A local ride in search of sun, fresh air and relaxation in mid winter
“One kind word can warm three winter months” – Japanese Proverb
The need to keep riding throughout the year
Here in England, winter weather is either: mild and wet or cold and sunny; never mild and sunny! So for the five months from the end of October all the way to late March; I have no choice but to get out there when common sense is telling me to stay indoors! However, if I: check the weather forecast, wear enough layers and be realistic in my abilities; I can have a great day out on the bike!
Using a recent ride to help explain how I keep riding through the winter; I can hopefully give you the incentive to not become as rusty as your bike when the summer sun is well out of sight!
Keep it local
Days are short and the nights are long when you live at higher latitudes. Here in England we have only eight hours of daylight in midwinter. Therefore, I only ride locally to save precious daylight hours and not waste time travelling in the car.
A local area of natural beauty that I often ride in; is known as the Wylye Valley, between Salisbury and Warminster in Wiltshire. A few days ago, I a day off work aligned with the first clear sunny day in weeks!
Before any ride, I make sure I have a hearty breakfast; more so in the winter months. At the moment I am a big fan of scrambled eggs for the protein; washed down with a few cups of coffee. If I am still hungry; apples and bananas normally keep me going until lunch or even teatime!
For the ride, I take a few cereal bars or flapjacks; which I stash in my jersey pockets. My favourite at the moment are the raspberry and honey flavoured bars from Lidl. Oats are a great source of energy that slowly releases into the body; as opposed to chocolate that gives you massive boost then leaves you feeling empty when the sugar rush suddenly cuts out.
When you are getting dressed to head out on a bike ride; try and find out the weather forecast for the area. Obviously, take rain jackets for the rain and extra thick gloves and socks for the cold! Yet always try to wear a wicking vest next to your skin; to wick away moisture that will cool you in low temperatures.
In addition, try wearing more thinner layers as opposed to a few thick layers of clothing. This is because air is warmed by the body and then trapped between each layer. In the picture, it seems I am wearing thin tight clothing; when in fact I am wearing six layers on my chest!
Finally, if you are driving to reach a bike route to relax. Turn the heating up and open the vents, especially on your feet; so you start warm and toasty. If you start off cold; you could only get colder. Start warm and slowly chill!
This short but hilly route starts in the village of Codford. I crossed the A36 main road and the railway track; then passed through the quaint village of Sherrington. Here you will find large mill ponds overlooked by thatched cottages and a 13th century church.
From here I passed up a wide sun kissed valley to the Great Ridge Wood; then across the A303 main road and down into the Nadder Valley. Here I passed through a beautiful tunnel of green; made by hedgerows on either side with glimpses of fields beyond and a velvety smooth track of soft earth and grass.
After climbing the chalk and grass hill overlooking the beautiful Nadder Valley; I turned east back towards the Wylye Valley. Coming back to the busy A303 trunk road; I turned off on to the old main road, before heading over fields and down into the valley.
Crossing a country lane, I took a bridleway past a manor house and over the fields in the bottom of the valley.
Before climbing the hills on the northern side of the Wylye valley; I passed through another picturesque village called Fisherton de la Mere. Appearing in the Domesday book; it is over a thousand years old.
Climbing out of the village, I crossed the A36 main road for the final time. Taking a smooth tarmac road up to a farm; I soon regained altitude to be back on top of the hills. Riding over rolling hills of Wiltshire downland; I had far reaching views in all directions. Turning left after two long straight tracks; I gradually made a return to the Wylye Valley. Here I stopped and stared at the cold but green landscape. As the sun set, every colour seemed highlighted; as if by a greater hand.
This ride really made me realise; that there is no excuse to not get out there, in to the great outdoors! Take a day off work; tell the mistress you are with your wife; let the wife go shopping with your credit card; have a good breakfast; wrap up warm in layers and head on out!
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