Sunday, 16th November
Chesham – Tring – Berkhamsted – Bovingdon – Chesham. 22.68 miles.
The sun was shining this morning, yet I could hardly say that I was looking forward to a good ride. The last few days on the bike had been truly awful, every other body part appeared to be willing, except the two bits that do the work: my left leg, and my right leg.
I ate a hearty breakfast, and waited for as long as I could bear for it to digest, before donning the freshly-laundered sparkly spandex and shiny silver shoes in preparation for the mental agony of another appalling ride. Here, I made my first mistake. “It looks as though it’s raining”, said my beautiful girlfriend.
“I dunno…looks like it’s stopped”, I replied. It hadn’t. It was that fine rain that soaks you through, the kind that Peter Kay has commented all too frequently upon. I had unwittingly chosen the wrong top for the weather, a splendid retro Carrera team jacket, in the misguided belief that it was relatively water resistant.
Within the first three hundred yards, the spray from the road had doubled my not inconsiderable body weight with water and “ming” – this is a technical term, I’m sure – giving me an incredibly cold and wet bottom. Not to be put off by a bit of bad weather, I headed for the country, and the road to Tring.
The route rises steadily out of Chesham on roads that both look and feel like they’ve been laid to resemble a blind Cobbler’s thumb. They’re full of grooves and pot-holes that do little to make the climbs any easier, sucking what little life I had from my already cold and wet legs. The rain came in almost at right-angles to my face, and beads of water hung onto the edge of my helmet, and rocked from side-to-side as I pedalled, like a water-based parody of that sensor-thingy on the front of Michael Knight’s black Trans-Am in Knight Rider, before falling to the ground to join the rest of their watery friends.
After seven miles of constant ascent, the road descends rapidly through Hastoe, and towards Tring. I passed some youths on mountain bikes, playing in the puddles, and I couldn’t quite work out who was more mad, me or them. From there, I had eight miles of flat and slightly downhill road, through Berkhamsted and out of the other side towards Hemel Hempstead.
Box Lane, from Hemel Hempstead to Bovingdon, isn’t particularly steep, nor is it particularly long at about two and a half miles, but it was the only real hill of the day. I’ve ridden up Box Lane number of times in the last few weeks, and recently it has managed to reduce me crawling speed long before the top. Like most roads in the area, it’s surface is like the moon, except it’s not made of cheese, and the worst sections are on the steeper parts. To ride on the smoothest part of the road means that you run the risk of being murdered by passing cars, as the middle has the least pot-holes and the speed limit in these areas is high. After my most recent showings on Box Lane, I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I was to surprise myself. I reached the summit with three gears to go, then popped the chain up onto the top ring, and pedalled, frozen and wet, for home.
Have a look at the new swanky-style map:
Todays bike: Pinarello Paris with full 9-speed Ultegra and Mavic Open Pros.
Wet cyclist photo from: Annemiek van der Kuil | http://www.photoa.nl