Here’a my latest scary bike ride. When I set out I had no idea what was going to happen and, in a way, that’s what makes cycling and running so enjoyable. You can go over a familiar route and each time it’s different in some way or other.
My cycle ride was on a nice crisp, still, chilly morning. Bright sunshine and pretty good for early January.
One way out of town involves riding up a shortish hill with a steep bend; this is at the very edge of town and as soon as the last house was past I changed into a lower gear. A few yards on my back wheel lost grip and spun beneath me.
“Oooooo ‘eck” I thought “I didn’t expect that”. I knew it was a bit chilly and we’d had a frost in the night but I had thought the temperature was above zero. Perhaps it was but the reality was there was quite a bit of ice remaining in the shadows. For half a second I toyed with the idea of turning around and going back home. And then, half a second later, I decided to press on and take a little care.
No sooner had I got up the hill with the back wheel spinning here and there, I started to go down the other side. This stretch of road isn’t especially steep but I nevertheless used both brakes to keep my speed down. I was aiming myself for either the gritty bit in the middle of the road or for the driest part, all of from determination to stay upright!
I could feel my body was tensing up, almost as if a fall was inevitable and bound to happen. The next hill is a fairly short one and must be one of the steepest in Bedfordshire and I absolutely hated it. I was taking this road as a shorter route (having changed my mind about a longer ride). This particular stretch of road (Hollicks Road, I think) starts off with a steep descent and immediately back up again. It’s a single track road and one where I would normally enjoy letting go of the brakes and blasting down before a huff n puff up the other side of the valley. At its steepest I guess the gradient is maybe 20 or 25%.
At the top of the hill were a couple of ramblers who were pausing for breath and taking some photographs. They were middle aged and rather portly in their build, probably not appreciating me enthusiastically greeting them with “lovely morning for being out here!”. Amazingly I thought they were more out of breath than I was! That must explain their glare as they failed to respond in any way as I went passed them. With that I hit another bit of ice, again completely unexpectedly but fortunately managed to stay upright.
Within a few more yards I came to a t-junction and decided to stick to the main roads and headed up onto Dunstable Downs, thinking at least these roads will have been gritted and not slippery. For the most part this was true. Once up on Dunstable Downs it was, of course, absolutely glorious and nice seeing so many people out enjoying themselves. In fact, we tend to think of Dunstable Downs as being the equivalent of our seaside promenade walk. There were plenty of brightly coloured wellies, bobble hats and smiles as local folk enjoyed their outing.
Once I’d got to the point of whizzing back down into Dunstable I pulled over onto the side of the road and waited for some cars to pass. I wanted the road for myself as I picked up speed to 30-35mph and wanted to choose the right ice-free route.
Soon I was back home: I’d made it. Although the ride was shorter than planned I was thankful it was free from any mishaps. I think I must have been grinning from ear to ear, and yet I was feeling rigid and stiff. This was because I hadn’t relaxed on the ride, I was always fearing slipping and falling off. Then I remembered what had been my hopes from this ride, where I was planning to go and how much shorter it had been. Never mind, it was still another great ride, I enjoyed my company and those feelings of freedom and independence on a bicycle.