Weather to ride ?

I will go out in all conditions; even my wife recognises the fact. That she is from The Borders, where the people regard discomfort and adversity as a personal challenge - only helps my claim. I don't want a medal for this, I'm just saying that I'm not a fair weather rider. Well, not a fair weather cyclist at least; my Italian motorbike must be protected from precipitation at all costs. It just doesn't like the wet and cleaning it afterwards is a bastard.

Everyone loves a warm, sunny day - what's not to like ? A cloudless blue sky contrasts beautifully with moorland flora and fauna, especially through decent eyewear or a dark visor - which incidentally exists it a netherworld of (il)legality. Not road legal by definition but (touch wood) I've never been pulled for it.

What's not to like ?

Some of my (Facebook) friends live and ride in California, North and South. Their uploads ALWAYS appear dry and sunny; trails are hardpacked, roads are warm and sticky. Sometimes in the depths of a British winter I find myself thinking that it must be nice riding in shorts and leather year round but I live in the UK and do not have that luxury. You just have to get out there. Decent kit helps some but if the wind and rain are 'avin it, conditions will be challenging and you will get soaked to the core... and cold, which incidentally on a bicycle at least, is often also the precise moment when you have a mechanical, an off, or a humble puncture. Actually perhaps a puncture, or multiples thereof are the most annoying of all fails. I can certainly empathise with Paul Blackburn in his article for West Coast Mountain Biking.

Embrace the challenging weather because it appears to be the default setting round here.

There is beauty in rain, even sideways rain, ... and mizzle ( or the 'fret' if you live in sight of Holy Island) .... and hill fog ... and open moorland crosswinds ...  and uphill tarmac shimmering under a slender layer of cascading water. I quite like the zero visibility of  fog in the middle of an empty Moor, as long as I know where I'm going. The guesswork of how deep a flooded 'depression' might be also adds a bit of frisson to a ride. In fact the only thing I don't like is when you have to go through a farmer's gate/field and the livestock have been gathering there. Seething mass of  mud and water and shit that is impossible to ride or walk through ?  Sometimes it appears biblical.

It's better that the weather happens to you after you've started your activity because once you're out, your out, right ? Sometimes though it seems as though the really shitty weather waits until I'm at the maximum distance from home before it really gets testing. Such was the case last Sunday and to make matters worse I was on my motorbike.... with my pillion wife on a 2 1/2 hour Easter Egg Run.

I like Davidstow Airfield. It feels like it shouldn't be there, a little bit other-wordly. It has a history too as I have been discovering. Starlings (with great british commentary to boot) gather there in numbers and many Cornish newbie drivers learn there without having to worry about hitting anything. The main runway is 6000 feet long.  An ideal place for 500 bikers to gather on a Sunday morning prior to doing the charitable thing through North and Mid-Cornwall towns and villages. As I understand it, the event is organised by Moorlanders MCC with representation from the Widows Sons - a masonic biking chapter no less. £5 donation per bike and an Easter egg for the kids must add up to a proper charitable gift, this year for Bowden Derra.

So it's all good. Doing what bikers do. Although I gave up a while ago now, I felt naked without a roll-up; a nicotine vaporiser just doesn't cut it. Walking up lines of other people's prides and joys. Victory Visions to scooters, trikes to sportsbikes, full racing hump leathers to bunny outfits and all points in between. My own personal favourite was a custom lime green street-fightered V-Max. Very MaxPower but in a good way. Pity they don't go round corners. Banter, tea and two rather civilised port-a-loo's. I suppose there is no bush to go behind on an abandoned airfield. And there were plenty of female riders and pillions too.

The Gathering.

Ok, so one eye was on the weather. After a few days of glorious SW sunshine, Sunday was always going to be a bit iffy. I even consulted my bible of amateur weather forecasting and the 'crossed winds' rule but whatever the weather front was bringing, was unavoidable, so everyone was ready to 'man-up'. It was good for perhaps half an hour. The good people of Camelford particularly, turned out in numbers and being in a procession of so many bikes is and was ace. Somewhere around Delabole it began to drizzle. Somewhere around Bodmin it was properly raining. 

Now, I began this post saying I'm hard and the weather doesn't bother me but a naked bike offers zero protection from the elements, regardless of what kit you're wearing. Factor in the windchill of travelling at 'perfectly legal speeds, officer' and things can quickly get a bit miserable. Add in the fact that this idiot had forgotten to change his pitch black visor and the recipe was almost complete. Still, like I said, my wife and I like to think we're made of sterner stuff - so we endured.

Sodden as we were, we endured right up to the moment that I lost feeling in my right hand and my wife's legs froze into what can only be described as a 'rictus'. I had poor visibility, an inability to control the throttle correctly (you know you're rubbish when helmets keep tapping together) and the route passed perilously close to what we call home. I will confess that we bailed. I'm ashamed but there it is. No end of run BBQ, no prize-giving and no chatting to the guy that invited us in the first place. Sorry Melvyn. 

In hindsight I would have done the same thing again. We might have made it to the end. The BBQ might have been full of peaceful vibes, motorbikes and the charitable giving glow. I'll never know but unfortunately I suspect that it was full of hundreds of freezing wet bikers, some of whom were still a long-ish way from home. I'm sure they bonded through their mutual achievement despite the useless weather. I really hope they were tougher than me and they enjoyed it immensely. Honestly.

Just don't tell me that it wouldn't have gone better in sunshine and on dry roads.

Weather is to be enjoyed. Full stop. But sometimes it can be a bastard.


And as a postscript, my wife quite randomly and without any knowledge of what I was doing on the laptop decided to share her story of her journey to work through the rain by Bolventor, high on Bodmin Moor. She ended the tale unexpectedly and rather lyrically (in typical Borderer style) with something her granddad used to say to her. Turns out it's an old fashioned tongue-twister but perhaps appropriate here:

'Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!'