#5000colo Day 71: Chilly and Hilly

Distance travelled: 34.30 miles
Cumulative distance: 1292.92 miles
Distance remaining: 3707.08 miles
Percentage complete: 25.86
Villages visited: Hellesdon, Colney, Barford, Carleton Forehoe, Coston, Crownthorpe, Wymondham, East Carleton, Intwood, Cringleford, Eaton.

I took two days off to rest my saddle sores, and was absolutely itching to get back out on the bike today. It was also Radio 6 Music’s ‘Wear Your Band T-shirt To Work’ day, so I chose to ride in my Toots and the Maytals shirt, in honour of the legendary Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, who passed away in September. I was lucky enough to see Toots perform at the UEA back in 2018, and it remains one of my fondest gigging memories.

The weather was pretty benign when I left Norwich, although noticeably chillier than it had been on any previous ride. I didn’t mind the biting cold on my face, and after a few miles after I’d warmed up, it was actually quite refreshing.

I headed out west today, to tick off a few little villages I’d missed: Carleton Forehoe, Coston, Crownthorpe and Intwood. I stopped for a few minutes at Crownthorpe, by which time the daylight had pretty much gone (the photo below makes it look a lot lighter than it actually was!) and it had started raining.

The next ten miles or so were absolutely awesome. I barely passed another vehicle until I reached Wymondham, and then the back roads between Wymondham and Norwich were absolutely deserted.

It does require a remarkable level of concentration riding in those conditions. It’s so pitch black that you can only see what your headlight allows you to see, giving the whole affair a somewhat ‘Blair Witchy’ feel to it. And when it’s cold and wet too, you are literally focusing second by second on the road ahead of you.

Look down at the sat nav for a split second to check the road ahead… look back up, let your eyes adjust to the light, keep your eyes on the road surface to check for potholes, puddles and debris… flick your eyes upwards to check for car headlamps… it’s basically those three things on repeat, every few seconds, non-stop.

It’s really exhilarating, feeling so detached from everything but your immediate vicinity. All the work issues, the mental health problems, the day-to-day worries and concerns, just dissipate into nothingness as you zone in on the immediacy of potential danger. The senses are heightened: the feel of the rain pin-pricking your face. The sound of distant vehicles, magnified to appear closer than they are. The sight of dancing patterns from illuminated branches in your peripheral vision.

And then, when you finally get back into civilisation, the tantalising smell of everyone’s dinner as you ride through the suburbs. Burnt toast, something very garlicky… was that bacon I got a whiff of? And riding past a fish-and-chip shop is exquisite agony.

Today was quite a hilly ride, by all accounts; almost 1,500ft of elevation, which is quite a lot for Norfolk. I think I might try and find some more challenging hilly routes now my fitness seems to be improving a bit!

It felt so good to be back on my bicycle today, it really did. Definitely going again tomorrow.

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