As the snow drifted across the outside lane of the M5, and the police escort for the snowplough made noisy if slow progress, I couldnâ€™t help but wonder if this would set the tone for riding after a six hour round trip.
It did but that was fine. The Quantocks were lightly dusted with snow and heavily laden with slick mud. Tyres gripped in as much as they were going forwards a little more often than sideways. Smiths Coombe was rather involving on a hardtail sporting IRC â€œsuicides â€“ a fine tyre in all conditions except these. My journey downhill was enlivened by several unplanned sideways shunts into the shrubbery charted by a voluble disagreement between me and said tyres: â€œLeft, Left you b@stard, if Iâ€™d wanted to go straight on into that spikey bush, Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™d have mentioned it”. Eventually I stumbled upon a survival strategy somewhere between ships captain and motorcross ride.
Approach the turn, shout out â€œall ahead RIGHT RUDDER”, whip out the inside leg and let it slide. Aside from the numerous occasions where the front wheel threatened to tuck under, this was a definite improvement on the prevous approach of desperately hanging on in a style known as â€œrigid with fear”. My life flashed in front of my eyes so many times, I started fast forwarding to the interesting bits.
It looked a bit like this:
But it wasnâ€™t miserable. Okay the weather was; streaming rain, hilltop cloud and gale force winds combined to test the most waterproof of riders and gear. Soon my socks had switched roles and were now providing a watersport park for lemmings and the tinglings from my finger ends promised frostbite in the near future. Yet it was strangely brill, sliding about in the mud is fun to do and even funnier to watch someone else do it. Especially when the inevietable face plant emerges as â€œSwamp Monster with added mud pack”.
And at the end Tea and Cake take on almost mystical healing properties. Youâ€™ve earned that brownie and by God youâ€™re going to enjoy it. And the one after that, youâ€™ve possibly earned that as well.
The plan was to go out again for a second loop. But the rain slashing at the windows discouraged leaving the sanctuary of the cafe and anyway the size of the portions had reduced us to – at best – walking pace. Riding went from possible to unlikely to “Another cake Alex? Go on you’ve only had three and remember we’ve covered an epic 12 miles already”. When the going gets tough, the tough get confectionary.
As we began the long journey home, Sodâ€™s law came into play and the incessant rain was replaced by weak late winter sunshine. But we didnâ€™t care; We came, We Swore, We ate huge slices of cake. Sometimes low expectations make the best of days.
A few more pics here but in deference to my soaking camera, I abandoned photography quite early. Not before however capturing Andy’s high technology approach to wet weather foot management. I give you the ‘bagshoe’ ™.