Reduced to stealing Movie titles, basic politeness dictates a cursory summary of the franchise; first one amusing and clever, second one tired and rubbish, third one somewhere in between. Although Doc naming his kids Jules and Vern was a stroke of genius. I do recall struggling to separate Marty’s girlfriend from the patio she was standing on* in terms of acting prowess. On reflection, you’d have to conclude the deck was slightly less wooden.
Still talking titles, my last two posts could’ve been better named ‘navel‘ and ‘gazing‘ or conjoined to declare ‘you’ve suffered enough‘, so this week we’re back to the Hedgehog Heartland of bikes and bollocks. The first being campaigned through a tranche of proper winter, with the second merely being frozen.
Tuesday is ride night. No excuses. No neshing out. No complaining of tiredness or rain or darkness or it just not being summer. The Flipperati** ride out astride their mighty steeds in haughty defiance of inclement weather and endless grim’n’slop which best define the joy of a four-season outdoor sport. Well two of us do, with the third musketeer – Portos, Ambros and Deadloss, I don’t like to ask which one I am – still crocked from launching himself onto a fist sized pointy rock back in Tenerife.
So off we set and I’d rather wished we hadn’t. Riding parameters defined in the first ten seconds. To your left sloppy mud piled on road margins, to your right trees devoid of foliage but still holding a depressing volume of wet. And in the middle cracking ice – gunshot loud as fat tyres crept by. Nights like this force a re-evaluation of Gym misery amongst the grim sweatiness of fading resolutions. But not for long as warmth – gestated by elven-magic’d technical clothing – spreads from your core to unfeeling fingers.
I’d chosen a raffish seasonal outlook sporting ancient ski knee socks plus-fouring a set of roadie bib tights themselves accesorised by a pair of baggy shorts of indeterminate age and fit. Up top it was the buff carefully arranged for the folically challenged, with everything in the middle being expensive and ready to repel wind, cold, sleet and – if required – borders.
Soon we were climbing into the hills at the slightly uncomfortable pace of a man winching 30lbs of fantastic trail bike all the time attempting to coat-tail a younger and somewhat fitter rider sprinting away. 30 minutes later we’d abandoned any thoughts of dropping back under trees branch lined with the mental scars of last weeks two hour mud slide. No, wiser and significantly less splattered we headed high onto the frozen Tundra of the lower Worcestershire Alps marvelling at the world’s first planetarium exhibited above, and tucked up houses steaming welcoming smoke in the valley.
First time down brought with it the inevitable descent into carnage. And, if Jez’s shout of ‘fuuuuuuccck’ hadn’t synapsed some lethargic nerve endings, possibly Australia such was the bottomless black hole I barely wrenched around. ‘Where the hell did that come from’ predictably whined I ‘it wasn’t there the last time we were up here‘. That’d be about a few months ago, before the Malverns were twinned withSodom and Gomorrah . Fair point well made.
Points still to be made, we dropped into an organic halfpipe crafted by ancient Britons and now ridden sketchily by us. Ice is funny stuff especially on grass ***, feeling cold but sounding fiery as wheels crackled in zero degree pyromania, while those on top cackled with uncomplicated mirth at the silliness of it all. Laughter cut short after a natural table top ended abruptly in a puddle. Except it was -4 by this time, so that puddle was ice and I was all tank-slappery for more moments that a man of my age should be subjected too.
Creeping down a steep fireroad, brakes modulated to the max and feeling for grip that’s on-off-off-off-off-ohshityes-on, the valley floor said hello and pointed us back ever upwards. We slavishly followed contours on now white grass until the trails turned back to brown and, for the first time in approximately ever, rock hard. Released from months of slogging, we let rip abandoning the very safety margins much needed when tree covered tracks threw winter right back at us.
Weird conditions. One minute, summer hard from the axles down, the next a sloppy mess swishing rear wheels in thirty degree arcs. Fast then slow with a transition best labelled fairly terrifying. Good dirty fun, proper life stuff, sensation overload on feet, hands, legs and arms. The tiredness and ‘is it worth all the ball-ache’ of an hour ago now completely banished. Let me bottle this and mainline a hit once a day to get through a shitty week.
A fast rocky blast off the top had me loving the pain of hauling big bikes up steep climbs. A little later I was doubly glad of all that talent compensation as the GPS recorded well over 50kph during a somewhat unplanned plummet – lights bouncing and fingers twitching for the brakes – from a not oft descended hill. There’s talk of close calls and the over-use of the phrase ‘fuck me, that was a bit lively‘ as we wearily traversed a final summit opening up the chance to chase the North Star home. Line astern, summer fast, wheels locking up, apex’s going one way and line choice the other.
I read this and it sounds like nonsense. There’s nothing here I can hammer out as a word-searching wordsmith to make any kind of sense. Instead let me try and explain something far more important; when we ride mountain bikes with star-y skies above and frozen trails below, it is not some kind of leisure activity. It is instead an absolute privilege.
We’d do well to remember that.
* Read on, read on, it’s not what you might be thinking you filthy rapscallions.
** Similar to the Twitterati but more douche bags than hash tags. And, in a departure from many mountain bikers, actually undertaking the activity outside rather than being awesome behind a keyboard
*** If you have a particularly perverted sense of humour.