In the Bleak Midwinter

I like a bargain. I have wasted large amounts of money over the years on items which have seen little use and have never justified me purchasing them, just because they were cheap. So when Field & Trek, one fine summer’s day, advertised their balaclavas at a reduced price, I jumped at the chance. The standard colour was black, and they, if I remember correctly, were about £14, but F & T had a whole consignment of aubergine ones which they couldn’t shift, and they were going for £3 each. So I am the owner of a very fetching aubergine balaclava.

Like this:-

It doesn’t get a lot of use. In fact, I think I’ve owned it for about 3 years and today was the second time I have worn it, but it was brilliant. There’s nothing particularly new to tell about my route, except that I did a few more miles today than is my wont. It’s just that it was possibly the coldest bike ride I have endured since my late teens when my brother and I set off when the temperature was -10°C for a day’s pike fishing when we had to break the ice to get our lines in the water. We didn’t catch anything except pneumonia.

I went along the sea front where brent geese were doing what brent geese do in the winter. Then I cycled inland to Barling and Wakering, and instead of going straight home I retraced my steps to find that the tide had come in.

The freezing fog had some very interesting effects. Firstly, I noticed that my gloves were covered in white rime where the moisture was being collected and then freezing. Then, the outer brake and gear cables had a spiral pattern of frost on them – very pretty. Later, looking down, the front of my fleecy longs, from knees to ankles, looked as though they had had a dusting of icing sugar. Finally, every so often I noticed that a delicate film of ice was collecting on the brake levers and that I was destroying it every time I applied the brakes. As the warmth and pressure from my hands came in contact with the levers, so these tiny filigrees of ice would fly off behind me. I would have loved to have been able to photograph them, but I had left the camera behind on the grounds that no-one ever gets decent photos in the fog.

I met another cyclist on the sea front, or more precisely he overtook me only to be overtaken himself by the faeries a few hundred yards further on. I fancied that I could hear my Panaracer Paselas chuckling to one another about the sorry state of his Gator Skins as I pulled alongside to offer him help I was very pleased he didn’t need.

I finished off the ride with a couple of errands, in the first case to collect a prescription for my next three months’ tablets. The doctor looked very alarmed at the sight of a potential terrorist in his surgery, but recognised me soon enough; and I also went into a school to collect a cheque, on this occasion carefully removing my disguise before presenting myself to the secretary.

The verdict on the ride was that I kept beautifully warm, except for my feet, and I have concluded that this is because SPDs involve a sizeable chunk of metal in close proximity to the ball of the foot, and all the heat is conducted down the cranks just to keep the bottom bracket turning smoothly.

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