There are many signs that spring is slowly springing but the lighter mornings are the most obvious. It’s now near full daylight at 5.30am in my neck of the woods and a perfect time to ride. The roads are nigh-on traffic free, the sun is beginning its brief ascent, and while the town is asleep, the countryside is wide awake and getting on with its day.
Who exactly? The hare for a start. Having spotted me and the trusty Kinesis TK3 from a distance of several hundred metres, he freezes momentarily in his exposed position in the middle of a field before deciding upon a desperate course of action that involves sprinting towards and in front of me to reach cover on the other side of the road. His trajectory takes him to within feet of my front wheel but we are both sure of our relative speeds and both survive the manoeuvre unscathed.
The farmer is another who has started his day early, with lambs clearly at the top of his agenda. A field filled with ewes and their charges is occupying his attention as I pass and he seems unsurprised by the sight of a lone cyclist before 6am on a weekday morning, returning my cheery ‘good morning’ in the same spirit, a hay bale under each arm.
Onwards and upwards. The road narrows as I climb towards an unexpected phenomenon: rural rush hour. Assorted lorries are backed up at the top of a hill waiting for me to pass. The road is too narrow for us all to pass safely and I ride into the beam cast from the dipped headlights of a milk tanker. Behind it is a lorry laden with hay bales and behind that a lorry carrying livestock. I pull in my elbows (Chris Froome may have had greater difficulty) and squeeze past the stationery ‘traffic’. It’s not an entirely comfortable situation but the urgency of the city is notably absent.
The test rig’s mudguards felt incongruous on the short journey out of town where the roads were dry, but while rain has been mercifully absent in recent days, puddles, mud, and animal slurry make me glad that the PDW guards are still in place. A temperature that stubbornly refuses to rise above five degrees, and where patches of sunshine offer only intermittent warmth, provide further evidence that spring is still in its early stages.
A corner has been turned, however. The clocks will spring forward this weekend, officially ending six months of winter by ushering in another hour of daylight. The early mornings will darken again, briefly, but this will be a small price to pay. British Summer Time will begin and the wettest winter on record will fade to memory. Days will lengthen, temperatures will rise, roads will dry, and cycling will become a pleasure. The hard part is done.