A start in the pre-dawn and a stretch of the legs to meet up with the rest of the bunch. This one to remember a friend, taken from us so much too early, seven years to the day. Two of his old bikes make the start. A push up a hill if you're riding one: that's the rule.
The decision to ride fixed makes me nervous. But I have fresh bar tape. How hard can it be?
Early miles are lumpy, winding throught the villages and chatting. Past Chew Valley lake we string out, preparing for the climb. The Mendips loom. The 69" gear will be hard to turn.
Across the main road and straight onto the steep stuff. Fixed gears hit the front, it's the only way: attack the climb and if the legs don't give out, that's a win. 10% for a kilometre. 14% past the pub. zigzagging across the road to soften the gradient, on the limit. I can't remember the last time I worked this hard. But we make it.
Across the flat, wide plateau: these are my favourite roads, the ones I'm always drawn to. The sun shines, the temperature rises. It doesn't feel like January. Spin up the legs for the descent into Cheddar, magnificent and terrifying. Coffee and cake, a photocall and an about turn straight back up between the cliffs. The legs complain but the sharp start is short, and the rolling ascent after the gorge is made for fixed.
Rolling roads deliver us back to Paulton, a final lung-buster before a hearty lunch stop at Charlie's and then the solo ride home, with the exquisite pain of having to turn right when home is left, to loop round the city and nudge over the ton. Up the Wellsway to finish, as so often before. I'm happy to ease my way to the top. Chris used to race the buses on that Merckx. I miss him.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.