The woes of winter

27th January 2014

The gales, the rain and the generally miserable winter weather have definitely been a test of this rider’s cycling resolve. Saturday’s outing over Warnell Fell, near Caldbeck, was one of the worst so far.

It’s a fifty or so mile loop that seems to have become my default Saturday jaunt. In fairness, the forecast predicted everything that came to pass. The rain started on cue, the wind duly increased and by the top of Warnell the hail was driving in. Like being pebble dashed in a freezer. This was the middle of the day, but visibility was none existent. Oh, and the battery in the bright, flashing newly acquired rear light chose this moment to pack in. Plus, I’d flatted at Welton. Punctures have been a regular feature of winter rides, so it didn’t take long to change, but in the downpour with fumbling fingers inside sodden gloves (waterproof? …having a laugh!!) it did nothing to improve my mood.

The long downhill to Wigton, normally a well-earned joy, brought the challenge of crosswinds and, by now, despite a wearing a baselayer, winter jacket and a rainshell, I was shivering like crazy. Fortunately the rain eased at this point and the return leg through the Solway villages of Kirkbride , Glasson Dumburgh and the like was, if not a pleasure, more bearable. The average speed was pitiful, but this was a day when just completing a decent length ride was cause for some satisfaction.

To my surprise, I encountered more fellow two-wheeled sufferers than on many a better day. A wave and a nod. We’re all in this together, you know. A glance ahead to next weekend’s forecast shows little improvement. The aching winter bones and complaining, groaning, shockingly ill-maintained, winter bike will doubtless set out on another ordeal. Though I must vary the route!

When the weather does, eventually, improve and all the other riders come out like bright brand new daffodils in springtime, I’ll have that smug inner glow as I wonder: “And where were you in darkest January?” The answer is, probably, that they have more sense or at least a turbo-trainer (still the work of the devil, to my mind….but I am beginning to toy with a little temptation). For me, riding a bike is all about outside and exercise, the experience, encountering nature up close. It isn’t always a pleasure. It can be a pain. It is a personal challenge, even if that is just overcoming the desire to sit in a warm armchair. But, by goodness, you know you’ve done it. There’s no time for the cares of the week, just focus on the road and plough on. It’s a particular satisfaction and I can well understand it’s not for everyone, but I knew I’d earned my Saturday night bottle of beer and slept most exceeding well.

Today, Sunday, just a dozen or so miles for the heck of it. But the rain is pouring and the wind is even stronger – see, I chose the least evil day for the “big ride”, I’m not daft – but it’ll feel like double that.* And may just earn me a fireside snooze to top off the afternoon.

*PS It did feel like double that – in part because of two more punctures…in the rain. My own fault, it’s a new “puncture protection” tyre, but it’s a very tight fit, hence two pinch punctures when resorting to tyre leavers. Anyone with a sure fire tip to beat these?