This article is part two in a series of posts on my cycling (mis)adventures over Christmas 2013/14.
As you’re probably aware, the weather in the UK has been less than ideal for cycling over the last month. In fact it’s been downright dismal — horizontal rain, driving wind, and severe flooding have been staples over the past few weeks — but that hasn’t stopped me from getting out on the bike.
With just over five months to go until the Trans Am Bike Race kicks off in Astoria, OR, I’m conscious it’s vitally important to keep putting in hard efforts in training. It would be a major disadvantage to put my feet up and sit by the fire — no matter how tempting that might seem. This has meant lots of late nights cycling in the dark after work, lots of weekends spent exploring the back roads of southern England, and lots of time soaked to the bone.
But, after fighting the elements for a month, I can tell you that it’s been worth putting in the extra effort in training. I’ve been able to learn a lot about how my Qoroz Road Won reacts in different conditions, I’ve pushed myself when the going gets tough, and best of all I’ve improved on the bike. The mantra ‘no pain no gain’ has never been so true.
Rather than bore you with accounts of all the different rides I’ve done over the last month, I’m going to focus on just two that sum up the pros and cons of riding through the winter. Both rides saw me try to complete a 130-mile loop that I’ve been planning to ride for a while. Both were wet and windy. But the similarities end there.
My first attempt was one of those days where nothing quite goes to plan. I overslept, proceeding to run frantically around the house trying to find my gear while simultaneously attempting to eat breakfast. Try putting on a buff with a piece of toast clenched in your teeth. Suffice to say that these simple tasks took twice as long as they should have done and it was past 11 by the time I finally trooped out of the front door.
In hindsight, I probably should have aimed for a shorter ride. The flooding in Wiltshire was the worst I’ve ever seen it — the small country lanes I’d planned to ride were totally submerged, with the filthy water obscuring gigantic potholes and washed out sections.
I made it around 50 miles before I got my first flat. Fortunately it happened near a copse of trees and I managed to shelter from the elements while I made repairs. Three hours later I’d only managed another 40 miles, having fought a vicious headwind while cycling south toward the Purbecks. I had just turned a corner and begun to head toward home, relived to have a roaring tail wind on the way back, when I flatted again.
‘No problem,’ I thought to myself, smug in the knowledge that the hard part of my ride was over. I shouldn’t have tempted fate. Over the next hour I proceeded to try and repair the damaged tube to no avail whatsoever — everything was far too wet for the patches to stick. My prospects of finishing the ride had evaporated and I reluctantly called for a lift. I’d still managed nearly 100 miles — a decent training ride — but not finishing what I’d started left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Some of you might remember that I wrote an article on winter training advice in October — in that post I mentioned that one of the things that helps me stay motivated during winter training is the rare occurrence of a ‘perfect’ ride. Such rides can’t be planned and happen when you least expect them, but serve as a reminder of why the dismal, wet efforts are worthwhile.
My second attempt was on such occasion. Although the flooding was still horrendous, the sky was blue and I felt great on the bike. I flew round the route and enjoyed brilliant views of Corfe Castle and the Purbecks. It reminded me why training hard is worthwhile, why cycling is a brilliant sport, and why England isn’t so bad despite the rain.
It also reminded me that it’s worth taking a risk — it’s impossible to tell what will happen when you roll down the driveway. The day could be a calamity or a huge success, there’s just no way to tell.