Boys of Summer*

Les Gets MTB holiday - June 2014

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tat, Tat, Tat, Woooarrrwwwn. I give you one of the greatest riffs ever to come from an electric guitar.** I’ve loved that track for more years than I care to remember, and listening back to it today, it rather splendidly summed up my the now fading summer.

It’s easy to lament the onset of Autumn. I should know because I do soevery year slouching ever more depressed as dead leaves carpet the trails, hardpack turns to mush, temperatures plummet and the mud comes up.

October marks five months of drudgery. From now until somewhere near eternity, every ride will notch another dirty protest, something expensive will fail or break with eyewateringly expensive frequency, but still most of what falls off will be you.

Your quest to the warm indoors will be stayed by a toll-gatebucket demanding payment of your moat like riding gear. Everything vaguely bike related will be brown except your toes and fingers which shallbe bloodless and blue.

Marvellous. That’ll wile away those long winter nights. But there’s something else to think aboutinstead; anendless loop of a brilliant summer. With most of Spring to be considered as well. After rain which started in December and stopped only after most of the country was to be found underwater, the trails amazingly dried under weak April sunshine.

And we rode and rode, revelling on dry lines raising themselves above the zombie mud.*** finding grip where forever there had been none, being able to recognise the colour of our bikes from sight rather than memory. But Christ it had been a long time coming – I remember one March Sunday ride hiding under the car tailgate as another freezing hailstorm lashed the Forest and thinking ‘You know what, I need an inside hobby‘.

May was a disappointment. Let’s not spare the lash here. I spent much of that month on it, waiting for Winter’s rain rebranded as Spring to receive a shovefrom the stuttering Jet Stream and get with the sunshine programme. But when the season ratchet finally turned. we were fit and ready to make the most of it.

There’s so much to treasure. That first short sleeved ride lasting for ever before terminating in the pub with us drinking well earned cold ones- sunnies on – under cloudless skies. Sun burned all over the place and running out of excuses to try new and scary stuff because the trails were endlessly perfect. Even when it rained, we didn’t care because soon the sun rebooted the weather firmly back to summer.

We probably should have travelled more. Aside from a couple of trail centre raids. we lapped up favourite dusty singletrack and explored the new stuff popping up all over the Forest. Rode all over the Malvern Hills at times when walkers were asleep or post-lunch comatose. Played a bit of rambler slalom which is a guilty pleasure. Sometimes it’s hard to leave when it’s so damnedgood where you are.

Then the French Alps for a week of the most simply outstanding riding with all the people who I’d most want to share it with. Ticked off the Passport De Soleil this time in the dry, and threw big bikes at bigger mountains without any long term injuries other than the long suffering liver.

Even sneaked a ride in Whister on the almost mythical trails there in almost unbearable heat. Came back to rain but so desperate to ride I didn’t care. Then perfect symmetry between failing to look for another job and rain failing to fall from the sky. 500+ of mountain biking kilometres in September on empty trails still configured for summer.

Could it get better? It could indeed. A trip to see Tony reminded me of what fast felt like, and I’ve loved every ride since even as the hardpack begins to melt under Autumn rains.

I’ve loved riding mountain bikes in 2014 so far. If anything more than ever.Sure, I’ve had a bunch of stupid crashes but ended up fitter and maybe a little bit faster than this time last year. We’ve got plans, so many plans on what happens next – and if that’s a Thomas-likerailing against the dying of the light, I’m entirely comfortable with that.

So bring it on. Your rain. Your cold. Your shitty trails. Your broken washing machines. Your motivation killers. Your “Who’d ride in this crap” challenges. I’ve a bank full of summer memories and a plan for when the solstice tips back in our favour. Until then I’ll take every ride as it comes.

And there will be spikes of enjoyment. Frozen rides perfectly lit undera big moon. Smoke pouring from those safely cosseted in front of snug fires, mistakenly under the impression they’re on the right side of the walls. Massive mud slides held with a deft hip flick or panicked wrench, dark beer on dark night and the almost inestimable feeling of not being quite like everyone else.

The time mountain biking becomes a three season sport, I officially lose. It’s not going to be this year. The boys of summer may have gone, but the grizzled old veterans of Autumn and Winter are layering up ready to go.

* Yes, fully appreciate this is at best stretching a metaphor and at worst a lie, but if Don Henley can sing it when he’s the wrong side of 50, I feel we’re in good company.

** You may disagree. I suggest you spend some time on the Internet. They’ll be some nutters with whom you can find common ground.

*** Sucks the life out of you. Potentially bloody and dangerous.


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