Imagine my surprise.
On only the first weekend of February, I find myself changing the lenses in my glasses. The clear lens must be returned to its case, however temporarily. Something darker is required. The sun – wait for it – is shining.
This is a moment of record, for not only has the longed-for golden globe reappeared, but the rain, perhaps for the first time since October, has stopped. There is little point in pretending that we do not live on a blighted island. Seasons have disappeared in recent years, replaced by an interminable, low-level wretchedness broken only by bouts of extreme weather that provoke a longing for the days when it was only grey/cold/miserable.
The success of any British cyclist is much harder earned than that of a rider from more clement conditions. Bradley Wiggins now enjoys the various havens the Canary Islands, but it was not always thus. Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh first honed their talents on the Isle of Man. Any rider sufficiently motivated to brave 20 weeks of dismal weather in the hope that their talent might take them somewhere better suited to riding a bicycle – Pluto, perhaps – is to be admired.
Miraculously, the roads are dry as I roll out on the first Sunday in February. The last few weeks have been unimaginably wet, but today there is sunshine, and its effect on the tarmac is instant, if not on the surrounding fields, many of which are still flooded. The weak winter sun plays on the glistening surface of these temporary lakes: some of them flood plains; others, just plain flooded.
The Garmin 510 shows a temperature of 7.1 degrees for the entirety of the ride, and for the first time in months, there is a short section of the ride in which I am too warm. Clad in LOOK’s Excellence soft shell jacket and tights, and matching gloves, with Endura’s superstretch neoprene overshoe on my feet, extended periods – as many as 10 minutes at a time – in unbroken sunlight make me wish I had worn something, well, lighter. Like paupers thrown scraps, we are pathetically grateful for anything remotely resembling good weather and this slight overheating raises my spirits rather than depresses them.
Mavic’s highly-regarded Aksium hoop is the wheel du jour in the RCUK test rig. I’m far from alone in trusting my winter mileage to the French firm’s entry-level clincher, and early signs are that it will meet the task without flinching. Heavier than the Ksyrium Elite S they have recently replaced, they seem a little less willing, but at this time of the year the slight reluctance is hardly a deal breaker. Only reliability counts in February and while our relationship is still new, it shows every sign of standing the test of time.
Those sections of the ride in which the sun is at its brightest are by far the most enjoyable. Its fix of vitamin D has such an effect that it’s a surprise not to find sunlight on WADA’s list of banned substances. In a country where winter holds sway for a full six months of the year, and where spring and autumn account for several more weeks of dismal weather, the pleasure of riding on dry roads, on a warm bright day, is one to be savoured.