The Christmas Ride: Wetherby – Tockwith, Sunday 12th December 2021, 36 miles.

This week’s Sunday ride was listed as the Christmas ride with lunch. This had previously taken place in Ripon but the Sun Parlour is closed at the moment so Nick and Alec had organised a Christmas lunch at The Spotted Ox in Tockwith. A dryish and relatively warm day promised a pleasant ride.

Fourteen riders assembled in the Shambles, which was busy with a Christmas Fair, occupying the marketplace and Cross Street. The full roll call was Nick, Alec, Steve B, Mike B, Glyn, Kathy, Paddy, Graham, Greg, Simon, Stuart, Steve W, Frank and me, Mark.

Obviously, as this was a Christmas ride there was an opportunity for riders to embrace the festive season and decorate their bikes and themselves appropriately. However, Christmas seemed to have come as a complete surprise to all but two of the riders – modesty prevents me from naming them but the pictures all. Despite the aero disadvantages given by tinsel and reindeer antlers, I was glad I made the effort, especially when I was treated to a rather tuneful rendition of “Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer” when passing another group.

We decided to split into two groups but headed out towards Kirk Deighton in one long ragged line. Stopping for de-group we made a split, aiming for the same destination (Spotted Ox, 11:45) with a faster group – including me, strangely – going by a more circuitous route. So, we rode up through the Deightons and into Knaresborough. The sleigh bells on my handlebars gave a ready measure of the smoothness of the roads, so there was plenty of ringing…

From Knaresborough, we headed out to Farnham and up the hill. Often the White Horse at Kilburn is visible from here but a light mist prevented this. Passing through Staveley and towards Minskip the group pace picked up as we considered the possibility of arriving late for lunch. However, by the time we got through Boroughbridge opinions had reversed and we started to make plans in case we arrived too early.

As it happens our timing was just about perfect. We rode through the Dunsforths and Ouseburns and met the other group outside Queen Ethelbergers so formed the usual tight Wheelers pack to roll into Tockwith for lunch. Glyn left here to ride home, having prior commitments, and Paddy went home to get changed. Yes, really.

There was plenty of space for parking bikes safely in the beer garden and we sat down inside to enjoy our free first drink – the Osset Blonde proved very popular. Fortunately, Nick had had the foresight to print a slip showing everyone’s menu choices which saved a lot of head-scratching. Crackers were pulled, providing hats and predictably bad jokes. Luckily the small print prevented many of the latter from being shared.

Three courses arrived with rather extended spacing, Greg managing to get hungry again between all of them. The arrival of a large shooting party in the bar probably contributed to the lack of pace but the food itself was fine. Normally there would be no rush but as we were close to the shortest day of the year and some riders did not have good lights we couldn’t afford to hang around.

Leaving the pub we headed home by various routes – a mile up the road for Simon and Nick, a return to Wetherby for many, a drive for Paddy and a potter through Boston Spa for Alec and me.

A very enjoyable social day out, a good (if slow) meal and hardly any rain. Happy Christmas everyone.