Getting Some Sparkle Back…

December 1, 2019

So, was I moaning about the wet winter weather? That has definitely passed in recent days, to be replaced with blue skies but some very heavy frosts. Last night, as we returned from a social engagement, the car was registering a chilly 18F (F cold, or -8 in Celsius) and I don’t think the temperature got appreciably over freezing out of the sun at all yesterday.

So it was something of a wrench to head out this morning for a planned work party keeping one of Bigtown’s better cycle paths clear, into a world turned almost white. Frost is very beautiful to contemplate from the warmth of the house, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go and cycle in it …

frosty start

But not for long. Once I’d negotiated the worst of the ice on our road, I could relax and enjoy the brief glory of a sunny winter’s day- all ghostly pastels, except where the sun had touched the colour back into the world.

winter sun

I’m not 100% convinced that sparkly winter mornings like this entirely compensate for the freezing temperatures, but that could just be chilblain-induced grumpiness (and if the Victorian era calls and would like its disorder back, it would be very welcome). They certainly go a long way.

river and trees

So too does discovering that a good dozen people, many complete strangers,* are willing to come out on a frozen morning to help cut back vegetation, even though much of it was frozen solidly to the ground.

frosty afternoon

* Adjusted for this being Bigtown; I have not doubt that had we chatted a bit more we would have discovered all the connections we have in common


Mood Inversion

February 15, 2019

I have to admit, I did wonder this morning why I’d agreed to meet someone in Bigtown at 10 am – cutting right into my most productive working hours. Especially when I opened the curtains and realised that despite some giddy talk from the BBC weather presenters about springlike weather, it was actually pretty frosty out (fortunately, not icy enough to make me regret removing the ice tyres although had I had a winter bike …)

misty morning

But it’s hard to beat a temperature inversion for making for a gorgeous ride down the hill and into town. Partly because Bigtown looks better when its veiled in mist (don’t we all), partly because, well, just look at it.

It’s interesting to actually feel the temperature inversion too, not just see its effects. It was distinctly colder by the time I’d reached the river valley, as well as mistier. The frost was gone where the sun had hit it, but only just

And by the time I was riding home, buoyed by the enthusiasm of someone who’s putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to Bigtown cycling, it was really jolly nice indeed. Perhaps not the giddy heights promised by the weather forecast, but definitely a bonus for February, when you take what you can get, weather wise

Some days, work just has to wait…


Safe Mode

December 4, 2018

Hmm, what was that I was saying about December sunshine? Things were looking a bit less inviting for cycling this morning, especially for someone who hasn’t yet put her magical ice tyres on the bike …

frosty start

I’d hoped the overnight frost would have been burned off by the forecast sunshine by the time I needed to set off for Bigtown, but instead we got fog, which was barely thinning by mid morning – and once down in the valley, it was thicker than ever.

foggy road

As cyclists we get lots of safety advice, much of it unhelpful, but there’s one thing I don’t see repeated anything like enough – for cyclists and drivers alike – and that’s to allow enough time, especially when conditions are challenging.

fog and sunshine

I know myself that when I’m in a hurry, that’s when I’m going to take those little extra chances which are normally fine, but occasionally end up with an altercation (or worse) with an equally impatient driver. Being in a rush also makes us less likely to be empathetic (there’s even some ingenious research I read with trainee priests that showed they were less likely to stop and help someone if they were in a hurry to get somewhere, even if the thing they were in a hurry to go and do was to preach a sermon on the Good Samaritan) which doesn’t help on the roads much either.

river and fog

So today, I made sure I’d left myself loads of time – to get off and walk if I needed to if the back roads were icy. Not perhaps as satisfying as steel spikes on your tyres … but just as important when it comes to keeping safe.

frost and trees

And if it turns out the roads weren’t too bad after all? Then there’s all the more time to stop and take photos …

temperature inversion


Not Single Spies

February 18, 2016

frosty vegetation

While my more optimistic commenters might believe that after two bike maintenance disasters in a row I was due for a break, I know that the iron law of narrative tripartism determines that all things happen in threes, whether in fiction or in real life.

ice on puddle

So I was encouraged to wake this morning to a sparkly frosty day and an icy ungritted road, with a meeting* to get to long before the sun would have a chance of thawing the worst of it

ice on road

Of course, I thought, here comes the third thing! I have to change to my ice tyres, and my bike maintenance triple will be complete. I set to work and was pleased to discover I had got my wheel-swapping time down to just 15 minutes, not counting the time taken for the other half to further tighten the wheel nuts, explain why I’d used the wrong spanner and generally fail to be impressed at my bike maintenance prowess.

winter spiked tyre

Nothing daunted, I raced off for my meeting, enjoying all the gnarly ice, certain that I’d made the right decision in swapping out my tyres, and arriving at my meeting bang on time.

I suppose none of you will be surprised to learn that when I emerged an hour later, my back tyre was completely flat.

And nor were there any doughnuts.

* And by ‘meeting’, I mean heading to a local coffee shop for bike-related plotting on the promise that Thursday was ‘doughnut day’** and that the doughnuts in question were particularly delicious.

** we cyclists laugh in the face of hidden sugar***

*** Although frankly, if you’re going to hide sugar, a doughnut is a terrible place to do it.


Rising Above

December 29, 2014

frost and fog

The ride to the papershop did not look a particularly inviting prospect this morning. It wasn’t just the fog, or the ice on the road, but the sheer biting coldness of it all. But the paper wasn’t going to fetch itself, and besides, what is the point of having magical ice tyres if you’re going to be frightened of a bit of a chill? So, having taken the precaution of leaving a jumper warming on the Rayburn for my return, I set off.

sun breaking through

By the time I’d got through the village I was pretty glad I’d opted for the lobster gloves because the fog and the cold were unrelenting. At least I more or less had the roads to myself. In fact, I seemed to have the whole countryside to myself.

above the fog

As the road wound upwards, though, I started to climb out into the sunshine. There’s something about seeing the blue sky and the sun breaking through the last thinning veil of mist that leaves everything extra saturated and bright.

Ready to descend back into the murk once more.

back into the fog

I was glad of that jumper when I got home, I can tell you.


Taken by Surprise

October 2, 2014

frost on the grass

I don’t know why waking up to see frost on the grass should be so surprising to me as a) it is October and b) it was widely forecast but I was hoping that there would be some sort of acclimatisation interval between being forced to wear shorts and sitting around in all my jumpers wishing I’d had the foresight to book Rayburn Man before he got so busy.

frozen bumblebee

But we weren’t the only ones who winter caught by surprise, it seems. This bumblebee was either comatose or frozen to death in mid-forage (I suppose a better person would have seen if it was revivable instead of just taking photos of it on her phone, but it didn’t occur to me till afterwards. Anyway it’s gone now).

Fortunately the frost wasn’t so hard that it has killed off the tender plants up in the walled garden yet. So my squashes and beans and corn can stagger on for a little while longer…


Iced In

December 1, 2012

fern frost on car windscreen
‘You might want to come out and see this before I destroy it,’ the other half said as he went out this morning to clear the ice off the car windscreen. I hadn’t realised but it had rained last night, and then froze hard, so that the car had been decorated all over with lovely delicate frost ferns.

Lovely but a tad dangerous, especially when you’ve a bike to fetch from the bike shop. I had big plans today that I would walk down to the village and catch the lunchtime bus (the other half being off with the car), pick up my mended bike and ride it home. It was a gloriously sunny sparkly sort of a day and the temperature had even crept up above freezing and I set off at first quite enjoying the wintry weather. This lasted about a hundred yards until I reached the first shaded stretch of hill and realised that even if I could walk up it, there was no way I could walk down the other side. And if I couldn’t walk it there was no way I was going to be able to ride. Back I waddled, penguin style, to idly google studded bike tyres and muse the practicalities of winter cycling when you live on a road that they don’t even pretend to grit any more now the school bus has been withdrawn. We love our empty quiet roads, but it’s a bit much to expect anyone to bother clearing them of ice. Especially as they’re more or less passable to those on four wheels as long as you weren’t planning on stopping in a hurry, or turning, or going fast. Just lethal to anyone on two feet or two wheels.

So now my bike is stuck in Bigtown, and I’m stuck in the house contemplating my options. I’m not sure that the economics of studded winter tyres really stacks up for me, although having said that it will probably now freeze solid until half way through March. I’m not sure I’d even trust them, faced with a stretch of black ice: it just seems improbable that they would work. Hmmm. Maybe Santa might oblige? I have been good…

Do you use studded tyres? Do they work? And are they worth it, or should I just face facts and accept that there’s going to be a week or two each year when it’s more sensible to take the car?


Baby it’s Cold Inside

November 28, 2012

Here’s one unexpected benefit of cycling in the winter: staying warm. No, bear with me. Every week I venture out into the cold night to cycle down to choir, sometimes getting drenched and almost always windblown, and get in to the village hall, where I instantly strip off my scary yellow jacket, gloves and hat, full of the joys of autumn and ready to roll while everyone else is still standing round shivering in their fleeces. Clearly that fifteen minutes of pedalling is enough to raise my core body temperature (why does that sound so much more scientific than ‘warm me up’?) for the evening. Tonight, it already being well below freezing before I set off, I wimped out and asked the other half for a lift down and ended up spending the entire evening huddled in my fleece, absolutely frozen. ‘Now you know how the rest of us feel,’ my fellow choir members said a little resentfully when I complained.* Clearly I’ve been overdoing the whole rosy-cheeked fresh-air-and-exercise thing a tiny bit.

The sad part is, I could probably have cycled down perfectly well because the only bit of the road that was actually icy was the patch outside our gate where the permapuddle has turned into a permarink – but that is skiddy. Even the poor hare we started up on the way back had difficulty cornering as it bolted for our gate, its four paws heading in about five different directions. Might need to get some grit on that before I tackle it on two wheels. If only so I can get out in the cold long enough to get warm…

* You’ll be glad to hear I refrained from suggesting that they could always cycle too.


When I Said…

November 24, 2012

… ‘enjoy the scenery while stocks last

foggy start

I was only joking – I didn’t mean for it to get taken away…

winter trees

Winter cycling starts here


Freeze Dried

November 10, 2012

misty morning

Looking out on a bright but chilly November morning, I wondered what it was that was lying under the washing line on the frosty grass …

… ah, my best merino base layer. Obviously I’d grabbed the washing in a bit too much of a hurry the other day and it had had a good soaking

And was now stiff as a board

frozen merino

I’m hoping Howie’s make their tops as solidly as their reputation implies.