A Tale Of Two Cycles: It Was The Best Of Rides, It Was The Worst Of Rides…

…it was the day of determination, it was the day of bloody awful weather, it was the cycle of belief that I knew better (than the weather forecasters), it was a cycle of incredulity that it really could rain so much, it was supposed to be the season of sunshine, it was supposed to be the season of heat, it was the summer of 2020, it felt like the winter of 1963 (so they tell me), we thought we had everything planned, but actually we just had a few Twitter comments to rely upon, we were all going direct to Tadcaster on the train and bus, we were all going direct to Harrogate via Ripon thereafter on the bikeโ€”in short, the experience was so much like Bellinzona in 2010 or Scotland in August 2014 or northern Norway on July 27th 2015, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, with the retort “I told you so”.

I survived. With a nod to Charles Dickens, that just about sums up yesterday’s cold, rain-drenched ride from Tadcaster back home after collecting Wanda the WorldTraveller from her pit stop at CycleSense. One of those days when it would have been all but impossible to actually get off the bike, fumble with the phone with numbed fingers and take any photographs. So there is no photographic proof that the conditions were as bad as they were; you’ll just have to take my word for it.

It all happened, if you remember, because of an incident involving an elasticated strap attached to Wanda’s rear pannier rack a couple of weeks ago:

I booked the bike in for a check-up at CycleSense in Tadcaster, delivered it in the back of the car on Tuesday and returned yesterday on the train and two buses to collect it. The good news was that there was no lasting damage; Marc the mechanic had the technology (and skills) and the million-dollar bicycle (OK, not quite but it sometimes feels like that…) could indeed be rebuilt…

I was wearing the Buff as a face covering more than for anything else…

…but it was to come in very useful on the cycle home as the rain started and the cold wind blew. It was a two-part epic totalling some 70km. First up the ride from Tadcaster to Ripon to visit a friend. The route had been suggested by Jamie Criddle on Twitter:

And his directions worked just fine, keeping me away from the major roads and linking up a few pretty small towns and villages along the way. As someone who is used to cycling in the steep hills of the Pennines, this was bliss:

However, by the time I arrived at said friend’s house in Ripon, I needed squeezing out so most of my clothes ended up in the tumble drier while we caught up over a warming cup of tea. What followed was the tale of two rides; hell and then heaven, albeit heaven on a rather wet day.

I have a love-hate relationship with Google Maps cycle directions. I love to use them but invariably end up hating the fact that I had made the decision to do so. I guess they are all made up by an algorithm somewhere is a distant data centre. No employee of Google has ever cycled the bridleway just south of Ripon that takes you along a path that could have you cycling across the Studley Royal Estate in the direction of Fountains Abbey within just a few minutes. The bridleway was fine – nice even to do a little bit of tame off-roading on a bike that is certainly designed to do just that – but when your Google directions tell you to turn right along a secondary path but a sign clearly states ‘No Bikes’, human decisions have to be made. This human made the decision to respect the sign and, about five-minutes later, I joined the horror that is the A61 road heading south in the direction of Harrogate. I followed it for a bit but, with the rain pelting down hard, my fingers numb with the cold and lorries passing by at speed, my instinct was to carry on until such point that I could find a more amenable side road along which to cycle. At one point I thought I had, but Google immediately updated the route and flung me back onto the A61. Arghhh! Here is what Strava recorded:

Turning left into Ripley was a relief to say the very least; a relief that I had survived a horrible stretch of 15 km of cycling. Nice little place by the way, albeit a place where everything is currently shut. Rarely have I seen so many signs saying ‘Private, No Entry‘ including one handwritten monster say ‘Private. No Bikes‘ as if bikes needed singling out in the same way that in the 1950 it was, apparently, common to see ‘No Irish. No Blacks‘ on signs in the windows of Bed & Breakfast establishments. I think ‘Private. No Entry‘ would have sufficed. I digress…

What followed, however, was a delight. The Nidderdale Greenway. Not my photo:

It was still just as wet and cold as before – nothing had changed on that score – but who cared? This was cycling heaven. The trees prevented Strava from grasping hold of the GPS data (hence the straight line above) but after 6 km of cycling bliss along a well-maintained track through very pretty countryside, over a viaduct and into the centre of Harrogate, that was the least of my concerns. Just as rain-sodden and frozen upon arrival at the train station in Harrogate as I had been upon arrival at my friend’s house in Ripon, it was of no concern that Northern Trains don’t offer a tumble drying service. I dripped, slowly warmed (or at least became less cold) and smiled. And even better, when I woke this morning, I had this to look at once again:

My fully functioning bicycle. Worth all the effort.

Note to self: avoid choosing the coldest and wettest day of the season to fetch your bicycle from Tadcaster in future…

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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8 replies »

  1. I’ve never used my phone for navigation Andrew, I’m paranoid it will get wet/damaged. I’ve used various solutions. An old Garmin designed for hiking. This had maps and best of all ran on AA batteries so keeping it charged wasn’t an issue. I now plan routes on Strava and sync to an Wahoo Roam. Not a cheap option tho.

      • I’m sure they are but I’ve never been confident that they wouldn’t fly off!! Felicity Cloake in her book used an iPhone for navigation and it did play up in the rain however. I did come a major cropper in Spain in 2011 but the Garmin did stick like glue to the handlebars and recorded its journey all the way back to Guermica police station before the batteries ran out!!!

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