Xtra in winter

Xtra in winter

Yesterday morning I awoke to discover the cold I’ve been trying to hold down had taken refuge in my sinuses leaving them as congested as an Autobahn contraflow in rush hour. My head hurt, my eyes watered, so naturally I went off for a bike ride.

The theory was that a few minutes of activity in the cool fresh air would boost the happy chemicals and clear away the sludgy head feeling: important as I had an appointment at nine-thirty.

Outside, it was one of those mornings where the weather hasn’t decided if it’ll be sunny or give us all a good soaking. Small ghosts of cloud crossed a clear sky to join a great lump of grey stuff, and above those a fine latte coating of white obscured the sun. I wasn’t feeling up to climbing anything, which in our village meant the only choice was to head north. I crossed the ridge on a ‘feldweg’: a paved farm road, in the company of a gentleman riding a reclining tricycle, the first I’ve seen locally. The tricycle I mean, not the gentleman.

I said I’d be comparing local cycling facilities so here’s a first example: at the edge of the next village the cycleway stopped abruptly, leaving me with a sign pointing along a normal road through an industrial estate. It’s a safe, wide road, but with several factory entrances and shunting trucks, it doesn’t look it. Even worse is the badly signposted junction with a main road at the end: there is a wide footpath for the few metres I’d need to follow the road, but no sign to say a bike can use it, so I ended up clogging up the road for a bit until the next cycleway began about a hundred metres away. This is the local cycling situation in microcosm: great cycleways where you can get them, but they stop and spit you out on the road as soon as it gets into a town, which of course is the point where you really need some protection. The cycleways remain isolated byways, great for recreational cycling but not so good to cycle to work or to the shops.

On the way home, I got hit by a commuter headwind- the sort that scuttles playfully around buildings to hit you in the face whatever direction you’re travelling, and this meant that on a section where I normally had no trouble racing along at the speed of the cars, I was in the middle ring and pumping hard to keep going, which at least broke through the cold enough to get on with the day, and I was on time for the appointment.

Other towns are a different story. I’ll report on that later.