The early morning ride takes some beating.
Rolling out onto traffic-free roads before 7am, the hum of rubber on tarmac clearly audible in the stillness, birds tweeting their approval for your enthusiasm: such pleasures are worth the sacrifice of a bank holiday lie-in.
The town is asleep as I make my escape, the conditions already warm in surprisingly seasonable conditions, the climate finally in synch with the calendar. The numbers on the Garmin report swift and pleasing progress on a ride gloriously lacking a head wind.
Within 10 miles I am clear of the suburbs. Hedgerows have replaced houses in my peripheral vision, green vistas have supplanted grey streets. The open road is mine and mine alone for most of the ride. Passing cars are mercifully few, and even fellow cyclists have seemingly opted for an extra hour in bed over time in the saddle. Their loss.
Short-sleeves and arm warmers, unlined shorts and knee warmers are now more than sufficient. A paper-thin gilet serves as an outer layer. Shells, jackets, long-sleeve jerseys, hats: all the paraphernalia of winter cycling can be shelved, at least for now. England being England, it could all be essential again tomorrow, but today is one to ride unencumbered by layers.
Energy runs low as the ride reaches its later stages and a punt on a pre-9am opening at the café ends in something quietly uplifting. The courtyard gate is closed, but as the staff make their way to work, I am invited in. Coffee and cake are produced in short order and I watch the staff busy themselves in readiness for opening, still an hour away, but demanding much in the way of preparation. We get by with a little help from our friends.
It’s nearly 10.30am by the time I return. The world has woken and while the pace of life is still slow on this May bank holiday, the tranquility of my departure has disappeared. Tomorrow will bring the train and the city, but the journey will be warmed by the memory of a glorious ride and a small act of kindness.