The Grim-O-Meter.

This is my unofficial measurement of unpleasantness when bicycles meet rain, dark, wind, cold and mechanical catastrophe. So a 1 would represent a light sprinkle of mid-summer rain cascading over an un-jacketed rider, thereby souring an otherwise delightful experience of tanning and pedalling. Whereas a 10 would be the archetypal “dark and stormy night” attempting to fix a puncture with no tubes, a busted pump and bloodied thumbs while being frequently deluged by passing HGVs.

This morning was a strong six. Dark. Check. Early. Check. Wet. Check. Mechanical. Oh yes. After 30 minutes of sustained fettling, the screeching mudguard of doom now emits a piercing howl rather than a dull scratch. Ratcheting up the GOM score was some unrelenting rain triggered, as I moved the bike from indoors to outdoors, from an apparently clear sky.

A little music tends to ease the passage from night to day, but my MP3 player lay abandoned where I’d placed it charging the night before in a location impossible to miss at 6am. That’s an area of my commute that needs some work, as does about half of the road surface which is either pot-holed, subsiding or entirely missing. The only joy of mid winter riding stems from darkness hiding an ever more pretzled wheel set.

So whereas last weekend I strode the quantocks as a cycling collusus* stomping up climbs and gloating over early season form, this week has been payback. Firstly a Malverns night ride shortened first by apathy and secondly by sleet. My legs were fine, but the shop steward of the brain demanded a one-out-all-out withdrawal of labour.

We still poked a big pointy hole on the upside of 2,000 feet of vertical climbing, but sticky trails, too much great riding lately and a shared sense of can’t-be-arsed saw us lowside it home to avoid all the really hurty bits.

And we weren’t alone. At least not quite. Two weeks ago, I was lamenting the burgeoning flange of riders on my hills. But Tuesday saw just us and another pair who were talking a hell of a game in terms of a peak bagging epic** trudging through the plasticine trails, and sliding about in a generally not-very-good-at-cycling manner.

The signs of post Christmas apathy are all around. The fug of a microwaved pasty has already replaced the smell of fresh lettuce in our office. On the train – come summer – we struggle to position six bikes in a space for barely three. But this week there’s been just the one, with the rider receiving pitying looks from fellow passengers.

I know what they were thinking “Nice bike, shame he had to sell his car to buy it, because well you wouldn’t got out in THAT by choice. Or maybe he’s a nutter“. February is always a bastard month, not quite close enough to spring for light and warmth to permeate the times when I ride, nor far enough into the season to motivate yourself that this is training for summer events.

No month 2 is a slog. And there aren’t many of us still doing it. But great riding gear, fast road bikes and a level of bloody mindedness not to let this unheralded fitness slip shall keep me going. Although I expect the Grim-O-Meter to take a beating for the next few weeks.

* Other people who were actually there may have a different – and less glowing – opinion.

** But based on the physical evidence of them blowing it out of their arse on a flat section, I’m thinking they were fibbing. A lot.

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