Rinse & Repeat
Another weekend and this time the weather forecast wasn’t toying with us, but had gone for the nuclear option – a 73% chance of heavy rain showers from 9.00 onwards and a strong, blustery wind.
I took the warnings seriously, which meant a proper waterproof jacket stashed in my back pocket, a spare pair of gloves to change into if the original pair became waterlogged and an acknowledgement that I’d be back on the single speed bike with its reassurance of full mudguard cover.
So, prepared for the worst, I set off, dropping down the hill and pushing along to the river. From the bridge I noticed the rowing clubs seemed to have found consensus on groups and there were a fair number of fours out on the river, alongside pair and singles.
Although I’m still not there yet, people within our cycling club also seem to be gravitating back to group riding. I know this not only because of their social media posts, but also because I caught a glimpse of some familiar forms picking their way up Brunton Lane as I passed the junction. Then I spotted another group just disappearing over the hill ahead of me, assumed they were also from the club, so gave glorious chase.
Picking up the pace as we passed through Dinnington I closed, but started losing ground on the descent as my legs spun out.
Still, by the time the group ahead had turned onto Berwick Hill, I’d reduced the gap enough to recognise the upright figure of OGL on the back and so knew that, as suspected, I was pursuing a group of clubmates.
I thought I’d be able to overhaul them on the climb, but ran out of road. Still, I was close enough to dive down the inside as we all took the right hand turn, doffing my cap and greeting the reprobates with a hearty, “Good morning, gentlemen.”
Ahead of the group now, I just had to make sure I stayed away and not suffer the embarrassment of being caught, so the work wasn’t done yet. I pushed on, not slacking until I’d passed the café at Kirkley, when I thought I’d bought myself enough breathing space to ease back a little. I had, somewhat perversely, thoroughly enjoyed my little escapade and managed to clock 8 Strava PR’s across 14-15 km’s of tiring, madcap pursuit.
I now followed a similar route to last week, but this time decided to swing north at Whalton, catching a tailwind that pushed me up the hill with a vanguard of dry scuttling leaves leading the way, skittering along like rats’ feet over broken glass (if I may steal a phrase.)
As I ran past Bolam Lake, I passed and saluted an equally solo G-Dawg heading in the opposite direction. We managed a quick shouted conversation, the gist of which was “see you at the café” and then he whipped past and away.
I took the bombed out back lane toward the Snake Bends with half a mind to travel down the Quarry climb, before heading homeward. Despite the forecasts, the weather so far had been glorious, dry and bright if a little chill and although the wind was indeed blustery, there was no sign of the forecast rain. I was enjoying my ride and looking to extend it.
At the next junction though, I paused and looked north. The sky overhead had turned black and ominous, while in the middle distance a veil of grey rain was obscuring the fields and rushing unstoppably toward me.
I pulled on my jacket and turned back around. The Quarry could wait for another day, it was now full steam to the café racing the rain I had no hope of beating.
And so it proved, suddenly lashing down, chill, heavy and stinging, driven into my face by the wind and at one point being briefly peppered and pummelled with icy hail.
My gloves and leggings were soon soaked through and while the jacket held, it only took one road-spanning puddle to wash through my overshoes and soak my feet.
It was grim and the bike had picked up all sorts of debris and was beginning to grind and complain almost as much as my shivering body. It was a relief to reach the café and scuttle into the shelter of the only slightly porous barn.
Here I found G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, Sneaky Pete, Taffy Steve, recently arrived from where they too had been driven by the rainstorm, strangely it seemed we’d all been within a few kilometres of each other, as had Aether who arrived a short time afterwards.
We joined a table with the King of the Grogs and Jimper, both of whom had the sense to seek shelter as soon as the sky darkened and had the luxury of being mainly dry.
The highlight of our conversation revolved around the King of the Grogs revealing OGL was busily promoting a guaranteed certainty that the entire region would be in Tier 3 lockdown by next Friday. This he claimed to have on the authority of an impeccable source, otherwise known as “a bloke from the gym.”
(Props to Sneaky Pete for rather quaintly referring to the local David Lloyd as a gymnasium).
Not willing to take anything at face value, the King of the Grogs had Googled the “impeccable source” to discover … not a world-leading epidemiologist … nor a high-ranking National Health Service administrator … or even a local government official … but, err … a joiner?
Childish though it was, this became the dominant theme in the rest of our conversation. Need a door hanging? I know an epidemiologist who can do that for you. Problems with your computer operating system? I know a joiner who can fix that.
Such nonsense kept us amused until the weight of the rain blew past and we reluctantly, in ones and two’s, wrestled damp gear back on to various complaining bodies parts and reluctantly left our temporary sanctuary.
The rain had eased mightily by this time and it didn’t take long before I warmed to the task in hand and actually started to enjoy the ride home (in a decidedly moist sort of way.)
Chapeau to anyone who does long club rides on a fixie, or single-speed, I was utterly exhausted by the time I’d hauled my sorry carcase up the Hill and home, to tick off another entertaining excursion.