Beyond bored of the filth. Properly and totally fucked off with it. Six months of November compressed into six weeks. False spring in February triggered two months of Autumn come March. In the twenty of so rides since endless rain became the weather event of choice, only twice has the sock drawer been harvested for a non waterproof item.
The Uglyguards are a constant companion. As are the sounds of a drive train crying for help / grinding its own suicide note. I’ve given up cleaning the bike, instead artfully positioning it in an occasional sunshine arc, before beating it with a brush to hammer off the worst of the mud.
Upsides? Reaching a bit here so let’s go with System 1 mud skills* and, er, no, wait for it, there’s more, really, no don’t go, nearly there, ah yes Bluebell day. That herald of Spring was as optically visceral as ever. Broad lakes of purple split by damp dirt tributaries. Beer and non shivering t-shirt action to follow. Felt great but did not feel like early May.
Nature whinges less than me. Just gets on with carpeting the forest floor with bluebells and wild garlic. Up top the skeletal canopy leafs up and casts shadows on the trails below. And us, grateful for an organic umbrella as the next storm rolls in. We’ve had hours of the much anticipated dry trails, hero dirt between the puddles, pub ready without a jetwash. Days tho, they’ve been full of rain, thunder and latterly hail. Black as a winters night, and about as appealing.
This is normally my favourite time of the year to ride. Twixt between Easter and the late May bank holiday. 2023 had a cheeky extra as some old fella was anointed with a funny hat while the Met ‘without fear or favour‘ arrested anyone who’d mistaken government sponsored censorship for our much trumpeted democracy.
Rained on the bugger tho. Probably should have learned the lesson of Canute. Rained on us as well, but we’re numb to it now, arriving at a ride start waterproofed, hardtail’d and mostly stoical**.
Slide about for a few hours, idly wonder if the trails will ever dry out and more importantly consider the best way to drop back into the valley on a trail that’s not going to displace you from a much needed pint.
Displace being a synonym for disadvantage, dismember or disembowel. I consider myself a ‘tree whisperer’ after two months of taking a bead on some innocent bark while grip, steering and stopping are mostly happening to other people. Assuming those people are in Spain riding dusty dry trails.
Which is where we should be in two weeks. Italy not Spain but still a 1,000 mile due south. Current weather there somehow mirrors our own storm tossed island, so I may be grateful for those hard slid mud skills. I won’t be though, I’ll be bloody annoyed. Molini was awesome last September. It wasn’t insane to assume riding the start of June it’d be even better. Which is an odd way to spell wetter.
But for all of that, this. My friend Jenn Hopkins (Great rider, fearless adventurer, awesome human being, cruelly lost to cancer at the age of 38) once sat me down and explained forthrightly (probably while I was hosting a one man seminar on why today was so shit) ‘Hey, the sun is shining, you’re in control of you’re own arms and legs, you’re on your bike, the rest is gravy, you’re the luckiest person in the world‘
She was right. Because between the hurumphing of internet forecasts, the sighs as another rainstorm hits the windows, the crumbling drivetrain graunching through the gears, the frustrating loss of traction when mud is in the ascendancy, there is a continuum, a reference point, a happy place – that is riding bikes with your friends.
It’s a simple test. Would I rather be on the sofa impotently shouting at rain clouds, or be amongst them? Wait for the storm to pass or dance in the rain. I do not want to wait. I am not going to rage against the weather. Well maybe a bit, but only when I’m sat on one of my fantastic bikes doing what others are not.
Find me a ride where going out has been trumped by staying inside. Tell me when dicking about in the soggy dirt is somehow less of an experience than cosplaying adulthood. Explain the difference between getting out and giving in. Arms, legs, sunshine, bikes, gravy. Jenn had it right for sure.
Every time I hoik a filthy bike onto the trailer under broken skies, I can’t help but proxy a bit of Maverick from the original Top Gun “Keep sending him up’ I mutter. Sending myself up is the key to getting ahead of other members of the ‘Slitherati‘ who never miss an opportunity to take the piss. As it should be, BlokeTherapy*** is a big part of why I ride.
Extending that to the pub, we turn mud into dirt, dirt into stories and stories into memories. We remember sunny rides but our happiest reminisces are the broken, the grim, the wet, the benighted. The hard stuff baseline that elevates the dry and dusty to the perfect living in the moment.
Light and dark. Wet and dry. Mud and dust. Two sides of the same thing. Riding bikes is a journey you’ve chosen. Important to remember that. Even when it’s pissing it down.
*I’ve been re-reading ‘thinking fast and slow‘. You should too. It’s properly thought provoking.
** Not sure the Stoics have been authentically recorded as offering a ‘For fucks sake, six weeks of rain, really I’m just meant to shrug my shoulders and marvel at the majesty of the weather?’
***I suppose we could talk about our feelings. But ‘Matt, want a hand there or were you intending to prostrate yourself face down in that innocent vegetation?’ feels a bit more authentic 😉