Living With Regret

Normally, I don’t live with regrets, but today would be different. On this day, I very much regretted leaving the house for a bike ride. That is because, before I would return home from it — I reached a new low — the coldest I have ever been!!!

Just to qualify that statement. I have cycled for 24 hours, non-stop in November and hiked through the night at -20C in the mountains.

My girlfriend, Dee, came to my rescue when she opened the door to our place. Keys were not an option as my hands were now useless. I mashed the doorbell until she appeared. I was shivering uncontrollably, and my concerned girlfriend wanted to know what the fuck had happened. Speech was beyond my abilities as I couldn’t muster any kind of coherent answer.

I was in survival mode. All etiquette and polite social cues were secondary to recuperating. Dee quickly understood the severity of the state I was in. She brought my bike in while I zombie-stumbled into the bathroom to run my hand under the cold tap.

The pain was too much. My intention was to get into the shower, but I wasn’t ready for it yet. Dee helped peel off my wet clothes while my teeth chattered like the old fashioned novelty toy. Shortly after, I was wrapped in anything that would provide warmth; a towel, a dressing gown, a blanket and the duvet from our bed.

Let Me Rewind

In hindsight, the writing was on the wall from the beginning of the day. But hindsight is a bitch like that. It mocks you after the fact.

The morning was sluggish – the result of a delicious cocktail – a singular White Russian, made famous by the Big Lebowski himself. I am the lightest of lightweights, so one cocktail is over my limit.

I had a cold, but was playing it down, refusing to accept it as anything more than a runny nose and the occasional sneeze.

The sky was full of clouds. The weather app on my phone said there was an 80% chance of rain from 5pm. Rain or not – the wind would be high and the temperature low.

There have been similar episodes where my bitch tendencies stop me from wanting to leave the house. Doubt was carving a home out inside my head. I know this script well – the conditions ain’t pretty, so I talk myself out of it. My mind acts like my mama and would prefer that I play it safe and stay warm.

I should have listened to my bitch-voice, but instead, I headed out for a killer time.

The plan was to cycle from Bristol, England, to Chepstow, Wales. It would be my first crossing of the border since moving to Bristol 6 months ago. I calculated that it would be around 60ish kilometres in total. So it should take 3 hours at most.

England to Wales – Bristol to Chepstow and Back

Distance – 65KM Elevation – 618M

Flying High

When I left the house, I started feeling optimistic. I enjoyed the music of The Black Keys while I cranked my pedals at a steady pace As I got closer to the coast, my mood began to fly high.

I reached the coast and came to the mouth of the River Severn. To my left was the Prince of Wales Bridge, and to my right was the Severn Bridge. There was a bike path that went alongside the river. I wanted to follow it all the way to the bridge.

Problem Number 1

After a couple of kilometres, it led me to a dead-end. The path was fenced off, but there was a diversion. The diversion took me off the concrete path and onto a grassy trail. Not ideal terrain for a road bike — but fuck it, I rolled with it — Goddammit, this is exploration.

My bike is posing in front of the Prince of Wales Bridge before i became the coldest i have ever been
View of the Prince of Wales Bridge – The Coldest I Have Ever Been

Problem Number 2

I pushed on with an adventurers optimism. After all, you never know what you might find. What I found was a field of cows. The ground was rock hard and totally and udderly misshappen, thanks to the cows.

Problem Number 3

It turned out to be a massive waste of time because it looped back to the beginning of the bike path. This would usually be fine, but today it was eating into my cushion of time.

After getting directions from a fellow cyclist, I was back on track and crossing the bridge and the border into the country of Wales. That is the place where I smiled my last smile for the day.

I loved crossing that bridge. The land looked rugged and raw for as far as my eyes could see. It was a wondrously beautiful vista, with the ominous clouds serving as a dramatic backdrop. Those types of views make cycling feel like a bounteous gift.

A quick note to the country of Wales – maybe let’s get a welcome to Wales sign on the border because I felt a bit underwhelmed. Like, oh I guess I’m there.

Mo’ ,Money, Mo’ Problems

That ominous cloud burst, unleashing a combination of rain and hail. My bad luck was compounded seconds later as my back tyre went flat. With nowhere to shelter, I would have to fix the puncture in the open. A dog walker passed me by to rub some salt into the wound by simply saying, “unlucky”, in an obnoxious tone that was designed to ruffle my feathers. It worked.

My puncture that helped me become the coldest i have ever been
Deflated – The Coldest I Have Ever Been

My clothes had become soaked, and my fingers were losing feeling by the second. I had just one spare innertube. My situation was vulnerable because if I got another puncture, I would be stranded.

I knew I was getting desperate because I had resorted to praying to some mythical God of bike rides.

Please, God, I promise I will believe in you and be a good boy (forever) if you stop the rain and allow me to get home with no more punctures.

There was a break in the weather, and I stupidly believed my prayers had been answered. I continued with my plan of reaching Chepstow before turning around.

the welsh flag on the coldest bike ride i have ever been
Welcome To Wales – The Coldest I Have Ever Been

This Is The Part Where I become, ‘The Coldest I have Ever Been’

The hail-rain combo didn’t take long to start back up. Only this time, the dial was turned up to 11. The rain was biblical. Within minutes, the roads flooded. They were awash with a mixture of dirt and rain, and it blocked my ability to see the road surface. It was a pothole city, and I was visiting every one of them. Once again, I was at the mercy of the cycling gods, praying that I would make it home.

To exacerbate matters, lorries kept flying past me. Each one that passed gave me a pummelling with a tsunami-like wall of dirty brown ice water. One lorry passed me so fast that the force of the water forced me off the road and onto the verge of grass next to it. It was lucky there was nothing dangerous there to collide with, or I definitely would have taken a tumble.

A car did slow down and pulled over to double-check that I was alright. My chain had come off, but fortunately, my tyre didn’t puncture.

As I got closer to home, each passing minute felt like an hour. I was now shivering uncontrollably. The hail was consistently bouncing off my thighs, hands and face, but I was numb and could barely feel it.

The Pits

I remember stopping at a red light and begging it to turn green. A car pulled up beside me. Inside was two women who seemed to be laughing at my suffering. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I wanted to cry.

I was beyond grateful to get home. My face and back were sore from the tension of trying to suppress my shivers. My motor skills were null and void. Forget about using my keys because I couldn’t even grab the zipper on my bag to get them out.

I smashed the doorbell with the desperation of a deep-sea diver coming to the surface for a much-needed lung full of air. Fortunately, my girlfriend didn’t take long to breathe some life into my situation. She opened the door.

My struggle was over. I was a wreck, but I knew I would be fine.

Thanks

It might be recency bias, but I think that this is the coldest I have ever been.

Of course, I did not know how this ride would turn out, and as I said at the top of the page, I don’t tend to regret anything, but I will say that I wish I had stayed home on this occasion.

I hope you managed to get some good laughs from my situation. Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any rides from hell in the comments below. If you want to keep up with me on Strava, or Social, hit the links.

P.S. fuck you, cycling gods.

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