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 him warm. Needless to say he paid through the nose. My balaclava was not 'cycling-specific' and for that reason it was warm and highly efficient at its job of keeping me warm.
The lesson to be learned 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, it was icy, and ever since I had that crash on 1st October I've been very cautious. So I rode slowly down Hesiers 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 in one hand and a small bottle of brandy in the other, although this is by memory, there might have been just one bottle of brandy, although I'm guessing that just one half bottle of the hard stuff wouldn't have been enough to keep them up and running all night long. We guessed that they'd been to a party in a house nearby and were now making their way home. We've all done it, I thought, remembering a variety of incidents from my youth, but these days I prefer to get a decent night's sleep and not drink.
I can't be bothered with alcohol anymore and I hardly drink. 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 being consumed any time soon are very low.
It was so cold 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 up and the biscuits were comforting, but soon our thoughts turned to the ride home. A jogger jogged past us 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. As we passed I thought she was wearing gloves, but if she was they weren't exactly sturdy, woolly gloves like mine, but she might not have been. We turned right towards Botley Hill, she headed left, down Clarks Lane and towards Westerham.
Riding back the slow way was mooted, but the thought of ascending Hesiers 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.
As always 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 at a loose end, they had nothing to do other than stand there of fly somewhere. Well at least they could fly, I thought, as I passed by, heading towards Church Way and a cold downhill ride. I rode to the end, turned left on to Morley, right onto Elmfield and left on to Southcote Road – a traditionally fast turn that I now ride very slowly, especially in icy conditions.