The Ride Journal

There are plenty of bike magazines out there covering every possible facet and sub culture of cycling but most of them are simply trying to sell me bikes I’m not good enough to ride to their full potential, stacks of kit I can’t afford and riders that I cannot hope to emulate.  Very few of them actually focus on riding, what it means to ride, why do we do it, what does it feel like.  Into this glossy world of consumerism has stepped The Ride Journal who have taken a very different approach to what a bike ‘magazine’ could be.  The motto is simple whatever you ride just ride and they concentrate on the journeys, experiences, emotions, triumphs, dreams and disasters of us the riders.  There is no focus on any particular style so from folding to fixie, commuter to campagnolo obsessive, tourers to track riders, cross country to cross town, pros to pootlers all are featured.

Photo Credit: The Ride Journal / Frank Scott

In taking this all are welcome, democratic approach to cycling the focus is not on what you ride or even where you ride it but on the experiences and emotions you get from doing so.  This is of course great but the small team behind it then bring all of this together in a beautiful package – magazine is not doing it justice it is more like a book of short stories and the quality of the writing is generally superb which is another thing that sets it apart.  Take these examples from the lastest issue that I’ve been pouring over for the last week or so:

I purposefully choose routes where I know the plough has not yet scarred the crystalline carpet.  The extra effort to slice through the pallid layer is barely noticed as I Etch-A-Sketch my way past just-lit windows revealing silhouettes of those not yet ready to venture out into Jack Frost’s kingdom.  All the sharp sounds of the city are dulled and the glow from streetlights sits in gilded pools on top of soft alabaster powder.  Other brave souls who choose to commute exposed to the elements give an occasional nod or lift their stiff fingers from their icy bars in silent salute; an acknowledgement that by shunning our instinctive desire for comfort, we are sharing something special.

Oslo Winters – Nick Moss

He loves the bike, the ride, the wind, the rain, the stars, the sun, the friends, the mountains, the woods, the strength, the skill, the belief, the knowledge, the dedication, the toil, the effort, the dreams, the game.  He loves it, he loves it all, but one thing is missing: the fear of defeat that drove him along this path in the first place.  It is this loss that is his actual defeat – the journey is over.  Head bowed to bars, his shadow sways through grass, a summer breeze embraces his arrival at the crest.  He looks back but no one follows on this ride, he moves alone.  And he smiles, and tells himself it’s time to find another quest, and dances off through the grass, and shadows, ahead of the breeze, faster than his old, fine dreams.

Victory and Defeat – Rob Lee

Photo Credit: The Ride Journal / Seb Kemp / Dan Barham

The scope and breadth of subject matter together with the writing would be good enough for me but then there is the photography and art.  Each story will be accompanied by one or the other and they are always beautiful and evocative.  The Journal itself is also very tactile and olfactory definitely also something for paper geeks – I’m not sure what the paper and print type is (Deano can help me here) but every time I pick it up to read a story I cannot but help fan the journal in front of my nose to pick up the smell (much to my kids embarrassment) and to feel the paper.

The Journal is now on issue 6 and it comes out (it would appear) on a random timetable based on when the team can pull it altogether.  Whether you like bikes and bike culture, paper, art, photography, all of this or simply something that has been put together with thought and love then the Ride Journal is for you.  I simply need to now write something good enough for inclusion.

Photo Credit: The Ride Journal / Alistair Hall

Breakfast #6

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I love getting a good breakfast in and this morning I knew that today was going to be a mix of running around, getting things organised and chilling.  Realised I had a few potatoes left over from yesterdays tea (did I cook too many on purpose ?) so thought I’d make them the centre of this mornings scoff.  Chopped up nice and small and cooked in butter and paprika with cooked toms and a poached egg.  Sunday papers, pot of tea the perfect way to soak up yesterday’s celebrating.

My Cultural Life (well Feb anyway)…. or What is Culture ?

Culture – what’s that all about then.  This is the question that I’ve found myself asking over the last few weeks and in particular am I a cultural or even a cultured person.  In general I just bobble along through life, riding my bike, watching my football team lose, reading books, listening to music and generally trying to eek out as much enjoyment and fulfillment from this funny old life that I can – no grand plans just good values.  However since I started participating in this blog and dipping my toe in the twitter waters I’ve been thinking about what I do a little more.  The cultural question popped up in particular when in a twitter conversation with @KayLinaBrown on Russian literature recommendations for our BoysBookClub she mentioned Chekhov would be a good shout and referenced the letter below that he sent to his brother on what it means to be cultured.

MOSCOW, 1886.

… You have often complained to me that people “don’t understand you”! Goethe and Newton did not complain of that…. Only Christ complained of it, but He was speaking of His doctrine and not of Himself…. People understand you perfectly well. And if you do not understand yourself, it is not their fault.

I assure you as a brother and as a friend I understand you and feel for you with all my heart. I know your good qualities as I know my five fingers; I value and deeply respect them. If you like, to prove that I understand you, I can enumerate those qualities. I think you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts; you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil…. You have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of men, for on earth only one out of two millions is an artist. Your talent sets you apart: if you were a toad or a tarantula, even then, people would respect you, for to talent all things are forgiven.

You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it. That is your utter lack of culture. Forgive me, please, but veritas magis amicitiae….You see, life has its conditions. In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent. Talent has brought you into such a circle, you belong to it, but … you are drawn away from it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers vis-a-vis.

Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

1. They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say “nobody can live with you.” They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.

2. They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone. Their heart aches for what the eye does not see…. They sit up at night in order to help P…., to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.

3. They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.

4. They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others. Out of respect for other people’s ears they more often keep silent than talk.

5. They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play on the strings of other people’s hearts so that they may sigh and make much of them. They do not say “I am misunderstood,” or “I have become second-rate,” because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false….

6. They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken P., [Translator’s Note: Probably Palmin, a minor poet.] listening to the raptures of a stray spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns…. If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted…. The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement…. Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.

7. If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women, wine, vanity…. They are proud of their talent…. Besides, they are fastidious.

8. They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil stove. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual instinct…. What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow … They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood…. They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion…. For they wantmens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read “The Pickwick Papers” and learnt a monologue from “Faust.” …

What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read…. Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not read.

You must drop your vanity, you are not a child … you will soon be thirty. It is time!

I expect you…. We all expect you.

A good but tricky list to measure up to I’d say, although I don’t think that I do too badly (others are of course at liberty to disagree) but clearly those that do know me know that I have someway to go to be considered cultured if this is the measure and I am perhaps closer to Chekhov’s brother than I am to his idea of what a cultured person should be.

Of course there are many different definitions of culture and what being cultured may mean – is it simply the cultivation of ourselves; the shared  attitudes, values, goals, and practices of a group; a taste for the fine arts etc etc you pay your money you take your choice.  For me I like the idea of the cultivation of me which enables me to experience new things, put a bit of work in but not necessarily put down the vodka bottle.

In light of this I’ve looked back at the last month and it’s beautiful interweaving variety of ‘cultural’ experiences in some amazement.  Books have ticked along steadily, they are like the steady heartbeat to my existence – great ones like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest quickening the pulse; good ones like How I Won The Yellow Jumper enticing a warm happy glow from this contented reader.  Art has involved a great experience at my kids’ primary school where a gallery was set up and the artist Julia Crossland came in to view the work, interesting and accessible the complete contrast to the Northern Art Prize that I managed to catch before the exhibition ended.  I guess that this would fall into the fine arts element of what it means to be cultured and I definitely failed that test as there was nothing fine about it the most shockingly abysmal collection of pointlessness it’s possible to imagine, but hey that’s just one persons view.

The Northern Art Prize not withstanding everything else has been really interesting including a dose of Theatre (Once Upon A Time Up The Road and Thirsty) which is not my normally my bag.  In watching the two shows that I went to the thing that struck me most was the visceral nature of the actors on the stage, I found myself mesmerised by their physical presence in a way that in general I’m not when watching film even a brilliant one like The Descendants which is as good as anything I’ve seen in a long time.  The result is a definite note to self that I need to do a bit more of this theatre lark.  Linking both film and theatre together was the astonishing 5 Truths which I still haven’t got my head around and maybe never will but was a real standout highlight of the month.

Of course you need a soundtrack to all of this, no live bands unfortunately but old favourites Nick Cave, Band of Horses and British Sea Power together with new albums by Mark Lanegan and Craig Finn (from @JumboRecords) have been the February vibes.

This feels like a good soup of culture to have supped down but weaving through this has been the new medium (to me) of Twitter and I wonder how this medium is being viewed from a cultural point of view.  Certainly it is adding to my knowledge (the Chekhov letter being a great example) and awareness of stuff going on with @culturevultures (Five Truths for example) but it is the person to person interconnectivity that seems to act as a random glue sticking and stiching bits of life together that is quite fascinating.  16 months ago I went to the DO Lectures and among many interesting talks was one by Euan Semple who was the first person who made the light bulb switch on for me on the possibilities of social media (this blog and me @ianstreet67 are some of the late ripening fruit of that talk) so I simply tweet to say thanks and Euan acknowledges straight back.  I like that, barriers are broken it’s just me saying hello and thank you to someone without anything getting in the way and there is for me a clear potential cultural shift that is occurring as a result.

Finally sport, which you will not find mentioned on many cultural websites (although interesting article on CultureVulture by Anthony Clavane of Promised Land fame on Theatre and Football) despite Shankly’s ascertain that football is simply working class ballet.  Growing up in South Wales rugby played a huge part in the social and cultural fabric of the nation which I cling onto at this time of year when the 6 nations comes round.  At the same time I have become fixated with the professional bike road racing season and the photo at the top of the post from @mattrabin (chiropractor with the Garmin Barracuda team) taken at the Omloop in Belgium which demonstrates the passion and interest in cycling in the low countries that is clearly to them what rugby is to the Welsh.  The fascination with the seasons racing has kept me glued to @inrng and his tremendous blog (www.inrng.com) to such an extent that I have found myself streaming live cycling via belgium tv through the sporza channel.  So my cultural month has found me broadening out into Flemmish !

So I’m not sure how I stack up against Chekhov’s standards but it’s been an interesting month and my bumbling life seems to be expanding through the weird and wonderful world of social networking, video installations and Flemish TV. Bring it on I say ! but what does culture mean to you (does it include sport) and how do you stack up against Chekhov ?

The Greatcoat

One of the joys of being in a book club is not actually the books themselves.

I know, this sounds perverse, but it’s true. If you’re a member of a book club then you’ll know exactly what I mean and if you’re not you’re be wondering what I’m blaring on about.

You see, it’s the not the books that are the main event – it’s the conversations. It’s the insights shared that shine a light on the dark recesses of our psyche, the scantest overview or in-depth literary reviews that give the game away.

We know at the beginning of a book club whether it’s going to be a good evening and consistently low scores all round are not always a good sign. What we’re looking for is a wild range of scores because that pretty much guarantees a cracking evening.

So last Friday then didn’t have the hallmarks of a good evening with everyone scoring the book 3 or below apart from me – I gave the book a generous 6. The book – The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore – had been well reviewed in the press but of course that makes no odds. It was selected as the author is well-respected and it was her first foray into horror under the Hammer imprint.

Before the meeting I’d had quite a positive feeling around the book having read it unusually for me in one stint on air-bound business trip. A couple of glasses of wine along the way also helped create a reasonably warm fuzz around the book.

My colleagues had no such feelings. I opted to go last and waited patiently as, one by one, they clinically dissected the book.

I couldn’t say I disagreed wildly with their assessments. Yes it was so short and probably should have been a short story and yes the characters weren’t exactly drawn in pin sharp accuracy, but I couldn’t find it in myself to dislike this book. It was a psychological wartime love story ghost chiller drama. Kind of. It didn’t know what it was and I quite liked that on top of this, it was short (which is always a bit of a bonus) and it had Lancaster bombers in it too.

When I score a book highly and nobody else does, there’s always a nervousness around my critical faculties. Did I miss the obvious lemon of a character? Did I fall for the telegraphed denouement? But I don’t think I did this time. The discussion provoked thought and although we had a low scoring evening it was worth it and do you know what, it’s always worth it.

So the book club is not about books it’s about everything else but the book, regardless of its quality I think. It’s quite a controversial thought…I’d love to know what you think if you’re in a book club?

Beryl Burton – The Greatest Sportsperson ?

Just down the road from where I live and that I cycle past on a regular basis is the Beryl Burton gardens which commemorate the late great Morley rider.  The ‘garden’ as you can see from the photo below that I took is not really a garden it is simply a wall painted with her cycling out of the town in front of which are a few raised flower beds and a couple of seats which are situated behind a row of shops.  It’s so incongruous that I doubt that many people even know it’s there let alone who she was.  In fact if you stopped most of the people in Morley or Leeds at random and asked who Beryl Burton was then I doubt that many would have a clue.  It’s a shame really that there is not a more prominent memorial in either Morley or Leeds City Centre because her achievements were simply phenomenal.

Today is International Women’s Day and who could be a more fitting figure to celebrate and bring her achievements to the fore.  Consider this and then try to think of any sportsperson of either gender in Leeds, Yorkshire or the Country who can match it.

  • Women’s world road race champion in 1960 and 1967 and was runner up in 1961
  • Individual pursuit world champion 5 times, silver 3 times and bronze 3 times all won across 3 decades between 1959-1973
  • 72 national individual time trial titles
  • 12 national road race titles
  • 12 national pursuit titles
  • In 1967 she set she set a new 12-hour time trial record of 277.25 miles which surpassed the men’s  record of the time by 0.73 miles and was not superseded by a man until 1969.
  • She also set around 50 national records at 10, 15, 25, 30, 50 and 100-mile distances; her final 10, 25 and 50-mile records each lasted 20 years before being broken, her 100-mile record lasted 28 years, and her 12-hour record still stands today.
  • In 1982, with her daughter Denise (seen above in the baby seat on the back of Beryl’s bike), Burton set a British 10-mile record for women riding a tandem.  Denise herself was also a top female cyclist (winning a bronze in the 1975 world individual pursuit championship) and Mother and daughter were both selected to represent Great Britain in the 1972 world championship.
Incredibly despite a serious accident in 1978 Beryl was still going strong in 1984 aged 47 when she set out to compete in the inaugural Women’s Tour de France introduced that year. Unfortunately for her, cycling’s ruling body in the UK decided she didn’t have any road racing qualifications for that year (she’d limited herself to time trials) they blocked her entry. Later a selected rider dropped out and Beryl was asked, at the last minute, to step in but she told the authorities just what they could do with the belated offer!

Beryl was awarded an MBE and OBE and died of a heart failure while out on a social ride apparently delivering birthday invitations for her 59th birthday.  I cannot think of a greater sportswoman and cyclist to celebrate International Women’s Day and despite the difficulty in comparing sports and sportspeople across different eras is there anyone better ?

Sci-Fi is Just Ludicrous (…. or is it?)

Picture Credit: Bertrand Benoit

A few weeks ago I became involved in a few comment exchanges after Phil Kirby’s post ‘There’s more to life than books you know (but not much more)’ on the fabulous Culture Vulture blog . Phil had described (with tongue sort of in cheek I think) his dislike for many forms of literature including graphic novels and sci-fi. The graphic novel was quickly put to bed with the mention of Maus (Art Spiegleman), a book for me that uniquely showcases what can be achieved through the graphic medium and, I’d argue, deals with the subject matter in a way so powerful it surpasses the traditional written format. If you’ve not read it then I would urge you to get hold of a copy and prepare to be amazed.

We then of course moved on to the thorny issue of sci-fi where I knocked up a hasty list of crackers that would hopefully persuade Phil, and any other naysayers, that there is some merit in the genre of spaceships, aliens and robots. Phil kindly (I think) invited me to expand upon my comments in this post which first appeared on the Culture Vulture blog:

I think I’ll tackle the three headed demon of spaceships, aliens and robots first up as, is this not what you think of when the term sci-fi comes up? It’s definitely what happened when the Boys Book Club first got together as there was a vocal minority that stated quite early on “I’m not reading sci-fi”, I think primarily because it was the three headed demon that they had in mind whereas in my mind some of the greatest books ever written would fall under the sci-fi banner. Those of us in the club who are not averse to sci-fi have of course attempted over the years to ensure that some sci-fi gets read and we have even come up with our own genre, sly-fi, a book that is not necessarily acknowledged as sci-fi but actually is and I suspect many of the books on my list are in fact sly-fi.

But I digress there is still the three headed demon in the room so here are 3 books to read to slay it, all of which have had a significant influence the world around us today.

  • Spaceships – Try Rendevouz with Rama by Arthur C Clarke. Spaceguard (which looks at the possibility of asteroid strikes on earth) was set up in 1992 and is named after Clarke’s fictional project in Rama to detect near Earth objects.
  • Aliens – Try Contact by Carl Sagan. Sagan, amongst many other things was instrumental in establishing SETI (search for extra terrestrial intelligence) which is what happens in Contact but which also brings in to sharp focus our concepts of belief and faith
  • Robots – Try I Robot by Isaac Asimov. Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics and thinking around artificial intelligence are more relevant and influential today that they were when he published. I’d also argue that Frankenstein’s monster was the precursor to all robot stories and that Frankenstein was the first ever sci-fi book.

But for me sci-fi is not about those topics, although of course it can be, rather it’s uniqueness lies in the ability to explore ‘what if …’ scenarios that other genres of fiction are less suited to. In this way you can take a premise based on a reality, stretch it, play with it and take it to the extremes which acts as a catalyst for your exploration on how you think about it and where your true feelings may be.

In this way you can explore ideas such as eugenics (Brave New World), genetic modification (Day of the Triffids), impact of technology on literature (Fahrenheit 451), our relationship with the concepts of creation and science (Frankenstein), state responses to anti social behaviour (Clockwork Orange) and of course my favs which are dystopian epics (We, 1984, High Rise and The Road).

The list that I originally scribbled down of great sci-fi books were those that a) I’ve read and b) that I think would expand any reader’s literary world if you have not already read them. I tried to come up with 10 but failed so the futuristic 14 (in no particular order) are:

  • We – Zvgeny Zamyatin (1921) – The first dystopian novel ? that forms the basis of 1984 – if you read it make sure you get as late a translation as possible
  • Brave New World – Aldus Huxley (1932) – needs no introduction ?
  • 1984 – George Orwell (1948) – again no introduction needed but worth noting that cheeky George nicked about 80% of the plot from Zamyatin’s We
  • Frankenstein – Mary Shelley (1818) – yep it’s sci-fi – playing with the concept of how advances in science would affect society and alter perceptions of what/who is the creator and what is mankind’s responsibility for what it creates
  • High Rise – JG Ballard (1975) – post apocalyptic landscape where society is left living in social divisions within high rise flats (many cities seem to have had a good go at bringing this nightmare to reality)
  • The Man in the High Castle – Philip K Dick (1962) – what if the allies had lost WW2
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy (2006) – more post apocalyptic nightmares in this astonishingly bleak but beautiful portrayal of one mans hope to keep decency alive and pass on the flame to his son
  • Neuromancer – William Gibson (1984) – invented the term cyberspace, a head warping novel on the ultimate hack
  • Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (1979) –babel fish, Marvin the paranoid android, DON’T PANIC and the answer to the the ultimate question of life the universe and everything
  • Handmaids Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985) – more dystopia as the book explores themes of women in subjugation
  • Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham (1951) – be careful with that bioengineering
  • War of the Worlds – HG Wells (1898) – look out the martians are coming, one of the earliest books exploring contact between humans and a superior intelligent life form
  • Rendezvous with Rama – Arthur C Clarke (1972) – looks at mankind’s response to contact with ‘a spaceship’
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (1951) – is literature at threat from new technology ?

What I didn’t realise until I went back to review the list is that it almost covers the entire 20th Century with just the 1900’s and 1990’s missing out but War of the Worlds (1898) and The Road (2006) are pretty close to making it a full house across the decades and I would happily argue that all of these books could lay down a convincing claim to be among the best books written in the last 100 years or so of any genre. Like any list it is of course totally subjective and I suspect that if you asked me again tomorrow my list would be different and there are plenty of sci/sly-fi I’ve not included such as A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess) or Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) for example.

Like many things much comes down to definitions and how people would characterise a sci-fi book. When discussing sci-fi I’ve often found that a prejudice against the genre can quickly appear with people seeming to have a problem with it not being ‘real’ when it could be argued that no fiction is real, there is a clue in the title – it’s fiction. What is fiction if it is not a ‘story’ that deals with characters and/ or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary. Sci-fi follows the same path but simply places the story and/or characters in places that do not exist, and that doesn’t have to be distant planets, parallel universes or include robots and aliens although I have no problem with that if the premise is good. That for me is the nub, what is the book trying to say, how relevant is it, what does it make me think, how well is it written etc etc. I carried out a totally unscientific test at lunchtime and went down to Waterstones to see what they had put in sci-fi and what was in the classic or ‘proper’ fiction section. So from my list Philip K Dick, William Gibson, John Wyndham, HG Wells, Arthur C Clarke and Ray Bradbury were not surprisingly in the sci-fi section and none of the others were. Is this cultural or genre snobbery? Is there a fear or presumption that Margaret Atwood’s readers would not wish to be found up in the sci-fi section? I hope not as you never know they might find some surprises. Perhaps book shops need a new section – Sly-Fi !

So whatever your view of sci-fi, and I hope that I have persuaded some to look at the genre afresh, I’m sure that we can all agree that we don’t want to end up in a Fahrenheit 451 society where reading is outlawed.

Wet but beautiful

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So it’s been a pretty beautiful week weather wise, sun out, first real feel of spring in the air so of course I was really looking forward to the ride today.  Sod’s law then that after the alarm went off I peeped out into the darkness to see rain lashing down but nothing was going to stop me getting out, although I have to say it was pretty perturbing to have snow coming down at one point.  One of the things that I love about riding in different conditions is that as well as helping me improve my abysmal bike handling skills the countryside always looks so different.  Growing up in South Wales you get pretty used to the rain which was just as well today as there was no getting away from the fact that we were going to get seriously wet.  Layered up as best we could and hit the trails (the car temp gauge was 1 degree) and soon got a sweat on during the first slippy climb.

There is something that is so majestically beautiful about the dales in this sort of dark dank weather – it really felt Wuthering Heights like.  The other great thing about it is that no one else is around, the rain seems to dampen all sound and for the whole ride we did not come across another single human being.

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On days like this I cannot help but feel my inner child as I’m transported back to the days when getting muddy was simply what you did and that feeling of simply going weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee as you splash through puddles of goop.  Now I know from bitter experience that you need to be careful going through puddles off road riding as you never know how deep they are or what rocks or roots might be in them, which can soon have you regretting the decision to ride into it, but today was simply one of those days when the child took over and I sought out every puddle I could and there were plenty to go round.  Simply the best de-stressing therapy known to man.

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Of course one of the other things that I find beautiful about the dales is all the dry stone walling, miles and miles of it lots of it like the examples in these photos that mark out the boundaries for the bridleways we ride.  I look at them with some awe and think of the staggering amount of hours that goes into building and maintaining them.  Last time I rode this route I came across a dry stone waller repairing a section and it is amazing the skill that goes into them.

It might not look it but it felt great to be out in the mud and rain, senses were heightened, blood and adrenaline were pumping and I felt so alive it felt amazing.  I do wish however I could find a way to keep my feet warm, nothing else bothers me but the clipped in design seems to me to have a critical flaw – metal on your shoe clipped to metal on the pedal does not equate to much fun when it’s 1 degree so as well as being wet and muddy my feet were seriously painful.  Small price to pay though for such a great ride.

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And before any cold beers could be drunk a seriously hot coffee was required.

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So yes it was wet today, really properly wet and freezing cold but it was fantastically life affirming and I was so glad that I experienced the dales today in all their Bronte beauty.