It’s been a source of some gratification that I’ve seamlessly transplanted my rambling style from mountain bikes to all manner of other nonsense. Bypassing the old adage to write about what you know, instead I’ve written a shit load of drivel about stuff I know nothing about. What’s even more surprising is that you lot keep coming back to read it. I’m not sure if that’s encouraging or just plain scary.
Anyway, with a barn load of bikes and little excuse not to go riding, last weekend provided the perfect early winters day to detox my pie laden body. For reasons of apathy and antipathy, the core of my riding cluster has imploded to just the Bracknell Two?. Both riding proper manly hardtails but ensuing the lentalist nonsense that is singlespeeding to the power or retro. Honestly, the car park was littered with these machines lacking suspension, decent brakes and any form of obvious enjoyment.
It’s like the ancient sixties car population in Cuba except without any vestige of cool. Still I soon found myself cursing their simple, if difficult to pedal transmission, as rain soaked trails dispatched my gears to a dark and muddy place. My friend was suffering almost not as all since he has one of these fancy internal hub gears, and hadn’t spent a couple of hours fixing his bike the previous night. Yet again, in the face of all historical precedent, spanners were twirled with wild abandon in the mythical search for mechanical perfection.
Actual result in the cold, sober morning light was nothing more than a loose connection between shifting and gears. Cogs refused to engage as I desperately thumbed the shifter, and then viciously dropped three gears when I stamped angrily on the pedals. Luckily I was saved from a difficult head first dismount by a stout contact between helmet and handlebar.
Meanwhile, Nige having no trouble with the Cannondale Bastard? (so named because various non standard parts have been carefully angle grinded onto it’s once pristine frame) whooping and swooping through the slippy singletrack with nary a slip of gear of tyre.
My choice of Panaracer Certain Death? rubber provided a predictable response when the merest whiff of moistness contaminated any part of the bike. They slid sideways in the manner of ice on diesel providing me an alternate view of the forest – mainly from underneath it.
Swinley Forrest is hard work “ not because it nestles happily between God’s boobies or due to high mortality probability trail features such as rock gardens, house sized drop offs and vengeful singlespeeders. But it’s unrelenting in terms of endless singletrack “ firstly demanding maximum effort to beat stabby climbs and then concentration as speed closes the gaps between trees. And if you’re traveling mostly sideways on the Grim Reaper’s tyre of choice, the excitement never stops.
But stop it must as my body began to extract painful payment for not enough riding and far too much partying. To distract Nige from another ten minute leg flailing, lung wheezing trail attack, we played about on a little jumpy ledge. Now I like this kind of stuff, but less so being clipped in to SPD’s on my XC bike and protected only by the power of late prayer (edge coming up, please God don’t let me hurt myself?).
It was about this point when a bolt of understanding thudded into my befuddled brain. Right now, my cross country roots are being stained dark by the instant hit of freeriding. I know I’ll end up bleaching this out through age, injury or just plain cowardice but right now, I’d rather be pushing uphill than pedalling.
But it’s all degrees of ace of course. Bikes are such a huge part of my life, that even with my Pavlovian following of marketing niches, riding any bike is nearly always better than not. My wife and kids have recognised this obsession and so have played the if you can’t beat him, then join him? card. Carol is still holding the beating option in reserve tho.
Still two things still shocked me in a similar vein to Joseph being interrupted from some light chiselling when Mary announced You’re never going to believe how I got pregnant?. Firstly rides end into a fading long night finished neither with cake or beer. This is a dangerous precedent that shall not pass into riding lore while I draw breath. Secondly, a swift audit of the Shed and the Barn shows a total of twelve bikes.
For a family of four, does that sound about right?