It’s a white cloud windless day out there and the temperature has risen above freezing. I confess, I’m a bit disappointed. I’m going for a ride later but there’s no way it can be as good as yesterday’s ride.
Yesterday was clear blue sunny skies and minus three all day long with a dramatically flaming sunset for a finale.
Sunshine always gets me out, so in spite of being a big wuss about snow and ice and spending rather too much time on the turbo-trainer recently, I had to get out. I figured that the roads would have been well salted and any residual ice would have gone so there were no excuses… and anyway I at last had that precious commodity *time.*
Course, the bike was still well covered with sand and accompanying salt from the Swansea ride, so unless I wanted to wreck my chain and cassette, it had to be cleaned. I’m totally ashamed to admit that was done in three minutes flat by throwing buckets of water at it (the hose etc was frozen solid) scrubbing it briefly, giving it a cursory drying and squirting liberally with WD40.
Getting togged up to ride took much longer. I was drawer-scrabbling for ages before deciding what to wear. I was tragically under-dressed for Swansea in the grip of winter and determined not to make that mistake again. Being that uncomfortable on a bike was a not-to-be-repeated first.
So I togged up thoroughly. Forget all that bike website stuff about riding in the winter and wearing all the expensive technical clothing. It’s all cobblers designed to make you spend more money. Capt Sensible spent £50 on a pair of gloves but they still leave his fingers feeling cold.
I already have a good, windproof bike jacket for everything but warm or hot days so it was just a question of layering. Shorts, Ron Hills, tights, and two pairs of socks for the bottom half. Silk chemise, botany wool polo neck under the jacket for the top half. Ear protection was provided by my favourite black velvet evening scarf wrapped around my head and ears, tied under my hair at the back and brought around under the chin – extra protection for my neck. The helmet fitted nicely on top of that lot. Gloves? Black leather with silk linings kept my fingers pretty toasty warm. Black cotton socks plus the longer red Virgin socks from the airline were all I could fit into my too-well vented trainers. I should probably try silk socks and proper cycling shoes, some day.
Idiot that I am, I completely failed to take into account that the customary trails leading to the inevitably dual-carriageways might still be icy… in fact they were icy AND snowy. So that was a first, negotiating icy, snowy tracks with skinny tyres but fortunately there was no-one to see me if I fell off and double fortunately I didn’t.
As I thought, the main roads were fine and dry but once on the country roads, things got a bit more hairy. The lanes are already in bad shape and there are plenty of puddles – so all those were still hard-frozen despite a day of sunshine and had to be avoided. There were also patches of snow that had extended out into the road and not been salted or worn by passing traffic.
The familiar ponds were completely iced with ducks standing about on them looking a bit desolate. The horses were all wearing coats in frosted fields glinting in the bright sunlight.
I only felt it on my face and in my toes but it was *incredibly* cold. Probably the lowest temperature at which I’ve ever cycled. I was not motivated to blatt. Going down a hill at 32mph, it felt like my face would probably just crack and fall off in pieces.
But the exhilaration of being out was the thing and walking back into the house was like walking into a sauna. I unwrapped myself and put the kettle on to make some tea, tingling all over.
The second best thing to being out was the long hot shower that followed.