The end of every summer is always a time of mixed feelings and having had to spend what seemed like an indecent amount of this one away from bikes the short days just around the corner feel as if they were left behind the last time even more recently than normal but the heather is in flower, it’s a long weekend, the holiday roads will soon be quiet again, and it’s so good to be back on the bike whilst there’s still at least some fine weather and daylight after work rides left in the year the cool breeze over the moor just smells all the more sweet.
There have been many occasions I would imagine, occurring at various stages of the eleven mile climb from the bus stop overlooking the village green at the bottom (whose views down the valley, and proximity to the pub across the road from whose bar you can see the bus arrive, make it one of the nicest places anywhere to wait for a bus, which is just as well considering how long you might be waiting for one) to the junction at the top where the road takes you either south back down to the valley you just left or away west to the next one, when folks, myself included, must have wondered whether it was such a good idea to do this ride today but there are also occasions when you just seem to hook up to some imaginary bike tow, shout up ahead for them to start the pretend winding gear and just sit back and wheel up the hill as if someone turned the whole fellside to slope the other way, when the weather is not too hot, not too cold, not to windy, not too wet, and the snow and ice and biting north easterly of just a few recent months ago seem like distant memories of another country altogether and then you wonder what you could ever even have been worried about.
Today was quite cold, the first proper cold of the winter really, a cold which puts a hard white frost on the meadows of the valley floor, a cold which lays swatches of frozen run-off shining diagonally across moorland roads in the low sun, and a cold which forces bike riders to put on their thick top, their thick gloves, their thick hat which they think looks cool but everyone else, well, doesn’t, and their thick bottoms which, unused since February and reinforced against the wind have all the flexibility of a pair of wet levis left overnight on a Moscow January washing line, all to pursuade their legs to go outside the front door. Also a cold however which, early on a Saturday morning at least, clears the roads of anyone who doesn’t have a border collie and an expectant ewe on the backseat of their car, a cold which means a stop for coffee before the last leg home can be defended as essential to ensure that all ten toes remain attached to their respective feet when the salt splattered smurf shoes come off at the end of the ride free of the nervousness of being seen as the style-concious see-and-be-seen continental affectation of summer and a cold which at last brings the prospect, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day, of snow on the fells and the hope that following a slightly off-key start weatherwise and despite all the unmeteorological stresses and strains it brings December will be magic again
Saturday was spent indoors Breakfast Club
fashion debating which of us most correlated with which classic saturday detention movie cast members but Sunday was for being outdoors and the hill is as outdoors as anywhere and is also, despite or perhaps because of being one of the most exposed places you can ride a bike for some miles due to its position at the northern edge of Yorkshire’s bit of the Pennines, looking out across the gap in the hills through which passes the main east-west motor highway between my corner of England’s North East and our daffodil bothering cousins over in Cumbria, a road itself sometimes closed to some or even all vehicles on particularly windy days, a kind of default ride if stormy weather is forecast. I could justify this by the fact that there is nothing particularly steep or bendy which might cause a problem to anyone trying to get up or down the hill should the weather take a turn for the worse, or rationalise that the inn at the top provides the chance of last resort refuge should gale, storm or blizzard grow tiresome but being honest it is because being somewhere high and exposed as a big depression scours the hilltops with strong winds is exhilarating and a neccessary counterweight to an existance which so often puts a roof between me and sky. Summer is great: warm, carefree, and the riding is easy but everything comes to an end and every year she does die so beautifully. It is still early in the year of course, a few leaves remain on the trees although not many after today, and temperatures are mild but last night I dreamed of snow.