Folkin’ Hills

The weather started off in an appalling fashion this morning, a quick look at the rain gauge showed nearly quarter an inch of rain fell last night and it was still spitting, it looked like there was going to be nothing bikey going on today. Every year on the bank holiday weekend at the end of May, a Folk Festival takes over the centre of Chippenham, so the whole family went to have a look. I dressed in my moleskin trousers, braces and thick white cotton shirt so I would blend in with the crowds of Morrismen and folkies, I drew the line at clogs, though I do own a pair. By the food tent, someone had chained up an old Peugeot racer, seriously used. It still had suicide levers and some pretty tatty bartape.
racer chained to the fence

Not long after the children had gone to bed, the sun came out, so while my wife read her new Jodi Picoult, I sprinted off for a spot of hill climbing. By The Mill there’s a turn which takes me up an easy hill to Telisford, thereafter the hills get a little more interesting, a combination of short and steep and… long and err steep. Not long by mountain standards, but long enough and steep enough to steal the oxygen from my lungs, though anyone who races even a little would probably find them easy going. The last one up to the sign for Farleigh Hungerford is a struggle, though I’ve doing it for a few months now and it’s certainly easier than the first time I attempted it. I hadn’t ridden the road for two weeks so I was surprised to see a missing hedge and a new semi-surfaced road that goes I know not where. At the moment I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a new drive for Farleigh House so I’m not going to go racing down it until I have some idea where it goes.

I hadn’t changed into my cycling gear so I was pedalling in my trousers and shirt, complete with braces, my shoes didn’t fit into the clips too easily either.
climbing in braces
It was a lovely evening, not quite lighting up time, the corn on either side of the road glowed a rich golden colour as the low sunlight raked across the fields. The hedges were alive with blackbirds, sparrows, pipits and thrushes darting about, and a magnificent cock-pheasant seemed to be in no particular hurry to get across the road in front of me.

There is a point on a cycle ride where you think to yourself “if I go down this hill, then I have to come back up it on the way home”. If you have never travelled that route before, your enjoyment of a particularly fast downhill may suddenly be marred halfway through as the thought of struggling upwards in the opposite direction enters your mind. But once you are committed to a downhill, that’s it, you have to go. As soon as you’ve passed 25mph, you’re beyond the point of no return and you’d better hope you’ve got the legs, and the lungs to get back up again without walking. This little route has two hills like that; fun down, pain up. To make matters worse, the cable of the front mech on the LeMond has stretched slightly so downshifting was tricky. The granny ring was not an option, not because of some macho attempt to storm the hills, but because I couldn’t get onto the bloody thing, and not for the want of trying. Weaving all over the road, out of the saddle, gasping for breath, it’s a good thing I rarely see anyone on that road. Hurtling down the final hill to The Mill, I realised with sudden horror that my camera had come out of my pocket at some point. With the light fading I turned back to look for it. Of course it was right at the end of the final hill in Farleigh Hungerford, so I did the whole ride twice! I was in such a hurry to find the camera which I correctly imagined would be in the middle of the road, that I didn’t realise I had taken the first three hills in the big ring without finding it hard. That felt pretty good, it was almost worth the panic of losing the camera just to achieve that.

Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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