It’s 7am, dark outside, and you’re awake. Rain is slapping against the bedroom window and what woke you was the clatter of the letterbox opening and banging shut. Sounds like the wind is getting up. You remember that in a moment of spontaneous and misguided joy you arranged a bike ride for this very morning and its now t-2 hours…at 9am you’ll meet up and fifty miles is the plan.
You wish you’d checked the weather forecast but who knows, maybe he’ll bail out, so you check your phone for texts…but nothing. You’re damned if you’ll blink first. Perhaps he had too much to drink last night and the cold, wind, rain AND a hangover will be too much for him, but more likely he’s lying there checking his phone thinking ‘…I’m damned if I’m blinking first.’
The key, as with much in life, is ‘don’t think just do’. It’s time to drag yourself out of bed and go through the motions; fuel up with porridge and bananas, get your kit on the radiator to warm, ignore the draught whistling under the back door, don’t dwell on what you could be doing instead, and stop checking your phone. He’s not going to cancel, and you’re not going to cancel; the game now is to get kitted out and meet up nonchalantly, pretend you’re happy to be there and behave as if you never gave the weather a second thought.
Riding in the wind and rain? This is normal, no drama.
He’s late of course and you stand at the meeting point shivering. Rain has seeped past your collar and is dribbling down your skin – you’ll be cold before you start – but when he deigns to show up a simple caustic remark about his shoddy timekeeping will suffice. To start complaining now would be to risk a spiral of self-pity.
Ten minutes in and you’re pedalling hard to generate heat. There’s little traffic on the roads and you’re riding two abreast chatting, the camaraderie of a bad weather ride has kicked in and it’s two against the world. You talk about all the people you know who are still warm and cosy at home and not on their bikes. They’re soft, mollycoddled and wrapped in cotton wool, while two comrades are out on the road and hardening up. Every mile is one in the bank, to be cashed in come Spring.
As you rack up the mileage…10, 20, 30…you begin to relish the challenge. You’re both breathing heavily and pushing a big gear, rain is running off the peaks of your caps and steam is rising as your engines run hot. You’re in café territory now, every other building is a farm shop or a country café serving coffee and cake, but to stop now would be a fatal error – yes, your feet are cold and you’re soaked through, but half an hours respite will only lead to stiff legs and a new appreciation of how wet you are, followed by twenty miles back home ridden in shivering cold; your bodies have got warm once but they won’t get warm again. Just keep barreling on.
On the home stretch the conversation is wearing thin. You’re each locked in a personal battle, and the effort to keep warm and the effect of muscles tensed against the cold has depleted the energy, but few words are needed now. The hard work is done, a brew and a hot bath are on the horizon, and you’re back on home turf.
As you and your companion head your separate ways with a casual wave the clouds finally part and sun shines through defiantly, reflecting off rain soaked roads and creating patterns in the spray arcing from your wheels. A final nudge from Mother Nature, as if it were needed, to show who’s in charge today.