Half light, soft around the edges - mentally as well as visually. My soundtrack is wet. Tyres parting standing water on tarmac, almost sticky sounding. Rain tapping on my helmet like a secretary keen to get home at the end of a Friday afternoon. It gets heavy enough that I can feel individual stair rods drilling into my back. It is nearer midday than midnight, I've had my light on since I set off. Rain is illuminated in the blinking light, strobing and slowing down before dropping out of sight, hurrying over its final few inches to contact.
I sit on the bus. Five hours ago I was being driven at well over a hundred miles per hour down the German autobahn watching unfamiliar, yet not totally alien landscape pass by. All the same notes, just in a different order. Flatter, hillier, bigger, different colours, the same colours. Before the autobahn, when if felt safer to look out of the passenger window, I hunted trails in the forest that lined the road, yearning to be pedalling. There, or anywhere. A flight and a train journey brings me back to Leeds. Home? Kind of. A small shopping bag of food for one sits next to me. Solitude feels good after 48 hours of (good) company. I miss being alone with someone though.
I correct my steering for the 43rd time that second. I feel my quads strain as I power through the big gear, staying on top of it, feeling the rear drift away from me, throwing an arc of sloppy mud to my right. I relax and let the bike settle into its new line, blinking grit from my eyes, spitting it from my mouth, watching a drop of condensation from the end of my nose land on the stem, instantly mixing with a globule of decomposing leaf matter. Straight back, hands resting on the hoods, forearms perpendicular to the ground, I pick up pace, the gradient tips increasingly in my favour. I shift my hands to the drops, move my weight back and try to remember if there are any nasties lurking at the bottom of the enormous puddle. I unzip the water and pass through with just a sodden trailing foot as evidence of my passing. Home? Closer.