When I set off for work on Tuesday morning I knew that I would have to be careful on the roads; to say it has been wet in southern England since Christmas is somewhat of an understatement. But it hasn’t been particularly cold, in fact it has been unseasonably warm for the time of year. Until Tuesday… The forecast warned of ice on the roads, especially in the countryside. My commute from Reading to Henley-on-Thames takes me across the corner of south-east Oxfordshire and along country lanes that can at times be icy. In the past it has just been necessary to pay particular attention and avoid the darker bits of the road where the dampness has turned to ice. I have come off the bike in the past while commuting (I have now lost count but it’s probably about four or five) and it has usually been because I have not spotted a patch of ice and in a majestic sweep I have slid from the vertical to the horizontal in what probably looked like a comical relatively low-speed crash. I’ve never suffered more than a few scrapes and bruises and as the country roads at 6:30am tend to be very quiet indeed I have never come into contact with another vehicle.
The roads have been very damp indeed and the ground is saturated with water so when, on Monday night, the sun set and the clouds moved away, the temperature plummeted and the road became an ice rink. As soon as I moved away from the gritted main road I could feel the wheels sliding slightly and I slowed down to a crawl along the road. It didn’t however prevent me from coming off the bike not once but twice in a slow-speed tumble. Ahead of me a transit van had turned on its side and was blocking the road in both directions. I was able to squeeze past and the driver was OK but it was symptomatic of just how treacherous the roads had become. I continued to work, gingerly, and eventually arrived after 1 hour 20 minutes; my commute usually takes just under 30 minutes. Reggie, the bike, was slightly damaged and I need to go and pick him up from the bike shop later today following repairs – the derailleur has been bent out of place somewhat as has one of the brakes – and I’ll be back on the cycling commute on Monday.
I tell you of all this not because it’s an interesting story – it’s just another tale of a cyclist struggling through the winter and I know there are others who slid from their bikes just like me in the Reading area (see this video for example of @FatCyclingBloke who I sometimes pass en route to work) – but because the contrast between my experiences this week and the beautiful film below – “The Quiet Season” – is somewhat stark. It is worth spending 8 minutes of your life watching the pictures, listening to the piano music and absorbing yourself in the words. It’s a family affair and you can read more about it on the Road.cc website. Recommended!