Yesterday turned out to be one of those rides that took on an organic life of its own. Plan A was to head over to Edale then potter around the Jacob's Ladder / Roych Clough Loop with a flock of STWers, which is where it began. Bright and beautiful across the Roych, ten-foot snow drifts still there but now hard, grippy and rideable, stepping over gate tops near South Head. Dodging crevasses and body-shaped cavities in the snow. Like Everest but without the red-socked remains.
And somewhere near the ford, surfing snow waves, a small voice in the back of my head started whispering, 'Cut Gate, you could head over there instead.' And by the time I'd reached the Rushup road, the idea had gathered layers like a falling hailstone and become something bright and glittery.
Pottered over Rushup in a pool of warm anticipation then gunned the right-hand descent from Hollins in a mess of sludge and frozen slush - new steps there - before climbing gently, steadily, sub-threshold up Jaggers, down Spud Alley and over to Fairholmes for duck spotting and water before rolling along the reservoir side to the bottom of Cut Gate.
Draggy, slow, anticipation-starred climb up onto the moors proper, where the snow was waiting with open arms and a five-mile intermittent drift of deceptively slippy, sugary but just about rideable snow. But it wasn't really about the riding, more just being up there and the peace and the views and the solitude and the lack of buzzing digital noise and radios and the brutal racket of car tyres on wet roads.
And being alone leaves you the space to appreciate your friends. So screw Valentine's Day, this is a thank you to all my mates who've stood by me over a crap few months, the people who understand who I am and what I am, who don't make things up about me to suit their own needs, or put me down, and who've been there for me. Thanks.
Dived down Mickleden, below the snowline and into Langsett, tired and happy. Draggy rail trail home with one last sluggish road climb, tired legs turning on automatic, but knowing there's much, much more there. A lovely day. Who needs plans when you have a bike, a map and lights?
You'd have loved it.