Monday morning; Deep winter finally came around. For the first time this year, I was greeted with a frost. For most people this is a pleasing sight, if a bit cold. However, for a Cyclist it spells doom. Sub-zero temperatures mean black ice, the possibility of riding through snow and the need to purchase yet more winter kit. The latter can of course also be seen as a positive, that Rapha hardshell jacket finally seems justifiable.

All this reminded me of the experience I had on my 18th Birthday. Back in February 2015 I foolishly decided to enter an early season sportive. The first 30 miles passed without indecent, though the clouds did look somewhat ominous. Out of nowhere it began to snow – I’m not talking a few flakes here, this was as close to a full on blizzard as it gets. It would of course be the one day where I decided to wear a white jacket which must have rendered me almost totally invisible to cars, judging by how closely they chose to pass me anyway. Thoughts of getting a good time were replaced with ones of survival, namely getting home in one piece. Fortunately I did manage it, though my hands were practically welded to the handlebars at the end. As introductions to adult life go it wasn’t the best – though very realistic.

Anyway, back to the present. The soul redeeming feature of this cold weather has been the reappearance of the sun. At least it is bright, providing a pleasant relief from the grey skies that characterise the UK winter. In my usual naivety I made the assumption that it would be perfectly safe to go for a long ride as long as I waited for the worst of the frost to clear. So it was that yesterday I embarked on yet another 4 hour endurance ride, my training at the moment consists of little else.

Getting ready took the best part of 40 minutes. The hardcore cold weather kit hadn’t needed to come out yet, hence was all sitting around at the very bottom of the untidy pile of clothes that sit in my wardrobe. As per usual, finding anything that came as a pair proved to be very tricky – one sock or leg warmer always seemed to be missing. Winter base layers, undershorts, headscarf and mittens were all donned. Followed by a mismatched pair of arm warmers and my thickest gilet, the pockets filled to the brim with gels and bananas. It was akin to putting on a suit of armour, albeit a rather unflattering one judging by the looks on peoples faces when they saw me trying to get out the door.

It started off fairly smoothly – the warmth of the City meant that the first few miles of the ride were completely ice free. Sensibly I stuck to B-roads, reasoning that these would be safer than the lanes. I even had time to admire the surrounding landscape, which did look especially picturesque at that time of day. At the minute anything that provides a distraction from the monotonous base miles is very welcome. There was the odd patch of slush, nothing to worry about – or so I thought.

Twenty miles in, things began to get interesting. Having crested the first major climb of the ride and begun the subsequent descent, I received a warning. My right shoulder began to ache, this is down to the metal plate that once held the two parts of my clavicle together. In very cold weather it contracts and begins to hurt – an inbuilt thermometer though one I’d like rid of. In the narrow, shaded lanes the temperature was far lower, cue the black ice.

Fairly soon I’d resorted to riding along unclipped, every time I thought the ice had cleared the road would enter another shaded section. Descending the narrow Devon lanes did feel as if I was taking my life in my own hands – how much easier life must be for those who are sensible enough to stay at home or get on the turbo trainer.

The rest of the ride continued the theme. One minute I’d be spinning along very happily in the sun, the next I’d end up inching along at walking pace. It occurred to me that it’s been almost a year since I was injured – given my clumsy and uncoordinated nature it would be just typical to have broken something else. On a more positive note, I have a verifiable excuse for my ‘steady’ average speed of 13.9 mph. Getting home was something of a relief.

It’s at times like this that I question why I cycle in the first place. It’s put me in hospital once already and yesterday very nearly did so again. “Wouldn’t it be nice?” I think to myself. To not get up early in the morning to train, have more time to do work, more money to spend and considerably more living space at Uni? My counter argument is simply that life would be incredibly boring. What else would I talk and write about, that is to say bore friends and family with? What other sport could do so much to maintain both my physical and mental health? Without Cycling I fear I’d slip back into my old ways – overeating and never leaving the house unless it be absolutely necessary. In short, it’s well worth it – inspite of the odd bad ride.

Think I’ll leave it there. Got any winter riding stories to share? Feel free to get in touch via the comments section below. Onwards and upwards.

2 thoughts on “Slipping and Sliding

  1. We took our mountain bikes up to my mother-in-law’s last weekend…. It snowed. Next morning I tried to drift around a corner into her driveway…. The bike survived better than I did. Chuckle.

    I’m fine, bruised ego.

    1. At least you weren’t attempting it on a roadie. Skinny tyres don’t mix well with ice and snow I’ve discovered. Glad ego was the only thing that suffered – getting injured & not being able to ride a bike is just the worst.

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