Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cold spell...

Winter has arrived with a vengeance; the long autumn with days of flying brown leaves herded by warm, favourable winds have gone, replaced by the shock of cold. Bitter cold and fierce, it bit down on us like teeth and left the landscape scarred with frost so that the earth seemed skinned raw and the trees bared down to the black bone of branches.

And then, wave 2,  a downpour of snow - voluptuous flakes that fell with a mournful beauty, silent and steady - this was no peppering - roads and pavements were quickly covered and by morning my car seemed like a small white mound on the drive. Almost always after snow the sky clears. It becomes cloudless, more blue than summer; the sun and snow dazzling as light from a reflected mirror. For a day there was intense frost, then a thaw. And by the end of the week it was as though nothing had happened - at least not in the city where I work. The collective warmth of the huddled buildings had resisted the worst and while I set off from home with some reminder of winter, in town it is more like early spring.

I ventured out for a 15 mile ride yesterday - and a short 6 miles today - both in temperatures hovering around zero - but with a bright sun, azure blue sky and no noticeable wind, both were enjoyable excursions. Along the lanes dropping into Congerstone I notice catkins dangling from branches like left over Christmas decorations. Absurdly fragile and ephemeral yet exposed to the harshest of weather - a sign of spring, just as winter proper arrives?

I pass over the railway bridge and glance along the track as light floods between the trees, everywhere is silent, peaceful and calm - no sign of any other cyclists or walkers - I'm on my own and my mind flits and darts as I pass through Shackerstone and round in a loop through Newton Burgoland and back towards Congerstone. There is still snow on the fields - broken and patchy and arranged by the wind so that the effect is like sea-waves of white marble.

A solitary ride in freezing conditions can be a challenge - not least the motivation to gear-up and get out. But the effort was worth it today. I'm glad to be home in front of the fire - but getting out makes me more grateful for home comforts.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

New year, New plans....

Happy New year to you all.

January is such an awkward month to begin a new year - someone should get it changed - all of those resolutions, to be better and purer; those vows to stop drinking and eat healthily; the perversions regarding fitness regimes and gym memberships..... all of these things in a month where you wake and dress at a time of day so dark it could easily be the middle of night, when sunlight visits for maybe an hour each day if we're lucky. Rather than a time for reinvention, resolutions and change January seems to me more a time for bedding down; staying with what you know, being comfortable.... surviving. New Year would be better starting in Spring or Summer - both times infinitely more suitable for embracing change. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against change, I love new bursts of energy and a life made up of different acts. I don't necessarily want to be the same person year after year, however New Years resolutions are never the way to change anything - particularly as they seem to involve, in the main, a massive denial of anything enjoyable, anything associated with fun. Surely life can only get better when you resolve to have as much of that as possible.

We've made some cycling plans for 2015 that continue our tried and tested methods. Namely a few decent long rides and a main 'target' - something to aim for.... a 'goal' ride.

We are planning riding to Skegness in April - that's a 100 miler (one way). We've done it a couple of times previously and its a good way to get a century into our legs early in the year - not too much uphill either. We intend to ride the Dunwich Dynamo this year - a mad ride from central London to the Suffolk coast - 100+ miles, riding through the night so that we arrive on Dunwich beach as dawn breaks. We've entered the Prudential Ride London again - that was a highlight from last year so we're hoping to repeat it - riding around London on traffic-free roads with thousands of other and crowds of  applauding spectators is a definite feel-good. Our main ride will be Barton in the Beans to Bruges. Yes we continue our alliterative escapes with a ride down to the coast, across to France and up the coast from Calais via Dunkirk and into Belgium. 300+ miles and a nice hotel break at the end. The Tour of Leicestershire last year was another good tester - I'm hoping we'll manage that again too.

So there it is. Plans?, Resolutons? - call it what you like - essentially it's cycling and, hopefully, fun.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Cycling rules from 1874......

Sound advice from our forefathers....