Monday of half term – The perfect day for me to get my first cycle commute of the year ticked off. The kids and dogs are at my parents for the day. I can set off for work before they get up and I can pick them up after I’m home and showered.
Ok .. best check the forecast .. bollocks – a moderate breeze with 40mph gusts between 11 & 3pm. I HATE the wind … but I finish work at 4pm .. I might miss the gusts. There’s a chance the Transporter bridge will be shut but I can cope with that. Let’s risk it.
Kids to bed, drag the bike out of the garage .. put some air in the tyres, work clothes packed in the side panniers. Alex has made some scotch broth and very kindly knocks me up a tub of overnight oats to eat when I get to work. LOVE overnight oats
Lights charged and attached to the bike and I’ve got my new £15 bargain Planet-X helmet to try. Cycling clothes out ready. I start work at 7am. I allow 55-60 mins for the commute and 20 mins to faff and shower when I get to work so my alarm is set for 5.20am.
At 4am a noisy ambulance crew attending at the house over the road wake me up and both kids have wangled their way into our bed and I’m fighting for an inch of space. I shunt one child back into their own bed and manage to get back to sleep before my alarm goes off at 5.20am.
Up and dressed.
I’m not a snooze kind of person. I don’t believe in it. Just set your alarm for the time you need to be up!
I plug my front light in again while I faff to make sure it is fully charged. I have a feeling it’s dodgy (turns out it is) and not quite firing on all cylinders (it wasn’t).
5:40am and it’s time to get moving. It’s breezy but fairly mild and I’ve made the right choice with my layers. I take my usual route down the Trunk Road into Middlesbrough Centre and out to Newport Bridge.
The Tees Transporter Bridge doesn’t open until 7.15am so on a morning I need to take the long way around over Newport Bridge, through Haverton Hill and Port Clarence (Middlesbrough’s finest place ). Assuming there is nothing more than a mouse’s farts worth of a breeze I can jump on the Transporter Bridge on the home leg. It’s 60p for a cyclist but it cuts out about 3 miles of shitty cycle paths and roads at rush hour.
It was a surprisingly enjoyable ride in. The odd bit of strong wind but much more pleasant than I expected. As i turned into Port Clarence I got the full force of the wind but that meant I wouldn’t have it I my face when I turned left on to the Tees Road which is the worst part of the commute. It’s gets to be a very busy main road – cars, tankers, wagons and there is no cycle path on any stretch of it so you can feel quite exposed and unprotected.
This is the last place at 6.20 in the morning that you’d want your front light to give up the ghost but my light had other ideas Whilst there was by now a little light starting to creep into the sky, it wasn’t quite enough to be without a light on the road. I had a rear light (thank god!) so I just tried to hug the kerb and use the headlights from the passing and oncoming cars to stay near the kerb and keep moving.
I did feel vulnerable and I felt a right idiot knowing the car drivers were likely to be calling me a c**k for cycling along that road in the dark with no front light (and rightly so – I’d be doing the same). 58 minutes after setting off , I arrive at work.
I made it! Unpack my bike, shower, breakfast.
Oh what’s that .. oh it’s just that smug feeling i get from cycling in
Checking Facebook confirmed that the Transporter bridge was closed so it was the long way home for me. The wind hit me as I turned the roundabout at Hartlepool power station onto the Tees Road. This is a near straight 3 miles stretch, into a bracing headwind where I struggled to get above 8/9mph. ‘Slog’ doesn’t even cover it. Surprisingly I didn’t let it get to me. If there is anything I hate running/cycling in, it’s the wind. I spend my time shouting at it to ‘fuck off’ which is completely mental and pointless I know but I hate the stuff.
After finally making it to Port Clarence and on through Haverton Hill i was back at Newport Bridge. Normally i’d go along the path next to the river Tees to bring me out near the Transporter so i can take the quieter roads past the Riverside stadium but that’s a gravelly, off-road type path that would have slowed me down even further and i was now aware the light was fading and without a front light i needed to get home as quickly as i could so I decided to go through the town.
I got some respite from the wind from this point and i was still feeling pretty chirpy which i put down to the fact that my legs hadn’t deserted me. I was starting to feel a bit battered by the time I reached Normanby though and the light really was fading by this point but with only one mile to go i was in home territory. It had taken me 1hr 16 mins to get home. Half an hour longer than if the bridge had been open and the wind hadn’t been an arsehole.
Here’s to more cycle commuting as the weather improves … and shopping for lights.