Friday, 12 December 2014

Cold blast...

At last we're getting some proper winter weather - my tin of spray-on deicer has seen some action this week. Today though is a few notches warmer and with a schedule pencilled in for Seasonal shopping I decide a short ride would be the best way to start. My bike is in need of a hose-down, but that can wait - the roads are grimy and wet - may as well add another layer of crap before attempting a clean up.

 There's a clear coldness as I set off - the recent first touch of winter and the accompanying gale force storms seems to have resulted in a mighty herding up of leaves - there are drifts of them pushed up into corners and gathered along the verges like great ragged scraps of torn, rotting paper. The sky is rain washed and clear of cloud, pale blue and infinitely clear. And on the horizon, the trees stand out, spindly and looping, iron coloured but with branches like veins that display a lace like pattern.

In the distance there is a tractor moving across a field and smoke rising from a farmhouse chimney - it feels as though something is about to happen but nothing does. I ride past heading along lanes that are traffic free and silent. My fingers and toes are cold and now I'm into a headwind which stings my eyes and slows me almost to walking pace. I'm layered up but the wind cuts through and chills me. After a few miles the weather changes - the wind rises even more and rain begins to pour, relentlessly lashing me with stinging strokes that cut through my outerwear and find a way to my skin. The wind cries and moans as I reach half-way and turn to head for home. At least now I have a tail-wind and the riding is easier, but I'm cold.

This year has been the warmest on record - ever. And with that there is a tendency to dismiss the sensible practise of dressing appropriately - I see people wearing shorts every day. Shorts?... in December? As I edge my way closer to home I realise that I must dig out my winter gear. My tick gloves, thermal vest, winter overshoes, balaclava - they're all there buried in the bottom of a drawer somewhere and I would have been much more comfortable today had I taken the time to seek them out. Too late now though. A mile to go and it feels like 5 - the last push up a gentle rise to the crossroads and the main road is laughably tiresome - I feel like getting off and walking but resist the temptation. The rain has stopped now but the wind still pushes the temperatures down and I just haven't been able to get warm even with the effort.

I push the bike into the garage and head for a hot shower. Winter riding can be fun - but preparation and suitable clothing is key. Take heed.

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