I may give the impression, from time to time, that I cycle wearing rose-tinted glasses, brimming over with feel-good hormones and bonhomie.
This is certainly often the case but while today’s ride was comparatively full of incident, it fell well short of blissy.
The point was to get out for a nice longish blat in the lanes in the sunshine before the rain and before the womens’ Olympic road race started on the TV.
As is often the case it was all sun and blue skies in the back garden while ominous black clouds and a chill breeze threatened the front garden. Definitely more of a jacket day than a bare arms day.
I hadn’t got to the end of the road before there was a sudden torrential rain shower with what felt like needles of ice impaling my bare legs. Three minutes later, it was over and the sun was back out but it did nothing to warm me up.
Letting rip on a downhill bit of the usual cycle trail, there was a cyclist coming up so i had no option but to ride through what looked like chalk on the road – it was actually spilt white paint, which splashed liberally all over my nice black Trek (which is only just over a year old) my legs, shorts and jacket!
I hoped it was emulsion rather than gloss and pressed on along the main road where, while most of the traffic gave me adequate space on the road, I was almost taken out by a too-close Mr Whippy van. I watched the “Caution Children” sign on the back of the van disappear into the distance and thought how bizarre it would be if I was fatally wounded by a van carrying a gross of white magnums, six dozen Cornettos and 200 mini-milks. Some people might like death by ice-cream but I had a sudden image of Mr Whippy the new Batman villain with horrible hair, very bad lipstick and too much eye-make-up.
Away from the main roads in the lanes, it all looked terribly English and rural, until I came around a corner and nearly over the top of a tractor and trailer full of haybales. No doubt the farmers are rushing to get the harvest in before the weather turns. That can be the only reason for every piece of agricultural machinery imaginable being brought out of storage on the same day.
But at least the sun was out – and is so often the case, I was riding through little micro-climates of warmth like invisible pools in the air. How pleasant it was. I crested a hill with a fabulous view of the Malverns, about to stop and take a photo when there was a deafening clap of thunder. To the west, there was a huge black cloudbank, which threatened to get between me and home, if I didn’t do something soon.
Although I have cycled in the rain and hailstorms and that kind of weather is often invigorating, the combination of the prospect of lightning and the womens’ race coming up soon resulted in me slamming on the brakes, doing a quick twirl in the road and if I had a puppy dog tail, it would have been firmly between my legs as I headed for home as fast as I could.
It was all looking promising too until the teeniest, most pathetic baby rabbit hopped dolefully into my path in a snicket. He was so lacking in urgency that I had to stop to let him cross. Poor little fella. There had to be something wrong with him, but short of putting him in my pocket, there was nothing I could do, so I just took a pic of him as he sat looking at me, confused, at the side of the track.
By now the world had gone a lot, lot darker and I shifted it somewhat until….ah if only i hadn’t taken a pic of that rabbit….a whole family turned out of a side road in front of me on the trail.
Maybe this was the Wiggo Effect; people who don’t normally cycle suddenly getting on bikes and venturing abroad (loosely speaking). It looked that way, as no-one was dressed for anything but 27 degree temperatures and no-one wore helmets.
There were two girls, aged about ten, on their own bikes, a mother on her bike with a child of about two in a bike seat on the back, followed by dad. Dad was on a bike too, sitting on the crossbar with a four-year-old sitting on the seat clinging to his dad’s back while dad rode the bike AND held the lead of the family black labrador, who was trotting alongside. Although the labrador was unlikely to be distracted sideways by a squirrel (the cycleway is alongside a very fast dual carriageway) it was still very dodgy. It was especially dodgy when the thunderstorm started and the kid clinging to dad was immediately soaked and started to sob. The girls in front screamed a bit but continued riding.
They made slow progress and I followed at a polite distance, finally overtaking where the cycleway widened. The mother, who was oblivious to my presence until then, stopped suddenly and her chain came off.
“Mind the paint up ahead” I said helpfully. She seemed to be still in a state of shock that anyone else could be using the cyclepath, especially in what was now a full-on thunderstorm.
Rain was dripping from my ears, my hair and my clothes as I got home so I reckoned I might as well wash the bike – just to make sure that white paint and the newly accumulated mud, all came off.
But the hose didn’t work – concealed kink somewhere (that Ray Davies is a bloody nuisance) – so I set to work on the unusual task of pouring full watering cans all over my bike as torrential rain bounced on the terrace all around me.
I took the bike into the kitchen and dried it while putting the kettle on, stripping off and stuffing all my dripping kit in the washing machine.
So no, not all bike rides are blissy.
But a long hot shower makes everything better – and I only missed the very start of a very exciting womens’ road race which ended with a silver medal for the amazing Lizzie Armitstead – Britain’s first of the 2012 Olympics. So all-in-all, pretty good for a non-blissy day.