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Journey to Cambridge

Journey to CambridgeFirst faint light, a steely grey seeping between cloud banks and the hard edge of the Cambrian mountains. Then the day starts to bleed, a rush of deep arterial red pours through the slashed horizon and washes into the valley. Stitched by the leaf-bare branches that can not hold back the strengthening light of day.I have pushed the bike out of the garage and whilst packing it consider the sunrise with some trepidation and muttering; “Red in the morning, shepherds warning”! It is the 16th of December and I am about to set out from my home in Aberystwyth for Cambridge on the other side of the country, around 400 km away. The temperature is just into two figures but I know that it will drop as I leave the coast and climb to around 420 mts at Eisteddfa Gurig. And what of the rest of the journey, how cold and wet could it get? That frequent bikers dilemma; what to wear? Too little and you’ll suffer chills, too much and you are sweaty and uncomfortable. I decide against the full winter trousers and use thermal underwear and kevlar jeans. Winter jacket with three layers underneath. Two pairs of socks. I know my hands will be comfy enough, the heated grips and hand guards on my Moto Guzzi Stelvio protect them well. I don’t like thick winter gloves that make you feel like you have a bunch of bananas for hands.By the time I have packed the bike the sky has bled out, and a dull, angry orange light is being squeezed to greyness by the easterly cloud front. How often have you shared that thought, ‘why am I doing this?’ ‘Why am I about to set off for a winter ride of hundreds of miles in uncertain weather?’ The only answer is to tell yourself you’d look and feel like a wimp if you chickened out. So saddle up, grab the reins and set your horses head down the trail.Ahh, the open road, a lift of spirit entirely different from setting forth in the car. It is the interactive nature of riding that makes the difference. One is not aimed at some distant destination but at the next corner. I am travelling, headed to the unknown, and that is the challenge and the appeal. It is about that little stretch of comfort zone, about pushing your edge out a bit. Taking some risks of discomfort and self.The first twenty miles are careful ones. Over the mountain and in a flat hard light as grey as the damp road, temperature down to 7°. Imagination does its worst or best and caution is the watchword. Having come off on diesel in similar conditions a few years back just the thought that there might be an oozing film of oil is enough to slow me. From the forested hillside puffs of mist rise from the dark blanket of conifers as if from hidden stone age fires.The miles drop behind and the cold begins to slip its fingers through my clothing. Two hours and 90 km and I arrive at Bringsty common. It is a surprisingly big common stretching to 220 acres of rough pasture and copses. Back in September I had needed to have my bike in Worcester for a service first thing in the morning and so had decided to camp on the common. I had a pleasant evening at the ‘Live and Let Live’ pub on the common. But now coffee is what I need and so continue to the Bringsty Common Cafe a pleasant place which importantly has a proper coffee machine that makes a great double expresso.After warming gloves and me on the radiator and my insides with expresso I set forth again. There are patches of close cold mist but occasionally a brief wide shaft of cold winter sunshine rinses the dampness from the bare hedgerows and gives me an illusion of warmth.Another couple of hours and I am at Weedon just before the A5 and Northampton. Again I stop to warm up, the handy pub does a good coffee and a tomato and basil soup which goes down well. No herbal teas so I have a cup of hot water. Core temperature is the key, whether high or low. Be aware if you are cooking your body in a leather suit, even if your face is getting cooled your core temperature without cooling sweat is climbing. Likewise, hours of cold hands and legs can reduce core to a point where it takes a long, long time to warm up. If you are in a warm cafe, with a hot drink inside you and you don’t yet feel warm take a bit more time.Onward.Until I am on the A421 near Bedford, approaching the infamous ‘Black Cat’ roundabout, the dual carriageway traffic is tailed back by four or five miles, with sporadic and slow movement. I start to filter and decide to use my secret weapon, the two chasing amber LED lights fitted to either side of my screen. WOW, it is brilliant, Moses would be impressed. Cars and lorries six or more places ahead are pulling to either side. It really shows who is checking their mirrors! There are only three vehicles who are either blind, on their phones or just b*****s and don’t move over. I progress at a nice steady speed, right past a police car and on to the front of the queue at the roundabout. Thank you all considerate drivers!Finally, I arrive in Cambridge, padlock the bike to the porc

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