#365daysofbiking Welcome to The Suck:
September 20th – It started with a bang: The Suck, the gradually darkening, menacing and psychologically hard commuting journeys from now until Christmas began today with a twilight, torrential rain soaked journey from Darlaston to home.
Drenched in spray, nearly left hooked twice, perpetually on guard for bad driving this was the worst journey I’ve had in years.
At one point I just stopped and took refuge in a bus shelter to calm down. The sheer hard work of concentrating and being aware enough to survive in this conditions is a gargantuan effort.
But I made it home, and as I once again get used to this, it’ll be less of a trial.
Winter sucks you down.
January 22nd – I couldn’t think where to go, so I just took turn after turn following my nose. I ended up doing two laps of the backlanes around Stonnall and Shenstone which was nice enough, and seeing the feeble light die and the house lights come on was strangely comforting.
I love these lanes. They have been my companion, my constant, unwavering friend, confidante and riding partner for 35 years or more. I know them so well, and sometimes, when the atmosphere or weather isn’t great, just riding loops of these familiar byways is enough.
Sometimes, you stick to the reassuringly familiar.
December 13th – I got away early today, and raced the rain home. Having come from Birmingham, I took the first train in my general direction available, in light of recent hassles, and ended up alighting at Shenstone. Riding down Footherley Lane, I noticed the mud was quite thick on the ground.
This is to be expected – after all the ploughing, seeding and the like, mud is carried out of fields onto roads that are never cleaned except by the rains, and we haven’t had heavy prolonged rain for a while.
This mud can be evil on road bike tyres, or after a light frost, when it partially freezes and turns into wheel-stealing slush. The best advice is take it slow, steady, don’t brake unless you have to and no sudden movements.
All part of the fun of winter…
November 13th – Heading home from work late again, I hit the canal for a bit of a mental challenge. It’s been a hard couple of days, and night riding in a darker than usual environment is really good for clearing the head. I wait until I get to a dark spot, then kill the lights for a bit. It’s great fun.
This image is taken without flash, and this is how it looks from the bike.
The front light I’m using at the moment – a Hope Technology Vision R4 – is great, and bright enough to stun a badger. Here, it’s on the lowest of three ‘trail’ settings, and it’s more than adequate for tiding in woodland at night.
As soon as the weather clears, going to try it out on the Chase one evening…
November 5th – In Shenstone, a timely reminder of the season. The roads were thick with leaf pulp, caused by the action of traffic on fallen leaves. It looks muddy, but it’s also soapy and greasy. Hitting this goop on road tyres can be a sobering experience as it’s apt to steal your wheels from under you; the balsam and sap mix to form a lubricant that remains, even after the debris is removed, so take care anywhere where there are overhanging trees – from up on the Chase, to residential suburbia.
October 25th – I didn’t come home until darkness had fallen, and coming up the Chester Road I felt like trying my night riding skills out in Shire Oak Park. I felt like it, then I remembered the stiles I had to get my bike over. And it was raining. It would be muddy. Perhaps not.
I think my night riding skills are probably still a bit rusty for that just yet. Maybe in a week or two…