January 8, 2018

(I am grateful to Robert Macfarlane’s Word of the day for the description (and the new word) for the contoured-looking ice you see on puddles by the side of the road)

There’s certainly plenty of cat-ice around at the moment as we’ve had a stretch of bright but baltic days – I don’t think today that it really rose above freezing at all

Despite that, and a brewing cold (or indeed, in an attempt to shake it off) I headed out anyway, to get the paper, and take a little detour on the way back to investigate the gritting of the cycle path to the new flagship hospital where nobody can apparently find room in the brand new car park but it’s obviously not a priority to actually make it safe for people to cycle there because oh I give up, when you work out the reasons why, can you let me know …

cycle path with frost

Anyway, as it happens, the cycle path wasn’t too bad – ungritted but dry enough that that didn’t matter. Lulled by this, and the sunny day, and the fact that I had one spiked ice tyre on (albeit the wrong one – if you only put one on it should really be the front wheel but the front wheel has my hub dynamo and so I’d need to actually change the tyre and I’m not sure I can face doing battle with a spiky marathon plus), I pressed on to take the scenic route home rather than sensibly retracing my steps.

I expect you can work out what happened next.

To be fair, I did not technically fall off my bike. I have not come off my bike while riding it since I was in my 20s. I have, once, actually managed to fall off my bike while at a complete standstill at a traffic light in Glasgow, which was as embarassing as it sounds. Today wasn’t quite so embarassing mainly because there was nobody about but me but it was still pretty stupid. I was taking a little back road and as it dipped down into a valley, I came across a gnarly stretch of ice where the road had flooded and then frozen. Even with both ice tyres on, it would have been unrideable because it was rutted and muddy and the ice had broken and then refrozen in great lumps so that the whole road was a mess of ice and running water and great clumps of frozen mud. Instead of getting off I thought I’d get away with scooting along with one foot on the verge, steering through the worst of it. Fine, until you find a patch of, if not cat-ice, at least ice that was not going to support the weight of the boot of a cyclist. My foot went down into the void beneath, the bike tipped, and in that slow-motion yet utterly unstoppable way that these things happen, took me partially down with it.

No harm was done, beyond a skinned knee (the bike was fine, thanks for asking) and some dented pride (that’s why there’s no photo of the wretched ice, because I had passed a walker a minute or so before and I was keen to get away before she came upon me and witnessed my idiocy). And it’s a salutary reminder that doing things by halves never really works – if it’s too icy to cycle it’s not really any safer sculling along with one foot. I should just learn to get off and push the damn thing. Or remember that rural back roads don’t get any more love and attention from the coonsil than the cycle paths.


Still, I* have managed to adjust my kick stand so that my bike now stays upright 50% more of the time than it did before. At least as long as I’m not around to interfere.

Did I ever mention I was an award-winning cycle campaigner at all?

* and by ‘I’ I mean ‘with the help of the other half’ because it turns out even ‘lefty loosey righty tighty’ is too tricky for the spatially challenged to use to work out which way to turn an allen key to loosen a bolt. Interestingly, my fingers sort of knew and wanted to turn it in the correct direction but my brain confidently overrode them. I really should know by know that when I’ve got a 50% chance of getting something like this wrong I will actually manage it 100% of the time.