of gearing down early and spinning up the inclines instead of getting out of the saddle and attacking them when necessary; just keep momentum going became the mantra; whatever you do, Do Not Stall.
It was the return journey that was tough. In the shelter of Epping Forest’s trees the ice was occasionally present but at least the wind was kept at bay. After the trees, on the open farmland beyond, extremities quickly froze and my will and energy was equally swiftly sapped. The tyres suddenly became a very big drag.
For once the ridiculously sized slice of stodgy cake from the Epping Forest tea-hut did not seem to be helping progress, and neither did the sight of hedges dripping with frozen spray from the mud-laden puddles. Even the sun’s brief appearance out beyond the M25 and the sight of a couple of roadside daffodils did little to warm the marrow. Fortunately the goodwill of my companions kept both my spirits and resolve from freezing completely and I sat at the back – when I could keep up – all the way home, wishing it was June, or Southern Spain, or preferably both.
I love riding at this time of year – I love the empty fields, the see-through hedgerows, the wide-open spaces unfilled by summer growth.. I love the exaggerated quiet of winter and the feeling of the year’s wheel at its lowest turn. I love the frozen mud, the lone crows and the brave early blooms which herald the coming of Spring.
But, stone me, it would nicer if it was a bit warmer whilst we wait..