Tough, lean and at 6 foot 3, my physio, Steve, would make an awesome rider. He just looks like he’d smash it on a bike. That’s what I’d like to think. As I sit there waiting for him to return with a new resistance-band, as well as a chart full of unusual exercises, my mind wonders. I can imagine Steve out in Kent, rolling along at ease and hitting the hills with confidence. He returns and exclaims that instead of cycling today, “I’m going to the squash courts.” Steve’s just confirmed it, he’s ‘ard, but royally-fed-up with this rain.
In the last month we’ve had half the country under water. What used to be a north-south divide is now replaced with an exhausting east-west separation: wet in Cardiff, just as you begin your day, then pouring in Essex by the afternoon, so by rush hour, it’s bucketing it everywhere. We could see islands within this island by Springtime. As I make my way back to the bike to get home, the heavens open. It’s then I conclude, I’m tired of this rain too. What used to make me feel experienced, able and an exceptional rider (in my mind at least) is riding in the rain. I now realise, this is rubbish.
With somewhat clear skies forecast for Sunday morning, we make plans to ride to Windsor.
Return of the Mac
A couple of weeks ago, Glen makes it to Windsor to show his nephew around, but really, we all know it’s a recce. His nephew catches on, and points to the swans swimming down the streets. It’s clear, don’t go west just yet.
Today is a different day. Not a drop since Thursday. It’s a pleasure to see Stu out again. Unfortunately this week time is against us. Nevertheless, we do things together, and at the crack of dawn, Stu is already spinning his legs on the rollers – same time, just different place. He texts us “Bon Voy!” and we’re off. Cycling and Football? Stu’s still got the right kit on for his Sufferfest sesh!
The Godfather, Part 4
Similarly, DC is unavailable and wishes us a good ride. He’s on Godfather duties. If you’re confused, you’re not the only one. This is nothing short of a miracle, or a Coppola film in the making.
Wellies, not booties
There’s a lot of people out today. The clear skies attract large packs of riders whizzing through the south-west. As we escape to more green lands, the pace settles and we allow time to catch up. Alex talks us through his wedding plans, while Ben whistles cheerfully, and we explore a different kind of cycling than we’re used to. One that is exciting through its unfamiliarity, as well as the quality of miles that are on offer. We spin through Shepperton, but practically have to sail through Chertsey, Ottershaw and Chobham. Much of the area is under surface water and when we meet a friendly bunch of locals, they warn us that the bridge ahead has 6 feet of water to contend with. We consult our maps and with the wisdom of the people we have just met, we choose a new route to our destination.
Soon enough, we are back on track and on the way to the Royal Borough. A town steeped in history, as well as more modern attractions, and yet the roads remain blissfully free. We turn a corner and shout for a “Stop!” Taking advantage of a guilt-free break that isn’t normally part our fast weekend rides. The light flickers through the trees. There’s a gentle wind, and although not altogether warm, the air is refreshing. Fuelled up, Ben makes a charge, and Alex responds like a finely tuned BSA motorbike, steadily catching up the break-away. Everyone is feeling quite ‘Barouder-us!’
On a winding lane we make a left towards the gates of Windsor Park. The white fences gleam in the light. There is a steady flow of families entering the space with us. It’s like a local high street, only without the shops or the rush. It’s simply a pleasant moment.
The gates are automatic, but there’s a button for horse-riders and cyclists to push to allow entry. We’re in!
As we proceed, a young family on bikes smile. Ben notices the sign, and comments on the speed limit. It’s 38mph. Odd, but no worries here. We’re not in the mood to pick it up. The families and their dogs roam freely, creating a natural atmosphere for peace.
We make a left and as we pass a second set of gates we are greeted by a statue of a gentleman and his steed. To his right a long straight road stretches onto Windsor Castle. Like complete tourists, we pose for a photo. A friendly couple are enjoying the scene and are happy to help a group of Baroudeurs out. The shot is cool, but we can’t help but take a selfie.
There’s a lovely stretch of road that greets us as we enter the town of Windsor. Not only is it wide and straight, but is banked by well-trimmed open spaces, and a gentle descent. At the round-abouts we ease onto the back roads, eventually opening up to Windsor-proper. Before you can say “Your Majesty”, we reach the crest of the hill, right by her castle.
The three of us pull into the arcade and make for the Cinnamon Cafe. Their website alone makes me want to jump on my bike and go again. On a Thursday, this place is bustling with hungry, lycra-clad cyclists, but today, it’s just your everyday jeans and jacket kind of folk. We slide onto the chairs outside and make our order. It’s seems like an easy choice, but their whole menu could keep me happily busy for the entire afternoon.
Saying that, the house-special is the Cinnamon Bun! Nestled by a cup of tea, these buns makes everyone grin. Good ‘ol fashioned baking enclosed in a just-sweet-enough casing and moist texture that is an absolute gargantuan delight. The staff here are consistently welcoming; happy to fill up our bidons, without even asking, and are pleased to give regular cyclists 10% off the bill. Another good reason to pull the bibs on!
Before we get cold we slip on our gilets and head home. We make a right, passing the train station, which will come in handy when planning a cycle that’s much more family-friendly. The journey home is a lot more hilly; taking the southern route, before heading east back to London. We nod a ‘hello’ to the teams that pass us and we agree this is a very popular ride.
En route we find areas waterlogged, but are thankful that the roads are clear except for the short area we experienced earlier. Before we know it, we’re in Shepperton, and not long after winding through Kingston.
We’re having such a good time, I take a chance to delay the end. We swoop into Bushy Park; a more civilised route from Hampton to Kingston. Accompanying us on the tarmac are all sorts of vehicles, but a 50’s armoured-personnel-carrier, navigated by a man with a radio-enabled lid grins with us. The gravelly road passes an abundance of families enjoying the sunshine. A pleasant lady holds the gate for us as we exit, but before so, we marvel at the kids on the half-pipe giving it beans on their skateboards and BMX’s. Some urban Baroudeurs giving it welly.
As we head into Richmond, Alex declares he’s not going to contest this run. We’re going to end how we started, relaxed and together. We climb steadily, and descend as a team. The rays are out and the pleasant afternoon has attracted even more people to come out early from hibernating homes.
We potter a little, and a fellow cyclist pulls up to talk. I notice his University of Texas (UT) socks. Not unusual, except that the Long Horns are normally famous for their American Football, Basketball and track sports. These are short and pedal-purposed socks. The graduate tells us he used to captain the team. You learn something new every day. As we part, the graduate says “I like your kit!” and we thank him.
Whilst Stu is tucking into his recovery of Halloumi and olives on pitta-bread , Alex and I stroll over to the Hummingbird Cafe. We slide into the cosy seats and enjoy a poached-egg feast with a glass of FSOJ. Delicious!
Ma’am in Yorkshire
Unfortunately, after 95 miles, there’s still no Queen. Oh well, perhaps we’ll see her in time for Yorkshire