…but because I didn’t see why I should be stuck myself, I decided to bite the bullet and get back on the bike today.
I wasn’t being completely insane, at least I don’t think so. We’d seen someone cycling already here, the Guardian bike blog had an article full of helpful advice and I did prepare – letting down my tyres as much as I dared and wearing enough merino wool to keep a flock of Australian sheep warm. I also made two promises to myself: I wouldn’t try to be a hero, and the minute it stopped being fun, I’d turn around and go back. I didn’t have to fetch the paper, after all, so getting there and back would be a bonus.
I knew the road down to nearest village wasn’t too bad. It still hasn’t been ploughed, (the snow plough has visited us but only to have lunch in a nearby beauty spot, not to do anything useful) but it has been gritted, and enough cars have passed to flatten out the snow but not melt it into black ice. I took the first hill the way I ski, very very slowly, but with a certain style, using the back brake as my equivalent of the snow-plough. Any sort of speed was terrifying – and also very cold – so I just kept it steady and concentrated on watching the road ahead and choosing which wheel rut to follow with care. Once through the village the road had been gritted less and used less, and in places that was better, although there were a few stretches of treacherous ice. I came off once, in slow motion (and landing on my feet), and quickly learned to stop before I hit the nasty patches. I also learned how to read the road and get in and out of the wheel ruts before they got me into trouble, and after that I was fine.
And it was fun! It helped that the weather was absolutely glorious, without even a breath of wind, blue skies above (why can’t we have those in June?) and the snow piled up beside the road had grown a furry coat of ice crystals that glittered in the sun. Once I got used to what I could and couldn’t do, I enjoyed the packed snow surface and the eerie quiet of the muffled world around me (is it the snow that makes the world so silent? Or is it the ear warmers?). I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t too scared, just concentrating hard on keeping upright and enjoying the scenery with what few brain cells I had to spare. I came back absolutely exhilarated. And I’d got the paper too.
Would I do it again? I don’t know. This very cold weather we’ve had has helped keep the snow as snow and not as ice. Where it was icy it was no fun at all, and it would be a long walk there and back again if I had to do most of it on foot. And it was slow too – 40 minutes longer than normal for 11 miles. It’s nice to know I can, if I have to. And come Monday, I may well be restless enough to try again. But if I’m going to be doing a lot of cycling in the snow, I’m going to have to get me one of these.
Oh, and you’ll be pleased to hear I then took the time to brush the bike down, dry it off, and give it a warm feed of oats and bran mash for being such a star. OK, well, maybe not the last bit, but the rest.