I knew it was going to be a wet ride a week before I even set out: the forecast for the week had bright warm August sunshine all the way up until the day I wanted to go for a ride. Then: weather warnings. Heavy rain. Flooding. I'm sure Carol thought I was slightly unwell in my head; choosing to ride out for the day in the pouring rain, but I could at least have the wind to my back for a day.
I set off from Durham with a vague plan to head down to York and catch the train home and with clean dry clothes packed into my saddle bag. On top of this, I knew that I would be home in the evening and could warm up with a hot shower. This was just as well because the rain was falling solidly when I set out and was still doing so when I arrived home.
I usually enjoy taking photographs while riding, but this just wasn't going to be possible in the pouring rain, I have yet to buy a robust weatherproof camera.
It might sound ridiculous to ride in the rain deliberately, but its another aspect of cycling which is worth experiencing, especially if you're well prepared and assured of warmth later in the day. Intentionally riding in the rain reminded me that its not as bad as my imagination pictured. However, I did need to adjust my riding for the surface water. I had to ride further out into the road due to the flooding along the verges. I found that almost all motorists gave me plenty of space and tried not to splash me. I also had to wait for a gap in the traffic to cross some sections of totally flooded road.
I was in an idle mood, not riding hard and not focussed on getting anywhere fast. So I headed out for a ride along the 'world famous' Girsby road and crossed the river Tees on the old bridge. I was enjoying the sound of the rain on the tarmac and the zip of my tyres on the road. As I passed under the trees the sounds changed slightly; the rain now falling on leaves, the rustle of the wind in the branches and the splatsplatsplat of large water drops blattering down.
In Northallerton I stopped for a coffee and thought about where to go next, I had a vague plan to visit The Carpenters Arms
in Felixkirk as Carol and I had enjoyed some delicious pub-grub there one year. So pootling out of Northallerton I joined National Cycle Route 71 towards Knayton and Upsall. With a name like 'Upsall' it seemed fairly obvious that this wasn't going to be a flat ride. At Upsall I then followed National Cycle Route 65 towards Felixkirk.
With less than a mile to the pub I saw a sign which pointed to Boltby. I remembered riding up Boltby Bank on the "Ryedale Rumble
" cyclosportive a few years ago and wondered if the climb had become any easier, so forsaking the plans of an early lunch I turned left and rode to Boltby.
Boltby Bank (or Sneck Yate Bank) isn't a particularly long climb but it has a relentless steep section. Today I was on a tourer with luggage and a suitably low touring gear, so it was just a case of spin and breathe to reach the top. The cooling rain was a relief, falling on my upturned face. There were certainly sections which invited me to stop and get off, especially the tempting farmshop and tearoom halfway up.
Once over the top of the climb I turned my back to the wind once more and rode along the hilltops to the visitors centre at Sutton Bank for a comfort break. I met a motorcyclist sheltering from the rain. He was going to Scotland for a week's touring and we wished each other well. He was impressed with the rainlegs
I was using, something I've found really helpful as they keep my thighs warm and dry, but without the overheating problems of full waterproof trousers.
Descending 'White Horse Bank' in the wet; negotiating gravel and rivers of rain while wondering if my brake blocks would last to the bottom. I found myself at Kilburn and for a late lunch visited The Forresters Arms
; if I couldn't meet the Carpenter then the Forrester was going to have to do. What a fantastic treat was in store though: Warmth! Dry! Real Ale! Steak and Ale pie!
Outside the rain continued to fall and I rested up for an hour in the comfort and warmth.
After a good long rest I built up the enthusiasm to head back out into the cold and wet, and followed roads familiar from 'Gerry's Autumn Brevet
' south through Easingwold and Sutton-on-the-Forest down to Haxby and then into York. The final meander from Kilburn to York was basically flat but no less wet. I'm sure the rain became heavier as I reached the outskirts of York.
My train ride home was made more affordable by a Student Railcard, and my comfort was much increased by wearing warm dry clothes from my luggage. It was a day of light wind and had I thought about this in advance I might have used a raincape instead of coat, rainlegs and overshoes. Raincapes are truly excellent at helping me stay dry and cool; as it was I must have looked like a drowned rat when i arrived at York Station.
Compared to the option of staying home and looking at the rain through the windows, I found going out and experiencing the cold wet weather and treating myself to a hearty pub lunch was much more enjoyable and rewarding - but I accept from the look on Carol's face that this experience isn't for everyone.