Rider in the Storm

True to my word, I went for a ride on the LeMond today, though it was raining heavily. Actually, I don’t mind cycling in the rain, but I hate cycling when it’s windy. One look at our homemade windsock (the Windfish) lying perpendicular, told me that although it was pouring, there was thankfully no wind. Saddling up at 0915 I headed out to the A36 wearing my ancient waterproof coat (which as it turns out, is no longer waterproof) and my hiking boots (normally I wear IPath Bigfoots for cycling, but I didn’t want them to get wet). Immediately, I was soaked and the main reason was my lack of mudguards so I pulled down the waterproof over the saddle as best I could and dug in to the ride. To begin with it was freezing, numb fingers and saturated leggings had me feeling pretty miserable, but before I’d made it to the main road, the effort of cycling had warmed me up. It’s often the way when I start in bad weather, the first five minutes are spent thinking “What the hell am I doing?”, then on the sixth minute the sheer joy of being on a bike kicks in.

There was a fair amount of traffic on the road, still it was easy going right up to the base of Black Dog Hill. No heroics there, I slipped into the middle ring and just took it in a sensible gear. The Black Dog is not massively steep, but it does go on a bit, here and there on the steep banks are the remains of plastic wrappers from bouquets of flowers, reminders that Black Dog is an accident blackspot. The combination of a seemingly straight road and an extra lane that both directions of traffic can use occasionaly tempts a driver to try something stupid in traffic already going over 60mph. There’s a hidden dip before Dead Maid’s Junction, visibilty from the top and bottom is not as good as it appears and the gap between oncoming traffic in both directions closes at over 120mph. Add in an impatient driver and you have the recipe for one of the Wiltshire Times’ regular ‘Horror Smash’ headlines.

Anyway, cresting Black Dog and flying past Dead Maid’s I thought I saw a flash or two of lightning, but I could well have been hallucinating as by that time cats, dogs and pitchforks were coming out of the sky and my cycling goggles had filled with water. So straight on into Warminster. I’d never cycled into the town before and it’s funny, but you just don’t notice gradients until you actually cycle a road, rather than driving. The gradient up from the Little Chef roundabout had never registered with me before, I remembered it as all downhill into town, but that came a quarter mile uphill later.

Out the other side of town, some wag had spraypainted the road…
I was just about managing 20mph at this point, my average for the ride was sitting on 17.3mph, which is what I normally average on a ten mile ride (pretty rubbish I know). Onto the roundabout, strangely devoid of traffic and into Heytesbury. Having cycled to the end of the village, I dismounted and as it had finally stopped raining, tried to take a picture using the self-timer that didn’t make me look stupid. This appeared to be impossible and the one below was sadly the best of the bunch.
me in the rain
Supping water and having a leg stretch felt pretty good, but I rapidly started to get cold so it was time to set off back again. On my way out of the village I passed an all-woman cycle group heading in. I’m one of those cyclists who always acknowledges a fellow rider, (usually it’s only serious-looking blokes on roadbikes who fail to reciprocate) and the female peloton waved back, some even adding a breezy “hello there!” or “alright?” as they shot past. Unfortunately the wind was starting to get up and pretty soon I was putting a lot of effort into keeping the average speed above 15mph. Luckily going down Black Dog as fast as I dared at 34.6mph got me up to 16.8mph in time for my least favourite part of the ride; the long grind from the Dilton Marsh turn-off to the Beckington roundabout. Picking through the miserable looking traffic queuing to get into a washed out car boot sale, I struggled to keep above 13mph. However, pulling my sodden bum off the saddle I put in a herculean effort (well herculean by my unfit standards) to sprint down the dual carriageway.

Back home I checked the computer and tallied up the ride, 26 miles, max speed 34.6mph, average speed 16.3mph. Reasonable, and a lot of fun despite the rain. Time for a hot shower.

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