Old Favourites

I spend a good deal of time trundling around the countryside searching out new and interesting routes to ride, sometimes neglecting the old favourites and forgetting why they are old favourites - it's easy to be seduced by the tougher, hilly routes and forget the benefits and beauty of a fast, flat-ish ride through the countryside to the east of home.  So after a break of several months I decided to do the 'Boroughbridge Route'. The first mile or so gets you out of Ripon and there is a flat straight of half a mile in length where you can judge the wind direction and decide (if you haven't done so already from the direction of the cathedral flag) whether it will be easy on the outward or homeward journey.

Once over the bypass the road heads out through Littlethorpe and immediately into quintessentially English countryside: small, hedged meadows, knots of woodland, grazing cattle & sheep and a chicken curious to find out what's on the other side causes a moment's swerving excitement. Today is one of the first really warm days of summer and the scents of the hedgerow, (covered now in Campion, Violets and Cow-parsley) rise to meet me, along with a significant hatch of flies - perhaps I should have gone fishing! Once onto the Knaresborough road I pass the farm with the sleepy red bull and gently rise out of the valley. The landscape opens like a book and as I approach the highest point on the ride panoramic views open eastward to the Hambleton hills and the White Horse.

By Bishop Monkton the legs have usually warmed up and it's time to turn on the gas; there's a bit of mild showing off as I zip past a busy pub garden and sweep through the village on the drops. Passing the old dairy farm, the lane is covered in cow shit…….Green and skiddy in the wet, rumble-strip hard today. And then the road turns Ypres - potholes the size of craters gape and maw and threaten to bounce bottles from cages or twang spokes like a piano at the breaker's yard but I'm wise to it and slalom through the battlefield, cross the little stream at Holbeck wood and rise into the sunshine and now I'm into time trial country.

The road from here to Roecliffe is smooth, flat and sinuous and my world narrows to existentialist self awareness: cadence, breathing, my own shadow and the sound of the bike. I watch my thighs hammering down on the pedals and the road flies past beneath me in a blur. Heart rate 165 (yep - I'm getting old), speed 26.4 mph, distance 8 mls (half way); it's beginning to hurt; keep pumping, ignore the pain, ignore the wind, concentrate. At Roecliffe I ease off, take the sharp left hander at the Crown Inn and once more the road gets tetchy and in the tree-dappled sunlight it's hard to avoid the holes. Up a couple of hills - they're not even hills dammit -  they're rises, but they are enough to chop my speed to about 16 mph and my average is being chomped away at.

Under the A1 and in to Boroughbridge and the driver in front thinks she can't get through a gap big enough for a gypsy wedding; there's no way past, my track standing is track lying down so I unclip and wait for Godot.

Back on it, over the Ure, avoid a 4x4 roundabout massacre (it's impossible to ride through Boroughbridge without at least one attempt on your life) and left through Langthorpe where the council have helpfully spray painted the potholes in order to make them more attractive when you fall down them - urban graffiti comes to the sticks.  Back under the A1 and up the god-awful little hillock to the skylark fields and the comforting smell of pigs. Full gas again to Skelton where an elderly couple in straw hats and deck chairs give me a cheery wave and I  hammer on. Another exciting moment of gravel on a tight right-hander and on to the Main road. Clear, out of the saddle and build speed down the hill and the glorious left hander onto Hewick Bridge. The river glints and shimmers in the sunshine - perhaps I should have gone fishing - and as I approach the race course, a cue of traffic stretches ahead of me (evening meeting) so I pull over and take a reading from my computer - Ave heart rate 157, Ave speed 20.1 mph - that's ok. the final mile is leisurely but the road is busy. The ominous sound of squealing air brakes assails me from behind and I'm engulfed in the shadow of a monster truck; when the road clears he pulls out to the other side of the road to overtake and I wave, he stays out until I see him in his mirror, I wave him in and he blasts his horns in salute………a cheering finish to a good ride.

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