This weekend I was moving house, so I tried my hardest to find ways to distract myself by doing other things. On Saturday I took Lizzi – my friend who I’d taken to Hampstead during the week – out for another ride. She’d suggested going to Cambridge, and as I know the way pretty well (or, as it turns out, not quite well enough) I said sure, why not?
We set out with grey skies but the promise from BBC weather of a sunny afternoon. Heading out through Epping, we turned off at High Beech for a cup of tea, where the sun was just trying to peek through the clouds. I assured Lizzi that we’d done the worst of the traffic and the only hill (though I refuse to admit there are actually any real hills in Epping – perhaps I’ve lived too long in SE London). Turns out this wasn’t ENTIRELY true as we took a wrong turn and went on a not-entirely-flat diversion, and then onto a main road. My bad.
Soon enough we were out onto lanes and could ride alongside each other. She was doing really well; although any incline meant slowing down to walking speed, there was no complaining. In the meantime, the skies were darkening and some ominous looking clouds started to gather.
A few miles from Roydon, the rain started. Not heavy, at first. But then heavier until I couldn’t see for water running down my face. Spray from cars was soaking us. We started laughing maniacally. “This can’t last!” I shouted back. A lone cyclist rode past and laughed along with us. Then it started hailing. I looked around, made a decision, and jumped off my bike, dragging it into a ditch to the (relative) protection of a hawthorn bush. We crouched in the ditch, still laughing. Lizzi mentioned something about epic suffering and I knew she had it in her. I reached into my bag to put on my waterproof jacket, only to find my windproof but not in any way waterproof running jacket. The hail died down and I put on what is essentially a piece of cling film with a zip, fashioned some sort of rain catching hat out of a buff, and we headed out again.
Within a few more miles the rain had stopped and the sun made a tentative appearance. We stopped at a pub and stripped off as much as we could, putting our wet clothes to dry on a fence and attracting some odd looks as it hadn’t rained at all here.
Cheese sandwiches, squashed cake and some soft drinks later, and we set off again. I realised I’d made two big mistakes that day (not counting the jacket mixup): firstly, I knew the route fairly well but there was a 10 mile gap that I have to admit I didn’t know at all. Secondly, I hadn’t charged my phone and it was due to run out during this wilderness. Thankfully we passed some cycle tourers who let me have a look at their garmin – thanks, better-equipped-than-me strangers!
We met a group of guys who I wouldn’t say were fullkitwankers but were definitely dressed a little too professionally for a jaunt to Cambridge. They made the mistake of being a little bit patronising, so when they told us that they’d lost their friend I decided to tell them about the escaped animals from the nearby wildlife centre. They laughed about at the time but we later saw them again without their friend, so I like to think that they panicked and abandoned him to a fate similar to being eating by an escaped, inbred tiger.
Around 15 miles from Cambridge, poor Lizzi admitted that her legs were hurting. She used the words “horrible, painful burn”. She told me that she didn’t care about the stupid DNA path (lies, how can anyone not care?) and that she hated all the hills between London and Cambridge. I told her to hang on in there, and unleashed my secret weapon: sainsbury’s own-brand percy pigs. This did the trick and we rolled into Cambridge, high fiving strangers and taking bows from our bikes.
It was probably the slowest ride I’ve ever done (just under 8 hours from Hackney to Cambridge, including tea/pub/ditch stops) but it was by far the furthest she’d ever done so I think it’s all good. I realised later it was also the furthest I’ve ever ridden with a rucksack (70 miles, ouch!) and that I should not try to be such a hero and carry 2 people’s food/drink/jackets etc as it wasn’t super comfortable.
Also, we saw a heron, some ducks, loads of rabbits and a dead badger. Grand day out.