Wind Assisted

November 28, 2018

So I survived my guest lecture this morning – the students seemed to largely pay attention throughout (I had visions of competing with their urgent snapchat conversations but it seems Young People These Days have absolutely no difficulty in putting their phones away and listening to someone rabbiting on, despite what you might think from the media). After some lively discussion and a (rather more academically informed) presentation on Warm Showers I climbed back into my Not Waterproof in Scotland waterproof trousers and my Actually Pretty Waterproof in Scotland rain jacket, and headed for home.

foggy road

The ride in had been damp but in the end not too miserable, but as I had been pontificating about the joys of the authentic experiences available to those who travel by bike, the Weather Gods had been brewing up a properly authentic weather experience for my ride home. Well, authentic in all but one detail – true authenticity would have required a grinding headwind. Instead what I got was a fairly epic tailwind through town (interesting on the riverfront where, had there been any actual pedestrians hardy enough to be out on it, I would have had trouble slowing down for them) and then a properly epic cross-tailwind for the final climb up to the house. It’s quite something to suddenly find yourself cycling along on the wrong side of a B road when a gust catches you unawares; fortunately there were no other vehicles foolish enough to be out in this weather.

From the outside, had there been anyone to witness it, I must have looked a miserable sight – rainswept and windblown, battering uphill on a pushbike, my cap stuffed in my pocket for safekeeping. But I have to confess that it was actually a lot of fun. It’s one thing to leave a warm house and go out into the wind and the rain on a bike. It’s quite another to take on the wind and the rain, knowing you’ve a warm house to get home to.

Of course, this all depends on said wind and rain then not taking out your power for a couple of hours once you do get home. Thank goodness for woodburners, and laptops with decent batteries. And engineers who are willing to go out and repair power lines in a howling gale… now that really must be miserable.

candlelight and laptop


September 11, 2018

Having just finished some work and finding myself with a few days off, today should, technically, have been an unusally leisurely affair, with not much to do other than plant 200 bulbs,* bake a loaf of bread, deal with a backlog of admin, pick up some flyers for the Bigtown Cycle Campaign bike breakfast and distribute them to unsuspecting cyclists, and deliver emergency coffee and cake supplies to the other half’s workplace …

…I may need to work on my definition of leisurely.

I also had to work in a detour for my ford correspondent had told me last night that the freshly laid tarmac has already, as predicted, crumbled into a mess of potholes (or ‘a road’ as we call it in Bigtownshire). Sadly there was too much water to see for myself, but it was nice to revisit an old friend.

Anyway, the upshot was that having looked at my watch and realising it was 12 o’clock and somehow the morning was gone, I found myself timetrialling into Bigtown to fit it all in – made somewhat more bearable by hitting the holy trinity on my way in of smooth tarmac, downhill and an epic tailwind. Indeed, this was, if I’m honest, one of those ‘why I cycle’ moments (but yeah, sure, it’s all about the environment and maintaining a healthy heart).

Tomorrow, though, tomorrow, I’ll get a chance to relax.**

* Damn you Crocus and your two for the price of one offers

** Maybe not

April Showers Bring May … Gales?

May 11, 2018

It’s safe to say that I’ve been pretty disappointed with May’s weather so far. After the various beasts from the east and what have you, I’ve been holding out for a fine, dry May, or ‘summer’ as it’s known in Scotland. We had a couple of nice days over the bank holiday weekend, but not the heatwave everyone was enjoying down south, and since then it’s mainly been rain, wind, the odd hailstorm and fog.

evening ride

Yesterday was nice enough, if chilly, enough to tempt the other half out on the bike for an early evening ride, and today looked promising at least until we checked the forecast: high winds, which would only drop in the afternoon as it set into rain. By lunchtime, with the paper still to be fetched, the wind was battering round the house in an uninviting manner, but as the other half pointed out, at least I’d have a tailwind home, which is better than the usual arrangement.

The trouble with tailwinds is that you can never rely on them to deliver on your way home, however bad the headwind might have been on the way out. But as I came out of the shop with the paper and narrowly dodged the display of plants a sudden gust of wind sent tumbling down, I had a feeling today was going to be different.

And so it proved. My bike is not is still awaiting its winter service* and is all squeak and rattle at the moment, so it’s not the smoothest of rides – but even so, with the south-easterly pushing it along almost dead behind me, it was transformed into a flying machine. The hill home was still a climb, but compared with battering into a headwind, it was positively enjoyable. And as I turned to tackle the final kick upwards to the house I could feel it behind me like a welcome hand on my shoulder, pushing me home.

Even so, I think the weather gods have made their point, and if they could lay off for a bit so I can get my seedlings into the ground without them being blown away, I’d be grateful.

* I think the bike shop is hoping that if they take forever to order the parts needed, I will give up and buy a modern bike like a normal** person.

** adjusted for being someone who rides a bike

Puttzing about

March 16, 2015

What with all the gadding about I’ve been doing recently, it’s actually been a while since I simply cycled down to the shop for the paper, but today I got to do just that. And although it was a cold day and spitting lightly with rain, it was a relief to get back on the rolling back road to Papershop Village, with almost no other traffic but me and the bike. I was relieved to note that, despite using the bigger front ring, I found the hills pretty easy all the way there. Clearly, I thought to myself, I’d got a fair bit fitter over the last couple of weeks. All this gadding about must be doing me some good.

And then I turned around and discovered I was suffering from PUTS: previously unnoticed tailwind syndrome.

We’ve been here before…

Headwind out…

March 18, 2013

Cycling out to the papershop this morning, I wondered which was worse: sailing out all unknowing on a tailwind and only realising on your way back, or heading out in the full knowledge that you will have the biting east wind in your face every slow grinding mile of the way home.

And then I cycled out to Bigtown in the afternoon and on the way back I got my answer: worst of all is cycling out into a headwind and then coming back to discover that the wind has shifted north and is not at your back but coming at you crossways all the way home. For a headwind is a headwind is a headwind – it can come at you from almost 90 degrees on either side and still be in your face – but a tailwind is only a tailwind when it’s got it’s hand on your back and is pushing you home. And that almost never happens.

Still never mind all that, I bring you Important Ford News:

mended ford sign

Someone has fixed the sign! Although whether it was the council, or just someone who waded in to retrieve the broken off half of the depth gauge and mended it (looks like they cleaned it too) I don’t yet know. If so, my money would be on the postman, who has form on this matter


February 4, 2011

I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy my ride down to the papershop this morning. After last night’s gales, the day dawned – although ‘dawn’ is rather too strong a word for it – grey and wet and miserable. When I suggested that fetching the paper today might be a job for the rubber trousers, the other half intimated that it might actually be a job for the padded white van if I really insisted on going out in it, and the woman at the papershop agreed – ‘you never came on your bike in that did you?’. Even though it had actually stopped raining byt the time I stopped procrastinating and set off, it was still blowing a hooley out there and I had expected it to be one of those duty rides, the kind where you grit your teeth and concentrate on the benefits of cycling rather than its joys.

But here’s the thing. I might have been battling headwinds all the way out but I knew that meant a tailwind home, and so it proved. The minute I turned the corner coming back from the shop I was enveloped in a sudden calm as my speed matched the wind and I was sailing before it. Coming up the hills I could even feel it at my back, pressing me on (I was doing something similar for my four-year-old niece at the weekend). Coming down them, there was nothing in my head but ‘wheeeeee!’ and a vague unspoken hope that no car was lurking round the corner because I was flying and that doesn’t do much for the effectiveness of my brakes. Normally I try and aim for some sort of style over speed on the bike but seeing as I had my bad weather cycling gear on (everything-bar-the-apocalypse jacket, wellies, mismatched gloves to accommodated my bandaged finger) the style battle was long since lost and I just gave the bike its head and clung on as best I could and enjoyed the ride. Thank goodness for our empty roads.

So yeah, cycling in winter. It’s grim you know, but we do it for the good of the planet.


*Headwind Out, Tailwind Home, a sort of cycling equivalent of ‘posh’.