The week after Christmas is a difficult time with family commitments so when the opportunity arises its nice to be able to get a few miles in and seeing a free day I planned a 70 mile circular route out to Pamber End.
The forecast was for possible frost, possible fog and temperatures between zero and +6C depending if the fog cleared.
The sun was up in Binsted as I left a few minutes before 9am, there was a frost on the grass and a bit of mist in the field opposite. The air was sharp and the Garmin was showing a temperature of -2C I could feel the cold through my tights, just needed a bit of pedalling for a few minutes to warm up.
It can be a bit deceiving on the top of the hill as I found out descending to Blacknest, the sun disappeared as I entered thick fog and the temperature dropped down to -4.1C, I touched the brakes approaching the junction and the back wheel moved on the black ice, this was definitely a case of a softly softly day.
The visibility was no more than 50m but at least there was little traffic, one annoying aspect was the fogging of my glasses on the outside which meant riding one-handed with a gloved finger of the other hand working as a windscreen wiper.
Approaching Crondall the trees, hedgerows and verges were covered in hoare frost as now was my jacket and forward facing parts of the bike. I crossed the A287 at Church Crookham, tried to change gear and nothing happened, just a floppy paddle on the STI.(more on this later) I could not see any obvious problem but the derailleur was stuck at mid-point on the block, I suspected a frayed cable that had jammed in the outer casing. I considered my options and decided that with the front 50/34 chainring working I would push on and effectively ride fixed gear.
There were icy patches on the roads that had not been gritted so caution was the order of the day and all was going well until I got to Stratfield Says when the rear wheel punctured, this is the third puncture in six ride on a new pair of Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres ( an earlier blog ) so to say I was not pleased is a bit of an understatement. I removed the offending flint changed tubes and carried on to Bramley for my coffee stop. Arriving at the Bramley Bakery the car park was heaving so not wishing to waste too much time I thought I would take coffee at Pamber End Garden Centre or I would have done if it had been open. The note on the gate said closed until 3rd January but not to worry there was always Jolly Ollys at Oakley which I would be passing.
The fog showed no sign of clearing as I passed Charter Alley and Ramsdell and a real kick in the teeth was the cafe at Oakley that was also closed, I stopped outside and reached for an energy bar from my pocket and as I lifted my water bottle from the holder crusted ice dropped from the frame, the temperature was at last beginning to rise although the Garmin was still showing -2C.
Approaching North Waltham and the fog started clearing as the mid-day sun began to burn it off and as I touched the gear lever I noticed resistance, it appeared to be working, a few taps on the paddle and I had gears again. In retrospect I think that ice had been the problem. So all was now good, well not quite, my Garmin decided it had worked hard enough and turned itself off losing all my ride data.
The rest of the ride back through Dummer, Axford and Lasham was in sunshine although it was not noticeably warmer and at Islington there was still ice on the road at 2pm. I was beginning to flag a bit having missed my coffee stop. A testing day on the bike but rewarding in so many ways.
There is a saying in sport that sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you, well today the bear came out on top but I live to fight another day.