I never used to cycle when it was icy in London. My abiding memory of attempting to cycle on ice is from when I was at university. I was cycling past one of the more photogenic bits of the city, rendered more photogenic by the frost and snow and attempting to glide gracefully to a halt outside the library, when I remembered – too late to do me any good – just why it is that applying your brakes while cycling over black ice is a bad idea. I glided (glid?) ungracefully to a halt on my bum accompanied by the sound of a dozen tourist cameras. Thank goodness nobody had invented flickr then. Or YouTube, come to that.
But yesterday was sunny and cold and glittery and sparkly and, more to the point, the house was freezing so we set off to ride up round the reservoir and over the hills. My photographs were more miss than hit because everytime I stopped I steamed up my glasses and the camera, but this was the sort of thing we were contending with: beautiful and scary in equal measure. Cycling on ice, as I had learned so well in my college days, is fine as long as you don’t need to stop. Or steer.
Today was as cold but not quite as icy on the roads. Even so, the ride to the papershop was touch and go. The road down to nearest village had been gritted, thanks to the school bus, but the back road to Papershop Village was not. Where the sun had touched the road it was fine, but in the narrow roads between the high dykes the sheets of ice outlined the shadows of the walls. I could only be sure I could brake if I stuck to the last of the snow in the middle of the road, and even then I had to take it slow. There were a couple of places where I felt the wheel begin to lose its grip and skitter on the ice and I was glad to be on my old and slow unstylish bike with its knobbly tyres and its low centre of gravity. I stayed upright, just, and cycled on unscathed. Cycling on ice is fine as long as you don’t need to stop, or steer, or stand on the pedals to get up a hill…
Slow bicycling it is, then