Yesterday saw my first cycle of the year, after deciding that I’d sat out long enough through the cold weather of the past four months. Can’t say I picked the perfect time to make a comeback, as the day was littered with heavy showers and occasionally strong head winds.
I even got soaked by a particularly heavy shower as I made my way from the station to Paul’s house before we started. He at least made it worth my while by feeding me a toasted bagel when I got there – what a guy!
When Ade and Geo arrived and we hit the road, the clouds burst again and it was torrential rain for the first ten minutes or so. It was good to be out on the bike again despite the weather, though. It’s been a long time since I’ve rode in proper Scottish winter conditions and it really blew the cobwebs away. I make no secret of the fact I’m a fair-weather cyclist – unless there’s someone encouraging me to make the effort I just tend to wait until it’s dry at the very least.
However, Ade, Geo, and Paul are hardy companions not shy of a spot of rain, having cycled from Glasgow to John O’Groats last August in near aquatic conditions and with plans to cycle from Glasgow to Stornaway this July. This was, in fact, their first group training ride for that summer tour, that I somehow got invited along to.
With some trepidation, I thought I’d give it a shot to try and springboard my own fitness for the year, but knew fine well I wouldn’t have the legs to keep up with them. Nor did I have the bike, with my weighty full-suspension Giant ATX 1100 being a very wrong tool for the job. Same went for the tires, with my big, wide treaded off-road rubber adding quite significant rolling resistance compared to the slicks the rest of the lads were on.
Otherwise I was pretty well kitted out, after a trip to Helensburgh Cycles the day before equipped me with new gloves, cycling jersey, and weather resistant shorts with padded lining. The latter acquisition would prove to be an essential purchase, as it was rough going for riding that wasn’t actually off road. And, as I’d tightened up the rear suspension to near-rigidity, I didn’t enjoy the kind of comfort I’m accustomed to.
Then there’s the fact that I don’t normally go on rides of more than five or six miles. I ride to the woods and head off-road, and generally the effort of negotiating the terrain is enough that putting in the miles doesn’t come into it. The lads are after a different kind of fitness, where churning out the miles comes with the territory. Still, once upon a time I was a contender – putting in over a hundred miles a week into my road biking back in the day.
Admittedly, that was back in the early 90’s, and I think I really would have really struggled to stay in touch for the full 15 miles if big Paul hadn’t had his second puncture of the day at Erskine. My knobbly tires had made the stint along the tow-path from Clydebank a total slog as they sunk into the soft grit, but the stop allowed me to get my second wind. Even so, I was suffering by the time we got to Dumbarton and only kept going when it was decided we’d call it a day at Cardross.
That last bit was torture, I must say. Despite a valiant effort from the new padded shorts, they’d done all they could by that point and my nether regions were destroyed! To make it all the way took a combination of determination and the simple will of not wanting to endure a slagging for the rest of the week, as would be the case if I’d quit.
Finally climbing off the bike at The Coach House Inn on the main road through Cardross was the most welcome feeling. Ade punctuated it by failing to unclip as he stopped and collapsed in a heap. I just about joined him on the deck, I felt so light headed and weak from it all.
After calling back Paul, who had gone off like a robber’s dog to Muirholm Hotel further along the road, we trooped in to the pub for a well earned pint or two. A couple of hours later I’d completely ceased up, making the journey back to the house most unpleasant.
Caked in mud, I stripped off my soggy clothes and jumped in the bath as soon as I was home, and I think that went a good bit of the way towards avoiding rigor mortis during the night. Not that I’m free from pain today – oh no – I’ll be taking it easy for a few days, for sure.
All in all, though, not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I just need to get fit and build some buttock endurance up and then I can start to enjoy it again. 🙂