My phone chirped. I ignored it. It chirped again in that irritating positivity of the modern smart device. I continued to snub its implied cheerfulness already being tossed about in the informational tornado of what passes for normal. Essentially my attempt to reconcile a multi-threaded life with a single-threaded brainwas already too overloaded to deal with additional input.
Chirp. Chirp. CHIRP. Oh for fucks sake. Who wants what now? It’s Rex – a man who has never to my knowledge dipped below the level of everything is awesome – talking up the joys of a night ride on trails often ridden and recently sodden.
I looked out of the window. I do that a lot. It’s part of a job where thinking trumps doing. Fading light silhouetted fresh rain slashing against stout double glazing. Looks good to me. Fuck it. Fuck this report. Fuck stuff that matters onlytomorrow. Scuttle into the shedofdreams and impatiently prod at stuff that needs replacing on the selected bike. Phone chips again: 6:30 start. Oh bollocks to this – I’m fixing brakes and that’s not a task for the time poor.
Pull the hardtail off the wall. Give it a hard stare. Explain if it fails to light up my darkened world this time out, it may soon represent the epicentre of my welding skills project. Find lights, pump them full of electricity and clothe myself with sufficient technical apparel to waterproof a moderately sized elephant.
Night riding is not my favourite thing. It’s dark for a start. And generally it finishes with a wet arse, tired legs and a large bill*. I appreciate in London, certain gentlemen’s clubs demand limitless credit cards for such an experience, but here in autumnal Herefordshire, such things are free. Largely – in my view – because they have no value.
Oh cheer up. Blinking into a phalanx of breams,clearly scavenged from a world war II searchlight, I summarised my feelings: ‘alright fellas, I assume it’s going to be endlessly shit then. I’m just here for the beer‘. ‘Blimey it’s the Olympic Flame’ they responded* (he never goes out), ‘that big hill over there? That’s us’.
It was indeed and climbing it was nothing new. Except on a lightweight hardtail, the air-scraping of lungs passeda little easier. Arriving at the ridge of our little, local sugarloaf we flicked lights to max, to dropthrough a leafy carpet shrouding an old trail somehow morphed into something new under the cover of darkness.
Good that. Took me a while to remember five inches of rear suspension travel cannot be simply mimicked by middle aged ankles. Need to move about more. That was good too. My expectations were so low that even a groundswell of mud felt more like dry trails. Grip was variable through, so both breaking traction and carving turns outed the inner giggler.
No one was more surprised than I that this was actually properlyfun. Autumn and winter for me are about staying vaguely fitand impatiently waitingfor Spring. Still. compact as these woods are – being boundedby a town and an escarpment – two hours of climbing their steep sides and plunging back into the deep valleyswas something close to joy,
It’s fun – and there’s no other word that works here – to watch lights switch-back below you while theremaining stubborn leaves deaden every sound. Even when I over-estimated both the grip and my ability, a sojourn into a thorny bush still made me laugh -especially when the rider behind turned up: ‘As you were Jim, I’ll just be having a minute here, away you go‘. We chuckled. As you do. When you’re doing stupid things.
In a moment of inappropriate confidence, I lobbed the hardtail down a greasy rock face oft ignored on the grounds of extreme dentistry if it goes wrong. it went mostly wrong and the minds-eye of an Al spatchcocked on the rock below was narrowly mitigatedby said rider basically closing his eyes and renouncing his atheism for about 3 seconds.
Heart rate about 180. Grin nearly as wide. Headed for home with the people who make this thing seemcloser to real life that the stuff I do in the daylight. Most of whom forsake dirt for tarmac when the pub was in sight. Got to fill that calorie gap somehow.
I still don’t enjoy night riding much. I probably need to MTFU. But rather than succumb to the positivity of my fruit based device, I’m going the other way. Assume it’s going to be endlessly shit and revel in the times when it isn’t.
And when it is, well, that’s what the post ride beer is for. Ignore thedogma thatmistakes are merelyexperience. Wrong emotion. Regret is for the things you do not do. Mistakes follow.
So when the rain is trying to get throughthe window, I suggest you surprise it by turning up on the other side. Together you are likely to have a great time. Especially if your friends have done the same.
* We’re not talking ducks or the like here. It’s not like we’re harvesting the beaks of innocent animals. Really, what stories you’ve heard about living in the country? Anyway that’d leave no time for cow-tipping.