For some (ok me), one of the main pleasures of cycling is the free pass bestowed to consuming an obscene amount of cake with near impunity.
There are of course other attractions, increased fitness, muscle tone, stunning scenery, but mostly, it’s all about the cake.
So, when the opportunity came to spend a long weekend in one of my favourite parts of the country both in terms of baked goods and beautiful vistas it was just too good to pass up.
Albert the road bike and I piled eagerly into the car and headed down to Somerset to stay in a cosy cottage in the lea of a towering tor (hill). The cottage, nestled between the immortal triangle of Cheddar (wonderful cheeses), Wells, and Glastonbury, a hippy cornucopia of organic vegetables, bakeries and cider barns meaning I was truly in heaven.
Heading out into the surprisingly warm January sunshine on to the Somerset Levels was a true delight.
The Levels are pancake flat lush terrain, surrounded by spiny ridges and dotted randomly with the odd, massive tor, looking like a giant child has built grassy sandcastles on otherwise horizontal fields. It’s fun riding, a little breezy at times, with few hedges to act as wind breaks and some gnarly gusts of wind tried several times to dislodge us. It reminded me of riding through the Canadian prairies (but fortunately still with less headwind).
Skirting Glastonbury, King Arthur’s legendary home. The opportunity to stop and take photos of the impressive abbey atop their own large tor, was mitigated by a moody, menacing sky and the increasing craving for cake after pre-planning a stop at the next town, Wells.
Onwards, along what was suspiciously like a busy dual carriageway, before returning to the windy lanes and small villages. My companion was eternally patient, and sharp on the brakes, to accommodate some emergency stops to 1) take pictures 2) admire an 8 foot plastic model of Rodin’s thinker in superhero costume (see photos) and 3) to complete the random purchase of a cast iron wood burning stove from a garage sale (on the condition I could collect it later).
Rolling into Wells my cake craving was reaching critical point as was my plummeting sugar level. However, after several hilly circuits of the town the Cathedral, shops and high street were proving elusive. Now I know that Wells boasts the smallest Cathedral city in the UK, but this was getting ridiculous.
My companion sensibly stopped to ask directions from, whom can only be described as the town’s most enthusiastic and verbose resident. On learning of our plight he plunged into a long, long, long convoluted history of the city, including such factual gems in that it contained exactly 52 coffee shops. By this point I was on the verge of sugar-deficit meltdown and not in best scholarly mode. Fortunately we managed to extract some sort of directions and high tailed it straight to one of the best coffee shops I’ve been to for a long time. Sitting in the sunshine outside the Cathedral, happiness returned once equilibrium was restored by a large strong coffee and even larger slice of Bakewell cake.
Thus fuelled the last leg of the ride should have flown by but the hills now seemed to be really dragging. Flogging up another incline I couldn’t believe how effortful it had become. Maybe I should cut back on the cake a bit? It was then however I noticed the tell-tale ker-thump of the back wheel announcing a puncture.
Pulling over at the roadside in the charmingly named village of Rodney Stoke (‘The thankful village’ according to signage??), I changed the inner tube and removed the culprit, a small sharp stone from the tyre.
It was then things went a little awry. Wielding my whizzy CO2 pump to reinflate the tyre, that sinking feeling struck again….the pump and inner tube proved incompatible, the valve stem being too short. Only now did I remember this fact of course following a previous incident, after which I’d planned to change them…. Oops!
Much swearing, a second tyre change using my friend’s tube and 2 wasted CO2 cartridges later I finally had something resembling an inflated tyre.
To be fair, a number of cyclists and the owner of the house whose driveway we sequestered did offer assistance but by then it was nearly sorted (and I have my pride).
The final few miles of the ride were wonderful. Mostly downhill through quiet lanes surrounded by green fields full of sheep, spring lambs and llamas! The perfect way to unwind.
Actually, the perfect way to unwind was the long soak in the hot tub afterwards and a cheeky glass of local cider/wine which made for a sublime way to end the day.
Some rides are about hard core work, some are about the mileage, but this one, this was pure pleasure and of course it was all about the cake!