Coming back from Bangor a day after riding there, I was woken up by heavy hail, which turned to snow as I ate breakfast. It had cleared by the time I ready to leave (10:30am), but whilst getting ready one of the zips on my bootees failed setting the scene for another day.
I looked at various options but decided to head back via Denbigh. The route is much easier in that direction, you can stay on the main road for most of the way and only really have to come off to divert through Conwy and Colywn Bay. By the time I got to Ruthin (75km) I was averaging 29.8km/h - not bad considering that big climb out of Colwyn Bay.
I’d hoped to take the Horseshoe down to Llangollen, but that was closed due to snow. The alternative A road towards Wrexham had a surface that most farm tracks would be ashamed of, and to top it off the snow had started again.
By the time I got to Oswestry I’d pretty much decided that I’d just ride home, rather than aiming for the Travelodge. I figured with luck I’d get there before my wife and kids left for work/school. It was getting dark, and my Smart Superflash was playing up due to getting soaked, even though I’d tried improving the sealing by wrapping it in insulation tape. My rear dynamo light wasn’t working at full efficiency, there was a bad contact in the cabling that I couldn’t fix by the road. Luckily my head torch also has a very good red LED, so that got strapped to my bag.
I didn’t bother stopping at Shrewsbury or Bridgnorth, making Kidderminster my next coffee/food stop at a garage. I had to put my phone under my armpit for a few minutes to warm it up before the battery would work properly. My Ixon IQ front light was starting to be intermittent, again I think due to the cold - but my dynamo front and headtorch rear were holding up giving me plenty of visibility to the rear and letting me see the way reasonably clearly.
On the way out of Kidderminster a WVM (big high sided transit, I think) hit me with his wing mirror, knocking me off and destroying his mirror. He stopped a few hundred yards up the road, then sped off. There was no signwriting on the van and it was too far away in the dark to be able to see the number plate, let alone read it. I picked myself up, luckily the only damage was a hole in the elbow of my jacket and a small hole in the hip of my waterproof trousers. It had been a low speed impact as I’d been going up a fairly steep hill. With over 100 miles still to go, I had no alternative but to jump straight back on and start to ride.
Bridgenorth and Redditch came and went, but the 24 hour garage I’d been aiming for on the road out of Stratford was window service only and surrounded by drunks, so I pushed on. From there to Peartree there were several garages that looked to be open (illuminated pricing signs, brightly lit forecourts), but on closer inspection this turned out to be a tease and they were locked up tight.
At Peartree it was window service only, so no chance of a hot drink or to browse the food, but I did replenish my drinks and get a sandwich. Once past Oxford it started to hail, then snow. What would normally have been a fast final 15km into Reading turned into crawl as I had no glasses to protect my eyes against the hail impacts.
Most of the roads had a covering of snow, but it was OK for riding on. The only problem was that it was coating the bike and my feet, making them quite cold. I got in around 6am so was there before everyone in the house was due to get up around 7am.
Will I do it again next year?