Christmas is of course a very special time of year. As this is a blog about cycling, it follows I have been making the most of the holiday and grabbing a bike ride in between entertaining and mince pies. While cycling when daylight is so short and the conditions are a bit chilly, it is a wonderful thing to do and every ride is memorable in its own right. Last year I ran every day through the Christmas holiday and loved it, so this year I thought I’d have a go at cycling instead.
Christmas Eve, 24th December
I was able to sneak out for a little over an hour and clocked up 16.8 miles. It was a nice mixture of country lanes, gentle climbs, a steep climb and a couple of downhill blasts. The steep climb included Bison Hill but I missed out on my personal best. I still seem to be hovering around the 5.00 minute mark on the 0.6 mile climb up Bison Hill but I was trying to console myself as I was laden down with pannier bags (to do some last minute Christmas shopping).
There was something so nice about being out in the countryside and starting the process of reflecting on 2013 but I was needing to “process” all the things still whirring around in my mind from work. Maybe you find it the same – it takes a while to get work out of my head; all those meetings, emails, reports, plans and hassle. Aaaagh!
During the evening I had a one way trip to my Mother-in-Law’s house where we were spending Christmas. I can tell you it felt really odd and a little nerve wracking cycling there. Car drivers weren’t really expecting to see a cyclist out in the countryside in the dark on Christmas Eve. Nevertheless I got there okay, just in time to help Rachel unload her car and scoff a few more mince pies.
Yep, I was determined to have a bike ride on Christmas Day although it did take some negotiating! Mind you, the negotiation paid off as I was able to meet up with my friends Barry & Angela for a pre-breakfast spin at daybreak. I’ll be giving them a proper mention and introduction sometime soon but for now let me say I appreciate their thoughtfulness by incorporating me into part of their longer ride.
Just after we had set out I felt my back wheel skid a little and I thought little of it. And then again. It wasn’t just me as we were all becoming aware of some slightly icey and slippery surfaces. Each of us tried to aim for a rough or gravelly part of the road in the hope of getting a bit more grip. After a few more miles I was following from behind as we passed through Milton Bryan, heading towards Toddington and I heard Barry yelling out “ice!”. I could see where water had frozen across the road as it had started to flow from a field and down the road. I started to gently brake and instinctively unclipped one foot from the pedal. As I was slowing down further, Angela’s bike suddenly wobbled and off she came, skidding on the ice. In my mind’s eye I can still see it happening in slow motion. For a few moments it was scary. Is she okay? That was a nasty fall. What if a car comes around that corner? Any broken bones? Speak to us Angela! She was okay, thankfully, albeit shaken as you’d expect.
If ever there was a reason to wear a helmet, this was it. Turned out later on there was a crack in the helmet. Clearly a “write-off” – as every helmet that has seen some action should be treated.
We walked our bikes for a short distance until we were on ice-free tarmac and then gingerly carried on. Shortly afterwards we got to a straight stretch of road and with a slight tail wind we could freewheel along but nevertheless I was not the only one with a foot unclipped as we carried on. Seems as if the temperature was probably hovering around freezing here and there as there were other parts completely free of ice or frost. Thankfully the rest of their ride was uneventful. Phew.
Breakfast, packing up and off we went. Rachel with the kids by car, myself cycling. Cycling, that is, a slightly longer way home. All pretty straightforward save pushing myself a bit. I didn’t want a gentle amble: instead I wanted to feel my muscles hurting a bit and they certainly did (but only once I’d warmed up properly).
Mind you it was comical. The route I decided to take partly involved the same road that Barry, Angela and myself had cycled on yesterday as it was flooded for about 20 yards. As I got closer to it a group of roadies were coming towards me. They surely must have been full of Christmas cheer as each one greeted me in some way “hiya”, “morning”, “cheers mate” followed by “you’ll need your flippers down there matey”. No worries, I had my overshoes on which I’d been fortunate and had as a Christmas present. I freewheeled as far as I could with my feet up in the air and only started to pedal again when I was in danger of falling over. All good fun and my feet remained nice and dry. More importantly they stayed nice and warm so less chance of getting the dreaded cramp in my feet. I can tell you, I really hate getting cramp in my feet, legs or anywhere when I’m cycling. I really do hate it, grrrrrrrr.
A quick one hour ride towards dusk and took the photo at the top. Nice clear skies, temperature dropping like a stone.
Time for contemplating the year I’ve just had with all of its ups, downs and challenges; I wouldn’t want it any other way. What will come in the year ahead? I wish I could say a little more about my work but it’s not really appropriate to do so here. In terms of cycling and running, this continues to be a brilliant outlet for all of the frustrations that come along. It helps me to think things through, to reflect and mull things over and that’s why I sometimes prefer to cycle on my own. I relish the challenge of the Coast to Coast in a Day and how it keeps me motivated for a real endurance ride, something to aim for and the camaraderie from my friends also taking part.
The year ahead? It’s going to be an interesting journey!