One of the great pleasures of living up here is taking visiting cyclists out on some of my favourite routes and watching them register that yes, we really do have miles and miles of (mostly well connected) all but deserted single track roads where the greatest hazards are the potholes (which are, admittedly, formidable*) and the ever lurking prospect of ASBO Buzzard.
If all had gone to plan (shaping up to be the motto of the 2020s I fear) I would have had three separate sets of visitors to introduce to the delights of Bigtownshire cycling but two have had to cancel on me at short notice. It doesn’t matter how last minute the plans – this weekend’s planned visit was only floated on the Monday and had to be cancelled on Wednesday, giving me a bare 48 hours of happy planning and anticipation of a day of cycling related chat.
Fortunately, I have a local pal who is always up for a ride of pretty much any length and who leads if anything a more secluded life than I do, so can usually be relied upon for last minute shenanigans. Last night, with miles still needed in my legs, we headed off for an evening ride on a route that turned out to be a fairly epic 54 miles (on top of 17 miles earlier in the day on a combined trip for the paper with dropping off a pannier full of books for the church sale**). It wasn’t the most pleasant evening weather wise but, once we’d resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d mostly be riding inside the low hanging cloud that had gathered over the region, it was entirely pleasant in every other way. Most of the back roads are quiet all the time anyway, but once you get past about 8pm, then it turns out that pretty much all the traffic disappears completely. As we bowled along, side by side chatting about Eddington numbers and house purchases and farming jokes and other miscellaneous matters we realised that we couldn’t actually remember when we’d last encountered a car.
After an emergency rehydration pitstop at the pub in Papershop Village (top tip for long cycle rides: a full bidon of water doesn’t do you much good if it’s still sitting on the table in your hallway where you left it while packing up your bike) we even found ourselves riding two abreast down Big A Road for the length of the village, although we did revert to the back road for the final stretch home. And then, once we’d parted company in Old Nearest Village, it was just me and the gathering dusk, a barn owl ghosting along to my left for the final stretch, and the densest cloud of insects I have ever ridden through (it’s always interesting what you have to pick out of your cleavage after these sort of summer rides).
My legs are now aching a little (lesson learned about proper hydration), but I’m glad I did the distance despite the unpromising weather. I’m also somewhat resigned to the fact that even if my best laid plans continue to gang agley, the roads will still be here and there will be other weekends and even other summers for people to come and enjoy them with me…
* When I went out on my first ever group ride I tried dutifully pointing out potholes and other road defects as I had been led to believe I was supposed to do. ‘We don’t really bother about that up here,’ the ride leader said. ‘We just assume there are potholes everywhere. If you come across a nice smooth piece of tarmac, feel free to point that out though.’
** I would like to make it clear that I did not take the books on the 54 mile ride as they weigh even more than a full length set of curtains.