Tuesday, July 19

Heading for the hills...

 Could there be a nicer breakfast spot?

The sun is shining, there is good coffee and even better baked goods, and all you can hear is birdsong, lambs, bees buzzing among the herbs and the gentle snoring of an elderly cat.

I rode up here yesterday, 41 miles that steadily progressed from flat to rolling to hilly.  On the basis of a dreadful weather forecast I set out in 3/4 knicks and rainjacket, but it seems the gods were smiling on me for I had sunshine nearly all the way - and even more of a blessing, a tailwind on nearly every significant hill.

The view back towards York

I was less lucky on the way back to York - a torrential storm straight after breakfast delayed my departure, a second as I rolled into Kirkbymoorside necessitated a much longer cafe stop than I'd intended and a third as I approached York saw me soaked to the skin in minutes flat.
However, despite the hills and the weather, I had two days of great riding - and three things summed up all that is great about cycling for me:
  1. The moment when you crest a hill and click back though the gears just far enough to turn the pedals as you swoop down the other side
  2. The fact that I have all this glorious countryside waiting on my doorstep
  3. Whizzing by a two-mile traffic jam on my way back into town (though why there was a jam coming into town at 4.20 on a weekday is beyond me...more people should be on bikes!)
Things I learned on my ride:
  • That the highest point I reached before turning off Blakey moor is 319 feet higher than York.
  • That while I don't suppose I'll ever love hills, and they still hurt and sometimes make me want to cry, I am getting better at them!  It was only a nasty little 10%-er at mile 40 (into a headwind too) that had me off the bike - and that only for a hundred yards or so - on the outward journey.
  • That music is a great motivator.  Knowing that I was going to find parts of the ride tough I decided, unusually for me, to stick in my headphones (well, one anyway so I could still hear the traffic!) and hit shuffle... Weirdly, I have lots of music I didn't really recognise, and some I really don't like (can anyone tell me why Belle & bloody Sebastian are on my mp3 player??)
  •  Daft Punk make particularly good cycling music - that steady metronomic beat kept me going for the last few rainy miles!
  • Energy gels, while pretty rank, don't seem to have the catastrophic effect on my digestive system that a lot of people have mentioned to me.
  • When a caffeinated gel and the Akira soundtrack kick in at exactly the same time, the result is some very aggressive riding!
  • Nowhere feels like home like the North York Moors does.
  • A weasel is weasily wecognised, but a stoat's stotally different (stoats are a bit bigger than weasels and have a black-tipped tail, if you were wondering.
  • There's a whole lot more climbing on the way home...
  • I will not be voluntarily riding through Bulmer again - the descent is terrifying, the climb back up the other side painful and soul-destroying
  • Once you're wet, you're wet and there really isn't any point stopping to put on a jacket!

 The view from the top of my dad's drive... not the best way to start a ride!

The route: 
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Tuesday, July 5

Ah, Yorkshire on a summer's day...

It's been a glorious few days, weather-wise - in fact, almost too good, certainly too warm to do anything strenuous during the day.  I've had a few nice evening rides recently, and there's something utterly blissful about being out on quiet country lanes as dusk begins to fall, but today I woke in an up & at 'em frame of mind, and was breakfasted, dressed and ready to go by 10am. 

I decided to head west out of the city, helped along by a warm easterly wind (about 15kph, if Accuweather is to be believed) and sticking to the Sustrans bike path to get me out of town quickly and well away from traffic.  I don't know how much was down to the new bike and how much down to my improved fitness, but I found this loop so much easier than when I rode it with Rich last year, which is a nice feeling.  Three and a half hours of quality pottering, 57km - all in all, a Good Day on the bike!

Some of the things I saw today:
  • Planes taking off from RAF Linton-on-Ouse (which may not actually be the windiest place of earth, but it sure feels like it sometimes!)
  • A beautiful meadow of Yorkshire fog
  • At least three cyclists wearing jackets - in 20-odd degrees sunshine!
  • A kestrel hunting over the verge
  • A selection of truly awful cycling shorts in one of York's many local bike shops
  • The site of the battle of Marston Moor, with four beautiful classic cars parked up next to it