It is hard to believe this time last week I cycled in the Cotswolds in weather which was, to be honest, unseasonal and flippin’ horrible. This is simply not what we should expect in June, especially when my friend Wallie and I have our regular cycle ride around the beautiful English countryside there. I blame the Government.
Wallie and I have got into the habit of having two cycle rides each year in the Cotswolds; normally May / June and then another in the autumn. I think every autumn ride has been warmer than this ride in early June! We meet at Buford and aim to do a circular ride of around 30 – 40 miles. No record breaking, instead simply enjoying each other’s company as we mostly cycle side by side through the beautiful undulating countryside.
As mentioned, the weather was horrible. Flippin’ ‘horrible. For the most part it was cold and wet. To be honest we weren’t moving fast enough to keep warm but that’s just my view! I hadn’t realised how cold my hands were until we had almost returned to the car park and Wallie had a bit of a mishap; his shoelace had got caught in his chain and the chainset. I tried to untie the shoe lace but my fingers were so cold, I couldn’t do it!
Avoiding main roads, at all cost!
One of the things Wallie hates is going anywhere near a main road where we are likely to encounter any kind of traffic. For the most part this works fine. Now I should explain Wallie’s alternative routes are sometimes “interesting” like the time we had once ridden through the night and, to avoid a few miles on a A road at 6:00am we went on a green lane which soon disappeared and we were pushing our bikes through muddy fields, with me muttering all kind of things through my teeth.
So on this particular ride, we found ourselves at a T junction with a “main” road. It was in fact a B road with a little passing traffic. In order to follow the general direction we had planned, it would have meant a few miles in single file. Seemed straightforward and an opportunity to do some drafting, taking it in turn with each other. Instead Wallie spotted a bridleway which was 100 yards away and looked less than a mile on the map. So we decided to give that a go. This is where the fun started!
You can see from the photo it is unsuitable for motors. This is something which does not deter us in any way as we asked “how difficult can it be?”. Well, as soon as we set off up the hill I could feel my back wheel skidding around and I remember yelling out “I’m so pleased I have my slick tyres fitted!”. As I bumped, wobbled and skidded along I also remember feeling grateful my feet were securely locked into my SPD pedals and how totally unsuitable this was. I could wobble, fall off and go splash in the time it would take me to get a foot out.
Further along as I cycled through some muddy puddles, more like a flooded quagmire. It was splashing all over me and bits were getting flicked up in my face even though I had mudguards. Speaking of mudguards, these were caked solid and I could hear the wheel rubbing against the build up of solid mud. At least the puddles, some pretty deep, washed away quite a bit of the mud. I also remembered how carefully I had cleaned the chain, cassette and chainset and every little detail on the drive chain so thoroughly the previous day. I had even also applied a little light lube, just enough and definitely not too much. Now that doesn’t happen very often.
As I was slipping and sliding everywhere, I couldn’t possibly look around to see Wallie as that would have meant disaster within one second. Instead I yelled out “you okay Wallie?”.
No reply. I stopped. Not far behind was Wallie, slowly plodding his way through. “Phew” I thought “could have been he fell off 10 minutes ago and I’ve only just realised”.
Eventually we came to a road, checked the map and carried on. Those tarmac roads seemed a little dull and boring in comparison but soon we were whizzing downhill and then tarmac did seem hugely welcome once again.
Sherborne, Windrush and back to Burford
This has to be one of the loveliest roads in the Cotswolds heading east towards Buford. The road gently meanders through lush green countryside through pretty villages and lanes with occasional glimpses of the River Windrush in the valley. It is so perfect.
Waiting back at Buford there is always a cuppa and toasted tea cake in the over-priced Priory cafe, near to the free car park. I gradually warmed up with my hands around a hot mug of tea – blissful!
From there we said our farewells and promised we’d both be back in the autumn. Although fun, the off-road diversion could possibly be avoided next time? At least the autumn weather will probably be a heatwave!
Related: Mid summer’s night ride