If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Another fitful night’s sleep on the floor of my office / Another early alarm call / Another ride out into the darkness: and I love it. The empty roads, and my dynamo lighting to illuminate my path, my bright rear lights flooding the road with red behind me – it is a wonderful experience to be alone on the road. The lights of Kingston upon Hull glowing on the horizon like distant campfires.
CTC North Yorkshire, like many CTC sections, organise some beautiful bike rides. The Wiggy Spring 100 is organised by fellow VC167 member, Keith Benton and heads west from Wigginton (outside York) past Ripon, Studley Park, Fountains Abbey and Ripley before returning to Wigginton. This 100km route crosses the River Ure twice, using Aldwark Toll Bridge.
I’m currently riding my second ‘Randonneur Round the Year’ series – this is the challenge of doing a 200km ride, once a month, every month for a calendar year. The Wiggy Spring 100 has a start time of 10am, which is perfect for those of us who like to extend our calendar events by riding to the start. This is why I’m on the road again at 4am.
I think I’ve found a new ‘favourite’ route too, by leaving Welton heading north into the Wolds, and keeping straight on to High Hunsley, I’m then rewarded with a fantabulous descent to North Cave: on the B1230 from Beverley. A trick of the street lights gave me some company – my own shadow… my shadow was slightly faster than me, like a peloton of grey riders constantly passing and disappearing ahead. My mind was busy processing a week’s worth of thoughts as I cycled on, crossing over the almost empty M62 and heading for Howden. I was too early for coffee at the petrol station and kept rolling onwards. My route to Wigginton took me from Howden north to Melbourne, then further north still to Kirkham Abbey.
As the sun started to rise I was approaching a crossroad in the middle of nowhere, when I saw two bicycle lights coming towards me from the west. What other cyclists could possibly be out at this ridiculous hour? Oh yes: two VC167 riders off on a DIY 300km event of their own. Of course I would bump into fellow audaxers at this time of day.
Further on I had a close encounter with the paradox of the two ducks.
Two ducks are alone in existence, and talking to each other. One duck says, “I know everything. All there is, that exists, is only you and me. I know me, and there you are. So I know everything.” The other duck says, “But I know everything, for the same reasons, and we can’t BOTH be omniscient.” The two ducks then try to figure this out for a while, but determine that that only thing that could possibly be “all-knowing” was “everything” itself. So one of the ducks kills the other duck. The one duck, now the only duck in existence, says to himself… “Now I am omniscient. Or am I? I don’t know.” …and ceases to exist.
Unless I imagined that conversation. It was certainly the case that I met two ducks and they flew away from me at head height, following the road.
Kirkham Abbey is in the bottom of a dip, with a twisty descent, a bump over the River Derwent and a railway crossing on the steep ascent. That makes this technical. The cold had seeped into my legs and I was riding quite slowly – almost mashing the pedals to get up the hill. The rear wheel threatened to slip. Cycling felt like hard work and I ached – I was really looking forward to the the sunlight putting some warmth back into me.
Another theme which seems to emerge on DIY routes of mine are the unexpected sections of off-road. This bit was called ‘Common Lane’ and ended with a level crossing beside some British Army troop training grounds. I had to pick my way along here carefully to avoid the lumps of brick, and potholes filled with muddy water.
I finally arrived at the start of the Wiggy Spring 100 with 100km covered and feeling bitterly cold, so I called into the Haxby Bakehouse for some delicious and freshly baked bread (with feta cheese) and some strong black coffee to wake me up.
Once the event started it was great to be part of a peloton of audaxers. There were about 30 riders, and several VC167 members to make me feel at home, and we stuck together as a friendly group all the way to Boroughbridge – with our first crossing of Aldwark Toll Bridge. Only a few riders bounced the Boroughbridge control, and as one of them I now found myself alone again, out to Ripon.
There seemed to be a large ‘Biker Gathering’ going on in Ripon, and as the day was beginning to heat up I was glad that cyclists don’t have to wear leather and full face helmets. In Ripon I met up with John, a Kinross CC member, and we kept each other company to Studley Park and the cultivated landscape and neatly gravelled roads through the grounds.
At first I thought the spire in the distance was a classic English folly, but it is actually the rather attractive St Mary’s Church of Studley Royal. OOOOoooh. Bumping into old English religious buildings continued round the corner as we passed Fountains Abbey – and I think this ride might once have been known as the “Fountains Monk’y Business”.
I was into the toughest section of the route, the hills from Fountains Abbey to Ripley. The combination of choppy hills and beating sunshine had me stripping back the arm and leg warmers and reducing my sports-wear to shorts and shirt. This Spring sunshine was so lovely!
After a brief stop in Ripley for a drink and pork pie, I had a nice gentle ride back to Wigginton crossing Aldwark Toll Bridge one last time. I might have been on familiar roads with great scenery, but the real highlight for me was the tremendously warm Spring weather – there was a world of difference between how cold I’d felt in Kirkham Abbey and how strong I felt in the sunshine rolling home.
CTC North Yorkshire were on hand at the end to provide coffee and cake, and then there was just a short ride to York Station for the train home. Thanks to Keith and team for putting on a great ride.