Not by the fire

It was freezing. Although I am quite comfortable in the cold I would not have dragged myself out in the dark for a ride on my own but when you get a telephone call suggesting a ride it seems more attractive.
So, four top layers, riding tights, winter trousers and Lake (ah warm) boots and off we go. It seems so cold with your breath misting in front of you. Bike and body feels slightly stiff and the noise of your tyres seems louder somehow. Climbing steadily past the dewpond keeping an easy pace so that you do not have to gulp in great lungfuls of cold night air and peering into the gloom to spot another light flickering in the darkness.
Strange noises come out of the dark, a dog, a wolf, no just a cow. As we ride through the trees the crows are disturbed and take flight showering twigs on our heads, their alarm calls echoing through the wood. For a quiet night ride we seem to be making a racket. Swoop down an old trail that needs clearing of a few fallen branches and there is no evidence of any tyre tracks. Climb up the fire road and drop into another common trail; footprints in the mud but no tyre tracks. Are we only ones that ride midweek in the dark or is everyone keeping to the trails they know?
Down a new trail and clear the jumps and wind back up towards the fire road. Warm now but I do not want to lose a layer. We head into the trees once more and clear some debris out of the way on a little used trail and come to a stop at a fallen tree. Some logs, a spade, a few minutes work and a solution. It looks quite a drop but we try it anyway. We do it but it may be a little daunting the first time you approach it in the dark.
Down we go, twisting and turning. How long is this trail in the dark? We get stuck by a lack of head height for the taller rider which is my familiar complaint. Quickly a saw is produced and a bigger hole is made. More twists and turns and we are still not out, another hanging limb despatched, more fallen branches removed and on we continue until we reach a track. Bit muddy this but we will find a way to avoid this some other night so for now we climb over the ruts and back onto some dry track. The university lights appear suddenly out of the night as we head back to the cars.

Too cold to go out tonight? You do not know what you missed.

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