Tuesday afternoon and as I walk out of the door at the office the rain is light. It falls in tiny droplets: not hard and fast or thick, but quickly as if speed can make up for density.
I walk to my bike and begin unlocking it, strapping my two panniers onto the sides and adjusting my lights. Nigel (he of the big mouth and big opinions) stops for a chat about the weather and offers to put my bike in the back of his car and give me a lift - I tell him I'll be alright: I've been wet before.
My latest panniers are quite good for weatherproofing and come with yellow covers that can be unzipped from the bags and pulled around the main bags, so I put them in place making sure not to cover the workings of the bike. Even so the bottom of one bag will get covered in bike oil by the time I get home. I zip up my day-glo yellow jacket (visible from the space station) and set my mileometer running.
The second I start the rain feels harder, the wind and my movement pushing the tiny darts into my face and my bare legs - there is a pair of waterproof leggings in the pannier, but they are unbreathable, weigh you down and make you sweat so nine times out of ten you're better off getting your legs wet.
I push up the first big hill, coming out of my seat as we (me and my bike) reach the top. It's a relatively short hill and despite the steep incline it's quite an easy one to master, so I enjoy the payback as we roll down the other side and join the cycle path. This is a busy road with all the main traffic to the town running along it, so I have to take it slowly along the cycle path as there's a couple of cyclists ahead who seem oblivious of any need to be anywhere soon.
Finally they make way for me and I cross the junction with the main A road (roads in the UK are divided into M (motorway) and A and B roads - depending on size and speed. Below B are unclassified roads, mostly local)
This is the Big Hill of the journey, a two-three mile slow incline that takes us out into the countryside for a few minutes. This is where, one day on my way into work, I saw my most impressive piece of roadkill (a deer), but today I mainly focus on the road and the rain. The hill flattens out after about two miles before dipping and then climbing again for the last mile as we enter the next town. This is where the traffic gets to its busiest and I make the first of my three right turns. For those of you who don't know we drive on the left in the UK, meaning that in order to turn right a cyclist has to pull out into the middle of the traffic and cross over more traffic that doesn't want to give way. This is never easy and with the rain in my face there's more than a chance I could lose balance if I'm not careful.
Round the clock and up past the park we turn down into the next hill and freewheel to the traffic lights: not only a right turn but a blind one due to the tall buildings. I follow a car around the corner and into a long, slow uphill. The rain is coming down harder now: still as small as accupuncture needles that bite into the flesh on my legs. The wind is chilly and it keeps me awake as we reach the top. Only one more uphill to go and at six miles gone we dip down into the valley again. There's no streetlights out here and I take a moment to think how dangerous it would be to take this route in the winter when there is no light before joining the second and last cycle path that takes me up the final big hill.
On both sides of me now are fields, their emptiness a juxtaposition with the busyness of the road. I'm glad of the cycle path as the rain picks up speed and take my usual moment to admire the huge mansion that can be seen by the roadside and wonder who the hell can afford to live in such a big place.
At the final traffic lights I turn left and down the hill past the education centre. Seven or eight miles gone now and the rain lashes into my face as I hurtle down the hill. I've been pushing much harder today because of the rain and the adrenaline is pulsing through my veins. I feel a crazy sense of euphoria set in and find myself wanting to laugh and to scream at the skies "Come on!" I want to scream, "is this the best you can do?"
The rain drives into my face and turns my legs red. The bike is covered in mud from the road, but I wouldn't swap this moment for all the gold in Fort Knox. I feel invincible, totally and one hundred percent alive as we reach the bottom of the hill and power up the final incline.
Despite the distance and the feeling of fatigue I change up a gear and pick up speed before taking the large roundabout. There's three roundabouts all in quick succession and each interlinks with a major road, so I have to be careful at each as cars have a tendency to shoot out without looking. Still: I feel like nothing can stop me now.
Over the last of the roundabouts and its a quick couple of turns before I'm onto my road and jumping off the bike. I lean the bike against the wall of my house and stop the timer, unable to stop myself from laughing with exhileration. It takes a moment before the mild hysteria calms enough for me to open the gate and push my bike through and then I begin the serious business of unpacking.
Everything from the panniers is kept in plastic bags to add a double layer of protection and everything must be swiftly rescued so that bags can go on radiators. I peel the soaking cycle gloves from my hands, place my shoes and their covers on the radiators and go out to deal with the bike.
I clean and dry it as best as I can, putting it back into the shed. Back inside the house I take a look at my mileometer and realise that I've made the eleven mile journey in under forty-nine minutes, knocking nearly four minutes off my previous best.
I change out of my wet things and go upstairs for a shower, switching on the heating as I go.