An expanse of parkland, a thin layer of mist hanging above the grass, sun peeping through the trees
The last of the morning mist in Phoenix Park

Ride distance: 57km
Beverage: espresso

I spent an hour on Tuesday fettling the fixed-gear: swapping pedals, fitting the rack for the saddlebag, tensioning the chain. Slathering each link of the chain with wet lube, thick as olive oil but a lurid, chemical green that no sane person would put in their mouth. Then the rest of the day watching the rain, heavy showers building to a steady downpour. The following day, the shakedown ride: a couple of hours on flat roads, nothing hectic, classic winter riding.

I slipped out through the back door to the city, the gates of Phoenix Park at Farmleigh. The closed roads around the perimeter of the park attract an odd cross-section of cyclists, from nervous wrecks and invalids too frail for the open roads to headbangers in full TT rig out for some heads down, no nonsense, mindless boogie. Even the Prince of Darkness himself once put in three laps of the circuit, shelling star-struck wheelsuckers with each charge up the Khyber Pass.

From there, the rat-run along the walls of Luttrellstown, low buzz of tension from impatient drivers skirting the M50 toll gates, until I hit open countryside behind Westmanstown. Along the R149, a hedgerow where every single tree had been felled in the recent storms. The rusted but ornate gates and crumbling walls of once great estates. The towers of the Intel plant visible in the distance. Fields raising the annual winter crop of grey-brown mud. The flats stretch to the horizon, all the long, steady miles you can eat. Three hours is usually plenty, four a hard maximum.

On the way back into town, I stopped in Islandbridge for coffee at Storyboard. Storyboard is a rare stop for me, awkwardly placed: heading out, I’m just getting warmed up; coming home, the attraction of hot water applied externally usually trumps that of hot coffee applied internally. But it’s a nice café in the modern, well-lit, minimalist style — even the exposed ductwork in the ceiling looks clean, deliberate. Decent espresso, Dungarees blend from Farmhand, a Dublin roastery that was new to me. I must be less stand-offish this winter.

Interior of cafe, showing the counter with menu on blackboard behind it, exposed pipes in the roof, a small pile of pumpkins on the floor
Post-industrial chic at Storyboard

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?