A day off and another mountain bike ride. The Packhorse Road has been further “improved” by the National Trust, there are more flagstones across the boggy section at the top, and the first stream crossing now has a stone bridge and flags up most of the subsequent short climb. It means that the entire descent is now easily cleanable, even on a rigid singlespeed. It’s still well worth riding, but I remain skeptical, as they clearly haven’t finished meddling with it, there are lots of stones lying by the side of the path ready to put in place. I used to enjoy the challenge of the scrabbly ruts and drops around the top brook, which is now being turned into a boring, bouncy grind. I suspect they are ultimately going to pave the entire thing top to bottom, which will be a real shame.
Onto the towpath by the little bit of singletrack at the top of the road. These brake pads aren’t bedded in yet, they’re honking like geese. Unscheduled stop to retrieve and refit front mudguard. The little path down on the riverbank. That rooty bit seems much easier than last time. Out into the next village, past the Friday night drinkers as fast as possible. Up the hill, away from civilisation. Quiet roads tonight, must be the fog. Roundabout backlanes to the fun river crossing. Bedding in the brakes on the way down. A new gate. They’ve still not fixed the latch on the old one, so you can bash it open with your front wheel and ride through. Over the stream, up the slabby bit, across the rutty, rocky bit, lovely. Down the edge and past the secret house on the corner. Up the enormous hill. Stop at the gate to catch my breath. Keep going up the enormous hill. Get off and push up the enormous hill. Very foggy at the top. Cross the road to the rutted quarry track. Nearly bin it in a rut. Incredibly foggy, can hardly see, keep having to wipe my specs. Drop out of the fog and this track is really quite nice on the singlespeed. Back up the hill on tarmac. A tailwind up the Isle Of Skye road, that never happens. Back into dense fog, ride right on the verge just in case when a car comes up behind. The incongruous smell of chipfat from a farmer’s old Landrover running on biodiesel. Nearly miss my turning in the fog. Drop down the valley, wet but fast, hop a few new rain ruts hiding in the murk. Home, shower, beer.
I haven’t ridden since the Gargrave ride over two weeks ago, because I inadvertently went on what turned out to be the Worst Holiday Ever, and then I caught a stinking cold. Even my feeble attempts to tame the hideous bike-strewn bomb-site that is my garage (see above) have been cut short by painful bouts of coughing and feeling a bit wobbly. There will not be much cycling going on around here until my immune system has got its act together and I have regained full control of my upper respiratory tract.
Still, it could be worse: two of my friends and fellow holidaymakers are still stuck in France, one of them quite seriously ill in hospital – but that’s another story entirely, and not one that I can tell yet, as it isn’t over. I can say that the holiday wasn’t entirely bad from the start, it was more that things kept going wrong and kept getting worse until the situation got very bad indeed for one of us. But there were some silver linings in amongst all the clouds.