Through the door, keys fumbled with unfeeling fingers, dump bike by the side. Deal with that later. Tiptoe into the kitchen leaving as little of the ride in puddles on the carpet as you can.
Turn heating on.
Peel overshoes off with an impatient tired roughness in complete contrast with the gentle delicacy they were fed over shoes a few hours ago, sometimes just peel down the top half to expose the necessary ratchet and take the shoes off with the overshoes hanging like dead skin. Slough the rest of the clothes, layer by cold wet layer and slop them somewhere near the washing machine. Deal with that later.
Put the kettle on and crouch shuffle naked upstairs, each step more by instinct than feeling as there’s no sensation left below the knees. Feet solid blocks of unfeeling pain. Turn bath on.
Wander into the bedroom and find the special clothes, specifically chosen for their ease of pulling on and soft instant warmth. Wooly hat. Indoors.
Flop downstairs again, make a pint of tea. Graze the fridge for any foodstuffs not tied down, some of which you may have been thinking about for the last hour, put on plate next to toasted muffins and crumpets and toast and malt-loaf and cake and biscuits and crisps and cheese.
Sit semi-foetal on the sofa and gently inhale food. Blanket over knees. Cat, if available. Cuddle tea mug like a prodigal son.
Wait until feet have blood enough to manage a bath. Gingerly sink in, testing each body part as it kisses the surface. Feel the heat slowly soak through to frozen bones. Shut eyes and slowly slip your head underwater. World goes quiet for a glorious moment. No wind, no rain, no tyre noise, no soft voices whispering mocking doubt, no rasping gears, no breathing rattle, no grating brakes. Sensory depravation but for warmth. A slow deep heartbeat and deep warmth. Scum of ride floats to the top. Permeated grit sinks to bottom. Try not to fall asleep. Slow thaw. Emerge.
Just before you get sucked down into the heavy sticky swamp of tiredness and surrender to it completely, realize it was actually all worth it.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.