Once again there were over 30 Easy Riders intending to pedal around the back lanes of Braintree. We divided into our usual three groups, with Adrian and Cathy (me) leading and tailing the long ride, … and Jim leading and Karen tailing the middle ride; and Bill and Gwen on the shortest ride.
Oh dear – my reduced cycling recently became immediately apparent on today’s ride through hills. We pedalled out north, down Bocking End and Bradford Street, then turning left at the college. We rode along to the almshouses and turned left down Bovingdon Road, through Beazley End and Blackmore End, pausing briefly in Wethersfield. The land seemed to rise steadily, and Diane and I steadily dropped down the gears and spun our way up the hills. Roger was also riding with us at times, and commented on how he had lost fitness since his holiday in Holland.
I know Diane and I both struggle with heat and have curtailed our riding over the summer, thus losing ride fitness. Then I started wondering how the term ‘to curtail’, ie to shorten, came to be. I pondered whether it had anything to do with dogs having their tails docked. Trivial information for the day, is that according to Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins, curtail originally meant ‘horse with a docked tail’! This comes from 16thc French, courtault meaning short, plus a semantic link with ‘tail’.
Safety thought for the day, is about riding your bike when there are horses around. It’s always good practice to call out when approaching a horse and rider from the rear, to avoid startling the horse. Today, we were pedalling south from Wethersfield to Shalford, along long undulations. As tail rider, I was about 100m behind Diane, but going fast down the hill, and saw a slow horse-drawn wagon pull out in front of me. I decided to go past, indicated right, and pedalled hard to overtake, while giving them plenty of space. I did my usual “morning riders, I’m just making sure your horses can hear me”, and got an acknowledgement with the whip. (How’s that for an ambiguous statement!). It is good practice to watch the horse’s ear. Once the horse points its ear at you, you know it is aware you are present. The ear will track your movements and the horse is less likely to be startled or kick out in fright. If anyone is in a running club, it is also worthwhile calling out to horse and riders if you are coming up behind them on a bridle way, as silent runners can also startle horses.
We turned right at Church End, then left into Jaspers Green, down to Panfield. The bit I was not familiar with, took us straight across the roundabout at Tabor Academy into Porters Field, then followed a path which brought us out next to the medical centre on Rayne Road. We went down Fernie Road and right onto Penticton Road for our refreshment stop.
Mave and John, along with Nancy, have been fundraising for MacMillan Cancer Care over the last few weeks. There was an admirable spread of refreshments - my husband Jim quality tested the Dutch Apple cake (excellent) and I sampled a variety of sausage rolls (yumm!) and macaroons. There was plenty of gluten free and dairy free home-cooked products – many thanks to all contributors. They raised £255.50 including £51 from Lesley and Gifford.
After a prolonged stop, there was a notable reluctance of people to resume riding (Including me!). Adrian pedalled off with 7 hard-core riders. I pleaded my excuses not to be tail rider, as Adrian’s group had ridden 18 miles on the first leg, averaging 11.8mph (and I was absolutely spent!). Instead I paid my penance, assisting with clearing up. Jim sagely observed the ‘lesser spotted MacTaggart’ had been seen serving time washing up at the sink (and I have to agree that as I am rarely there, it was definitely ‘lesser spotted”).
Ed - there were two groups that went out after the break. Jim led a short ride of around 7 miles with 7/8 riders and I led a group of 7 on a 12 mile jaunt and ended back in Braintree with 5.
Ed - Big thank you to Mave and John for hosting the coffee stop and for all those that contribute food and money.
Ed - Congratulations to Mave and Nancy for cycling 274 miles in Holland in July in some very hot weather - well done both a truly great achievement.