Andy was complaining. Cycling gear – and by that he meant cycling-specific clothing purchased in a bike shop – was absolutely useless, certainly for keeping out the cold. He had a kind of skull cap on under his crash helmet and it wasn't doing a great job of keeping his ears warm. Needless to say he paid through the nose for what amounted to a useless piece of cloth. My balaclava was not 'cycling-specific' and for that reason it was warm and highly efficient at its job of keeping me warm. Alright, I look a bit like a terrorist or a bank robber, but the police don't seem to mind as I'm never stopped, although I hear that these days they don't bother with burglary anymore. Hey ho.
The lesson to be learned, however, is this: don't bother with 'cycling-specific' clothing, it's too expensive for what it is and invariably it doesn't do the job. Buy stuff from stores like Millets, outdoor specialists, and you'll be guaranteed to keep warm in cold weather.
|Andy's Kona on Approach Road, Tatsfield|
We met at the green and rode the slow way to Tatsfield Village, being careful and riding slowly over icy roads. It was bitter out there, puddles were frozen, windscreens were frosted over, puddles were like creme brulée, it was icy, and ever since I had that crash on 1st October last year I've been very cautious. So I rode slowly down Hesier's Hill, slowly into Tatsfield Village and so on. Here and there we found plenty of snow banked up on the sides of the road, it made things seem even colder.
Once safely ensconced at the bus stop we broke out the tea and biscuits. A group of 'youths' passed by and asked what we had in the flask. "Tea," I said. He pointed to his large plastic bottle of Coke, which was half full (or half empty depending on your point of view) and told us he was drinking brandy and coke. It was obvious that he and his two pals, who also clasped plastic bottles of Coke, had been up all night and were making their way back from a party in a house nearby. We've all done it, I thought, remembering a variety of dodgy incidents from my youth, but these days I prefer to get a decent night's sleep and steer clear of the alcohol.
I can't be bothered with drinking anymore. This year, to date, I've only had three pints of bitter, one last Tuesday, one last Saturday and one the Saturday before in a pub near Waterloo station. We have two bottles of wine in the house and the chances of them ever being consumed are very low slim.
It was so cold in Tatsfield we had to sit on our gloves, but it still penetrated through our clothing and Andy said he had a couple of pairs of thick socks on PLUS thermal shoes, but his feet were still extremely cold. The tea warmed us a little up and the biscuits were comforting too, but soon our thoughts turned to the ride home. A jogger jogged past but she wasn't wearing gloves. "She must be freezing," Andy commented.
We caught up with her at the Tatsfield Bus Stop – which is still without its integral wooden bench and, as Andy has suggested in the past, it probably won't be repaired – ever. As we passed I thought the jogger was wearing gloves, but if she was they weren't exactly sturdy, woolly gloves like mine. We turned right towards Botley Hill, the runner headed left, down Clarks Lane and towards Westerham.
Riding back the slow way was mooted, but the thought of ascending Hesier's Hill in the cold put us off and we opted for the fast way along the 269. There were moments where we forgot the cold, mainly when the sun was shining, but it was one of those deceptive days of sunshine and extreme cold and persisted throughout the day.
We parted at the green and rode our separate ways. When I reached Sanderstead Pond it was frozen over and the ducks stood on the icy surface, seemingly at a loose end as they had nothing to do other than stand there of fly off somewhere. Well at least they could fly, I thought, as I passed by, heading towards Church Way and a cold downhill ride over speed bumps. I rode to the end of the road, turned left on to Morley, right onto Elmfield Way and left on to Southcote Road – a traditionally fast turn that I now ride very slowly, especially in icy conditions.