Distance: 38 miles. Elevation: 663 ft
I have been soaking wet before…and I have ridden at near freezing temperatures. But never have I combined the two! This ride was only 663 ft of elevation and 38 miles, but was an epic in its own right. I’d had a couple of club rides the previous weekend which I had really enjoyed, a good test of my fitness. Then during the week I did a hilly ride which I found difficult to enjoy because of the cold, wet, muddy and grey conditions.
Today I knew the forecast wasn’t that good but I, and four others, dragged ourselves out there. The temperature was just above freezing and it had already started raining before we left Marden at 9 am. There was a brisk icy easterly wind to add to our misery. We had already decided not to have a coffee stop and to make it a quick flat ride.
After about 30 minutes I could feel that my legs were wet and I was particularly worried about my right knee which always seems to play-up when it gets wet – but it was fine. That was about the only good thing to report about this ride. That, and the great camaraderie between the five of us. Although wet, I was, at this stage, warm – warm hands and feet.
I was the only one without mudguards, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was still getting covered in muddy spray from the riders in front. I have never spat so much muddy water out during a ride. After about an hour, I was soaked – gloves were soaking wet and feet too. Ninety minutes into the ride, we stopped at the bottom of Rayners Hill. Some riders had an energy gel at this point. Because of the extended stop (three minutes), we cooled down and we all realised by now just how wet and cold we were. Our hands were completely numb, as was my right foot. Being soaking wet there was no way to get warm again. At another brief stop in Lenham we realised we were finding it difficult to talk properly as our faces were freezing. It was like trying to speak after having been to the dentist – it came out as a slur!
By now we all wanted it to end. It was another hour’s ride back to Marden at 16.7 mph. And the rain was now coming down harder. My hands were painfully cold, but there was no way to warm them. At one point we broke into song after someone started singing “I’ve lost all kind of feeling” to the tune of the Righteous Brothers’ hit. I think we were getting delirious! Other songs were My Boy Lollipop (?) and Bohemian Rhapsody! No, we didn’t re-enact the scene from Wayne’s World.
Back in Marden at the end of the ride my hands were so cold I couldn’t squeeze the clip to undo my helmet strap! I threw everything in the back of the car, put something on the car seat to try to prevent the seat getting soaked (didn’t work) and drove home still with my soaking wet cycling shoes on. I still had a completely numb right foot and couldn’t really feel the accelerator or brake pedals with it!
Once home I got out of my wet gear to discover I had bright pink legs where they were so cold. My feet were quite painful as they came back to life.
Of course, now that I’m sitting in a warm dry room, it’s difficult to remember how it felt but I do know it was the coldest I have ever been on a bike. I think I would rather choose the feeling of coming home after an epic 200-mile ride suffering from heat exhaustion rather than today’s experience.