Spring Ride Reports
After the long misery of winter, I’m sure we all share the trait that makes us go a little bit giddy at the first sign of spring’s tentative arrival. And this week seems to have given us that sliver of hope that we have been waiting for – mild, I hesitate to say warm – air; decent sunshine and a decline in the miserable wind have meant that Britain has gone slightly, collectively mad. I have seen men with no shirts on this week – yes, as soon as the risk of hypothermia subsides, some character thinks it’s ok to unleash the vast, pasty folds of his flabby, tattooed skin on the general populace, unaware or perhaps uncaring of the fact that the results are often quiet gnashings of teeth.
So it is that another, yet hopefully more pleasing by-product of the week has been a surge in my riding. A Bank Holiday and a day off have seen me taking to the roads with abandon, and, sportwool clad, racking up some decent sunny miles.
I have been in the habit recently of enjoying some rather exuberant headwear, as you can see from the photograph left. This jaunty number is my Walz woolen cap, one of my favourite things and a lovely warm cover for my increasingly exposed head. Hidden underneath are ear flaps which transform this tartan wonder into a fully winter-proof ear warmer. And although there is a discrete black version available, you have to have the loud tartan one, don’t you???
So, two rides this week have kept the miles flowing. The first one was a quick 25 miles, taking a circular route north of Stowmarket into some of my favourite territory which gives me a mix of rolling countryside and long, bleak, open stretches which are transformed by a wind blowing in the wrong direction.
Passing through a couple of local villages, I struck northwards and took in a few small ups and downs (they’re not really proper hills in Suffolk!), and, as usual, the lovely situation afforded by the twin benefits of quiet roads and lovely sunshine. One of the great things about this part of the country is that if you keep off the main roads, you really can ride for hours in pretty much perfect peace, and I tend to find (and I’m now going to tempt fate by stating this!) that in general the car drivers I do encounter treat a cyclist as a sufficient rarity that I am not subject to the kinds of abuse and mistreatment that perhaps my two-wheeled colleagues in the capital might suffer.
The road above is as lovely as it looks. Long, open and sweeping, it affords you a real turn of speed, especially when the wind is from the south-west. I always enjoy the long haul along here.
There is always a point where I have to make the turn that takes me into the wind; the second ride saw me delaying this moment as I struck out further eastward and past Mendlesham, over the terrifying A140 trunk road that runs to Norwich (it’s scary in a car, let alone on a bike!), and into a new and liberating landscape.
Do you view your local area the same as I do? As I cycle, I tend to see Suffolk in terms of the major roads that bisect it. This is partly because they are natural boundaries in visual terms, but also because they introduce a kind of subconscious ‘border’ that you have to make both a mental and physical effort to cross. And so it was today with the A140 – a road that I have not yet crossed in order to explore further eastward.
So it was with a degree of trepidation that I approached the road today, knowing that I should be forced to take my life in my hands and cross it to explore the wonderful, quiet roads on the other side. As it turned out, the road was eerily empty as I approached it, permitting me a small frisson of excitement as I cycled across it and into new territory.
I felt a sense of liberation here – something I have in the last few weeks come to term the ‘sandwiches effect’. This is my way of defining the feeling that, now I have an all-day comfortable bike, the only thing stopping me from moving from ‘short’ rides to ‘long’ rides is the fact that I haven’t packed any sandwiches. My logic goes that, should I pack a lunch into my bag, I should then be freed of the worldly constraints that bind me and I will be transformed into a wandering audax-er in a thrice. So while I knew that physically I could happily carry on, I restrained myself on this occasion and concentrated on heading back towards the northern reaches of my ride.
So, the other surprise today was a relative lack of headwind at any point on the ride. This made things really enjoyable – it’s both a physical and a psychological drag to get caught on the horns of a stiff breeze, but the return leg today saw me return happily home, to find a new delivery of headwear awaiting me in the form of an Endura Baa Baa merino cap. But that is another story and I shall get to it in good time.