I've really been putting off writing this, i've had notes for some time but couldn't bring myself to put words on the page. It was tough because writing this memoir meant that Summer was over, as by definition a retrospective is shared after the event.
There is no longer any doubt, Summer has packed it's bags and started to make it's slow trip via Southern Europe, to Australasia where it will spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time, warming the backs of well dressed, friendly Aussie cyclists instead of miserable, high-vis-jacket-clad British people.
So for us in the UK, it's time to bring out the arm warmers, or even rather scandalously, the long sleeve jerseys for what will inevitably seem like forever. In reality it will be close to 6 months, which is cycling terms is pretty much forever. Personally, I have a love hate relationship with Autumn/Winter. On one hand I cannot stand fitting the otherwise clean lined bike with lights, mudguards and winter tyres and testing the willpower week after week as the rain comes down or the frost threatens. However, and the style conscious among you will find this most relevant, I do really enjoy pulling out proper winter kit for the first time. I'm fortunate to have lots of winter kit that I really like (Thanks of course to Isadore Apparel) and hence I am completely ok with the weather getting a tad colder so I can pull on comfy merino and full winter tights and reach a point that I can only describe as acceptance.
Anyway, I digress, as this particular entry was intended to reminisce on the rather amazing summer that we've had in the UK. A summer such as this, perhaps even unprecedented depending on who you ask, provides to us cyclists what can only be described as Christmas in June.
As anyone in the UK or Northern Europe can attest to, we had solid good weather from mid July through to September. That may not feel all that long when written down, but when every ride in an 8 week (or so) period is a beautiful scorcher of a day, you have to tip your hats to the cycling gods and give thanks.
As you will no doubt have read, I spent a week of my summer riding in the French Alps, but the time I spent in the UK was most glorious. Summer in the UK is a special thing: Glorious rolling green hills, fields in bloom, ice cream trucks, rides to the seaside, all day epics, narrow country lanes and who can forget, quintessentially British country beer gardens. I could write about those summer rides all day, but for now let me add some focus.
I can remember one particular Saturday quite clearly, one that sticks with me. I peered out of the window, mid morning, deciding that I couldn't fathom staying inside on such a day, but with only a couple of hours spare and a big ride the following day, the options were limited. On the phone, call up that one friend who you can rely on in spontaneous moments of flighting indecision. 'pub?' In the South of the UK we are blessed with pubs (public houses). In particular modern, trendy establishments selling food on slate and bringing burgers out on fine cedar logs. My 'local' riding pub, in that it's only local if you ride to it, is approximately 20km away from home, far enough that you can justify donning lycra and with enough varied terrain to offer hills, sprints and rolling flats on the way. On this particular Saturday, within half an hours notice, we were riding side by side taking in the sun, pushing through the still air, jerseys open and billowing in the breeze.
If you're going to ride short, then you have to ride hard and really earn it. Tom, with respect, does not ride as much as I do, which means whenever we go out together, I do my utmost to break him, feeling that every time I do, he will come back stronger. Solid science right? So as per usual, I challenged him at every opportunity, goading him on the climbs to push harder. Baiting his ego for the sprint. Reading this back, I don't sound like a great friend, but I justify it because what I really want, is to ride with Tom more.
With the temperature hitting near 30 degrees, tan lines cultivating nicely and sweat on the brow most British cyclists will have one thing on the mind, the beer. Now i'm not sure if it's something the public really ever gets used to, but when two lycra clad cyclist clip-clop into an establishment you certainly get a lot of attention. In many ways, akin to if somebody walked into the room in their underwear, a lot of strange looks, laughs perhaps, sneers of disapproval. Occasionally you'll get the knowing look or nod from a hidden rider, dressed in their alter ego guise of 'civilian' but mostly it's the former. You either embrace this with smiles, a wave perhaps or you shy away, keep the head down and make your drink order quick. On a day like today, there was to be no dampening of our spirits, waves, smiles I'm sure I even spotted Tom giving a particularly skeptical man a wink. We're cyclists afterall and we are proud.
Perched on a couple of benches , a sheen of perspiration on our skin and our glasses, you sigh and sit in silence for a short while and realise that the big wins don't always come from finishing long day epics, sometimes a trip to the pub with a friend is enough and all in 40km.
Kit: Isadore Apparel Essentials Jersey and bib shorts
Bike: Canyon Ultimate CF SL
Climbs: The steps into the beer garden?
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