Sometimes, just sometimes, it all comes together. Back in the depths of the coldest spring ever, I had a slightly mad idea. Our local cycling campaign had been running joint winter rides with the local museum (long story, involving twitter as these things often do). While on the whole they were enjoyable they were so cold that when we got in and warmed our hands up again it was like having someone hit your fingers with a hammer. Please, please, please, said our museum person, can we do something in the summer next time. So a plan was hatched to run a moonlight ride, because there’s something a little magical about riding out on a warm summer night. Back in the frozen days of, er, April, I jokingly promised that it would happen and it would take place on a perfect summer evening, the sort of evening when it had been too hot to ride in the afternoon, when the heat still comes off the tarmac and the air flows like velvet over your skin. It seemed barely possible to imagine then – or even remember what warm felt like – but we pressed ahead.
A quick check of the internet determined that the most likely full moon was the 22nd July, a supermoon no less, rising at 8:30pm. A plan was made and word was spread, although we knew that we were as likely to be rained off as not. Then summer, miraculously, arrived and as day after day passed with no let up in the good forecasts – or in the warm weather – and I began to hope that it might actually last long enough to let my little winter dream come true. Indeed, by 8pm yesterday evening as we assembled at the museum, it was still warm enough that I was regretting wearing long trousers. We rolled off into the humid evening with 25 miles of pedalling ahead of us.
There was, strictly speaking, no actual moon as it was too overcast, but in all other respects it was exactly as I had imagined it. The clouds and the humidity served to keep the air at a perfect temperature for cycling in even at a goodish speed – my fellow ride leader was mainly concerned with ensuring we got back in time for last orders at the pub. The night crept up on us, thickening into twilight. A few bats kept brief pace with us along the road, a few sleepy pigeons crashed out of the trees as we passed underneath, but mostly the countryside was still, with no signs of life but the lights coming on in the cottages we passed. As we turned onto the last road – at this point the front runners had the scent of the pub in their nostrils and nothing would slow them down – we were reduced to a long string of red lights, blinking away in the darkness. We had been riding along in pairs, chatting, but now we were mostly silent, just pedalling along, and the air did indeed flow like velvet, albeit velvet heavily studded with insects.
After a brief hiccup because someone (obviously not me. ahem) had not checked that our intended pub would indeed be open on a Monday evening, we raced on to catch last orders at the next one where we startled one bored barman and four chaps playing guitars (I’m still not entirely sure whether we’d walked in on Bigtown’s least successful gig or crashed a private rehearsal – either way they sensibly did not try and get between nine thirsty cyclists and their beer). I then had a further 8 miles to ride home, on what were now rather weary legs. While riding in a group had been fun, the last miles home were almost better, with the moon finally putting in an appearance beside me (top tip for night cyclists – don’t try and look at the moon over your shoulder as you ride, it’s a great way to almost end up in a hedge). It was well past my bedtime before I got home (another top tip for night cyclists – don’t yawn while riding, it only trebles the amount of insect life you ingest) and my legs are now rather feeling the strain after a total of 52 miles but it was everything I’d hoped for and more.
This morning the weather broke, with two inches of rain coming down in the space of an hour, thunder, lightning, powercuts and everything. Summer may well be over, but I can say now that we’ve properly made the most of it. And there’s always next year. ‘Is this an annual event?’ one of the riders had asked as we rehydrated in the pub. ‘It is now,’ I replied. All I have to do now is arrange for next year’s weather to be as perfect.
That should be easy enough, right?