Yesterday I planned a cautious extension to my home-bound commute. London Midland clearly felt my idea lacked ambition so abandoned a train-full of us weary commuters in Worcester instead, offering only the delight of a possible service resumption sometime before the weekend, or hoofing it away with Shank’s pony. The fat controller, somewhat gleefully delivering the news, reviewed my transport choice before chortling “you can ride home can’t you then Sir”
“Yes I can” I replied evenly “and you can fuck off fat-man” before taking my leave, phoning home for directions then launching a one man bicycled assault on the Worcester Rush Hour. Amazing such a compact town centre can have quite such epic traffic jams come six pm. No matter, four years of London commuting saw off their frankly pathetic and barely committed attempts to kill me. For the look of the thing, I removed one earphone and swore mostly under my breath.
There are probably many safe and scenic ways to escape the Western approaches of Worcester and I found none of them, instead pinning my hopes on pinning my ears back and wildly changing lanes as vaguely familiar road names passed in front of me. It took a while but eventually my path was cleared of urban misery and nothing short of twenty five miles, two bastard hill climbs, fading light and two empty bottle cages stood between me and reaching home the same day I’d left.
Forgetting my water bottles was stupid, attempting to imprison the eye wateringly expensive replacements in the cages was even less clever. At about a quid a time*, my progress was fiscally halted on a number of occasions as I wearily fetched them from some few hundred yards behind me. Until a particularly broken road section catapulted the remaining bottle in a perfect parabola over my head and under the wheels of an oncoming truck.
Bugger.. And I had a few hundred dickheads in cars and most of a dual carriageway to keep me company before finally Malvern hoved into view via the poor part at the bottom of the hill. And what a hill that is, goes on for quite a while and then a bit more. I’d told Carol I might need fetching at Ledbury some ten miles from home if the light gave out before my lack of the same came into play, but secretly I was going for it.
Quite slowly on that hill encumbered by the laptop of doom and a raging thirst brought on by unexpected sunshine. A quick detour to a handy petrol station fuelled me up with sugary goodness and sufficient liquid to see me home. Liquid which was safely stored in that large bag I heft around. A great solution to a simple problem, and one I wished I’d thought of before lobbing watery grenades at the good citizens of Worcester.
The climb out of Malvern had me wondering if I could fit a proper granny ring without any proper roadie noticing and pointing aggressively. Such dark thoughts kept me occupied until a learner driver ground gears behind me but refused to pass. Eventually they picked the perfect moment – for a crash – on a blind double-lined corner into the path of oncoming traffic. Lights were flashed, v signs were flicked, heads were shook but nobody died.
Not yet anyway, because this was the last corner before the much anticipated crest and a headlong plunge down the other side. From my last road ride here, I knew that a big effort on the flat top section would be rewarded with a 40+mph one mile hoon down the steep, straight section. What I hadn’t bargained on was being able to slipstream the learner driver, who was being somewhat over cautious on a dry road with visibility of about 20 miles.
No matter, for one crazy minute I thought I was going past him, but the second I hit the wind first hand, a giant hand plucked me from an overtaking position to a spot some distance behind. Never mind, a quick look at the time and we’re still good for a fast fifteen to finish. I was surprised by the rapidity of my normal commute home having swept into Ledbury on the back of a few 25 MPH downhill corners and a big grin.
Knees were a bit sore. Some chafing from the cheap saddle but otherwise a warm peramble home including tackling the optional extra big hill because, well, it was there really. No obvious mouse lung, not getting wet, not freezing cold and not benighted. I could get used to this and in the 90 minutes since we’d been abandoned, mad ideas of a long way round all the way from the office in Birmingham were spinning in my head at the speed of my pedals.
I’ve looked at a map and I reckon it’s possible. Although Bromsgrove may be a likelier option – not so much the reduced distance more the chance of still being un-squashed which the manic route from Brum totally fails to guarantee. I don’t know if a big ride home two days before the HONC counts as tapering, but I’d not much to taper from and, anyway, my legs felt fine. Until I tried to chivvy them into action an hour or so later when my brain issued a “LEGS NOT AVAILABLE, GET BACK TO THE SOFA RIGHT NOW BEFORE YOU FALL OVER” instruction.
Still HONC is only about double that distance. Off Road. Probably riding my rigid Kona because otherwise it might not be miserable enough. I’m not worried.
* a QUID. FFS. A QUID. Next time I’m buying lager, it’d be cheaper.