If you subscribe to Wikipedia, ground effect is “the name given to the positive influence on the lifting characteristics of the horizontal surfaces of an aircraft wing when it is close to the ground. ”
If you ride Mountain Bikes through all the seasons, Ground effect is the “name given to the positive influence of emerging vegetation horizontal to a previously muddy surface close to the ground”
The wild garlic is out, a few early bluebells are out, the sun is out and we are “out out“*. After February cosplaying June’s rainfall, March redressed the balance with rain everyday unless it was the turn for sleet or sideways hail. This moist meteorological construct turned mud free trails to just mud. Our first ‘light‘ night ride finished without lights, but the winter companions of wet, filth and steep trail jeopardy continued to outstay their welcome.
So with an Easter forecast promising sun, double digit temperatures and warmer mud, we yomped out to the Yat. Cold start, chilly in the wind, warm under the climbing sun, we stripped layers to follow it, finding trails mostly mud free right up to the point they weren’t.
More grip than expected, but often just a little bit less than you need. “Little‘ doing some heavy lifting here after we switched valley sides and chose to descend back to the river on a slick track offering either sweating limestone or not quite dry enough slick earth. But before that, there were new trails to ride.
New to me anyway. News of some rocky slabs had percolated through the WhatsApp group so we were keen to try them while they were hot. Spicy for sure with all sorts of shapes being thrown over no roll features, rolling into no obvious exit features, and exiting down steep muddy chutes. The latter offering your riding Hobson a choice between making the tight corner or braking on dirt brothered by glass from another mother.
Such good fun under more blue than we’d seen for a month. Applying winter skills hard learned under leaden skies to similar conditions but feeling distanced by a season. Sensors working overtime** with Spring happening all around regardless of our own sense of the season ratchet grindingly stuck on ‘for fucks sake, 14 days more rain forecasted‘
All that is forgotten with our criss-crossing of much vertical. My legs are sadly not solar powered though, and it’s a grind to our final top out is on a trail that’s known to be a bit lively after rain. The precipitation of the previous month suggests it’s probably been reanimated.
Sentient or not we’re committed to a fast approach into a plummeting fall line qualifier for a bombhole that’s fast in, fast out or fast in and crash out. When it’s this slick, fate is mostly in the riding seat. Which is where she should stay for the next 20 seconds of limestone teeth keen to take a bite out of you. Summer you ride them like a toothbrush, yesterday navigate like a toothpick.
Next section pretty anticlimactic (other than the search for a miserable anti-mtber who is keen to share his views with nobody who cares). Then we find the motherlode of his angst, a group of kids***, some shirtless, all riding bikes with truly shit tyres, a few whooping, a few more lying down in the dirt, those upright mostly pushing.
We pushed politely through eliciting cries of ‘these guys are going to make this look so easy‘. Have to say I’m shallow enough to take that as a testament to my skills, composure and – most importantly – appropriate tyres choice. Also have to say that was the EXACT moment it all went a bit wrong with Jim one bike ahead keen to reposition the rear axle as the steering fulcrum. As he was flipping ends, I was laughing until my rear tyre went full trade union to join his slithering picket line.
Yeah I bet those kids were super impressed with our skills. At this point, I was less concerned in burnishing my image, because there was a certain priority to keeping that image right side up and occasionally on both pedals. Mostly tho I was proceeding sideways in the vanguard of the new sport I’m naming ‘unipedal’
Like a demented hokey pokey, the leg was in, out and often shaking about. Performative balance performing badly. Stayed on the bike but a no point did I make it look easy. Ride like you think no one is watching and all that.
After making up some nonsense about how “I’d barely had a dab” we decanted ourselves into our favourite pub where well earned cold beer was accessorised with single layers, sunnies and a vague notion than sunblock might have been a good idea.
A better idea was a second beer. Right up until the 10km ride home. After a smidge under 55km supported on 1125m of climbing, those non solar powered legs were mostly in limp home mode. Ram raid on the fridge and a shower sluicing salt off my face revived me sufficiently for a Pizza and beer evening at Matt’s which was even better than it sounds.
Tomorrow off to Afan for the first time in 3 years. I have the perfect trail centre bike for that. Because, well, me I’ve decided to take something entirely inappropriate instead. But the sun will be shining again, I’ll be be riding with my friends and there will surely be a beer to finish.
I could get used to this. Hello Spring, we have missed you.
*(c) Micky Flannigan.
***anyone under the age of 40.