Three young club riders pass by, heading for the coast. Heads down, pressing on, the lad on the back just starting to lose the wheel. They remind me of the illustrious, illusionary Troon Velo club of my own youth: a club that existed only in the fevered imaginations of the members but no less (and indeed perhaps more) important for that.
Out for an afternoon habble, strong friendships no barrier to the desire to make your soul mates suffer. Such things are timeless.
Crawl Space - Seconds (from split LP with Joya. Bandcamp) Sometimes Accidentally - The Goon Sax (digital single. Bandcamp) Something Much Quicker Than Anyone But Jennifer Could Ever Imagine - Hooton Tennis Club (from 'Highest Point in Cliff Town' LP) Vade Necum Gunslinger (Live) - The Blue Aeroplanes (from 'Access All Areas' LP) Rainbow - Win (from 'Freaky Trigger' LP) One Step Too Far - Knife Pleats (from 'Hat Bark Beach' LP. Bandcamp) Cracks - Binaries (from 'Double Star' 3" CD. Bandcamp) Softest - Worthless (from 7" single. Bandcamp) The Mirror Pool - The Oscillation (from 'Beyond the Mirror' LP. Bandcamp) No Memory - The Drink (from 'Capital' LP. Soundcloud) Harvest Time - The Clientele (from 'Alone and Unreal: The best of The Clientele' LP on Pointy Records) Better - EGO (digital single. Bandcamp) the brother behind the red curtain - Stars In Coma (from 'The Ghosts Were Prolific In Our Minds' EP. Bandcamp) This Repeated Sodomy - The Radio Dept. (digital single. Soundcloud) Sister - TeenCanteen (digital single. Bandcamp) Cut With the Cake Knife - Rose Mcdowall (from 'Cut With The Cake KNife' reissue LP on Night School Records. YouTube) Violence - Eternal Death (from 'Eternal Death' LP YouTube) Let Your Hair Fall Down - The Bye Bye Blackbirds (digital single. Bandcamp) Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party - Courtney Barnett (YouTube) High - Royal Headache (from 'High' LP. Bandcamp) Get High - Tender Age (from 7" single. Bandcamp) Cemetery Kiss - Funeral Advantage (from 'Body is Dead' LP. Bandcamp)
Riding up from Winsford towards the Exford to Wheddon Cross road I’m brought up short behind a flock of sheep moving fields. Bringing up the rear is a quad bike with an ever-excited sheepdog perched behind the young farmer. The dog squeals and yips, desperate to get onto the real work of the day. Eventually it is time for action and in the blink of an eye (so quick in fact that I miss the move entirely) the dog has sped to the front of the flock and is deftly directing it into an open gateway. With a nod and a wave to the farmers I pick up my pace again, the interlude so pleasant that I don’t even care that it has caused my average speed to plummet dramatically. Numbers are not everything, after all.
Fortunately this morning’s rain is but a distant memory and the ride home is full of sunshine. Reaching home, I upload my data and discover I have just surpassed my total yearly mileage from last year. 2014 was a low point in so many ways of course, but nevertheless this fact give me a pleasant sense of achievement.
I’m glad my new bike is in the bike shop. This means I am on my old Madone, which is as well because this morning’s weather forecast turns out to be not entirely accurate. Admittedly it is dry leaving the house and it is only by the approaches to Bickleigh that some faint mizzle starts. On the ride to Ashley however it has strengthened to heavy rain. By Tiverton it is a deluge. Salinger was certainly right on the money when he suggested that it seems to rain heaviest in the centre of town.
There is a head/side wind as I roll down Green Lane but nevertheless I make a bit of an effort and am happy for most of its length to be within a whisker of my new best time. As the landscape opens up however the wind whips up and my legs ease back. Sitting up, I grab my bidon for a drink only to see it promptly and inexplicably tumble from my grip. Laughing at my clumsiness I can’t help but think about how my average speed will tumble from having to stop and turn around to retrieve it. But it is a Rapha bidon, after all.
Cars driven badly cut me up at all four roundabouts as I leave town. The frustration raises my adrenalin levels and I pound the pedals faster than I have in a while. Passing the village sign I realise I have ridden home nearly a minute faster than at any other time this year. It wasn’t even a tailwind.
Leaving the heart-rate monitor at home, I tell myself I will just ride lightly on my commutes. Approaching Bickleigh however I am aware that if I push just a little harder into this headwind I can keep an average speed for the ride above 30km/h. My competitive spirit (at least with myself) wins.
As we ride out of Keynsham I’m hooked up initially with a sizeable group of locals from what appears to be a club. Onto narrower roads and a short descent I’m riding three back from the front when suddenly everyone in the group appears to holler “car up” at almost exactly the same instant. I’m bemused and frustrated in almost equal measure, especially when the riders in front of me haul on the anchors. Shimmying to the right I’m through and safely past the car in a moment. Pushing on, I never see the club riders for the remainder of the ride.
Conscious of my age and awkward cussedness, I nevertheless can’t help but ponder how when I was growing up our group rides had a language of the road that I always assumed was universal. Whenever a vehicle approached on a narrow road the lead rider would call out ‘nose’ and when a vehicle came up behind the rider on the back would call ‘tail’. If it was a larger group then maybe a rider in the middle of the group might repeat the warning. As I progress around the Bristol Belter short course in glorious sunshine I use this approach whenever I’m with groups of other cyclists. I’m convinced they realise that my language of the road is the right one.