This was one of many teachings from an old school friend. He was a nutters’ nutter, mischievous to the power of insane and almost every time my teenage years were crossed with big trouble, John was chief provider of the big ideas.
Ideas that on the surface had an elegant simplicity, but scratch beneath that and the horror of what might follow immediately became apparent. Generally with older people looking extremely upset and the destruction of property.
For example, if a few of us thought shinning up trees and stealing apples was a bit of wheeze, John’d stand by, look puzzled for a second and then set fire to the entire garden. His reasoning was thus: “the fruit is falling out of the trees AND we’re getting roasted horse chestnuts“. See what I mean? Mad as cheese.*
The can’t hit it proclamation was confidently delivered while door-handling over the Snake Pass in the pitch darkness navigating only be memory, the interior light and a youthful naivety that death happened mainly to other people.
To pass the time before we plunged down the cliff in a fiery ball of tortured metal and soft squidgy bits, I tried to find out more. Apparently his firmly held view was that even if a great sodding dry stone wall was looming out of the black, we were perfectly safe as long – and this was the important bit – he never even glanced at it. 25 years later, I’m still alive so maybe he was on to something.
Riding last night, and again this morning, had Deja-Vu writ large as the constant worry of a big accident JUST passing me by but having so much bloody fun played on repeat. Malverns and Mud are rarely that close together but incessant rain turned hardpack to slick and autumn fall hid gripless roots. Our philosophy was waving two fingers at a proper ride, instead picking climbs entirely on the quality of they scary descents they would open up.
First one, me up front helmet light scanning for big rocks. Head for those because the ST4 isn’t a knackered old Ford Fiesta and is unlikely to be fazed by such hazards. Make lots of mistakes, ace bike compensates sufficiently for teeth not to be spread across the trail. Excess velocity into a step section has the bars clipping a railing which means you giggle a lot because the other reality would have been fairly nasty.
Route choice. Up the side of the Beacon and then off on a stupidly steep and slippy cheeky entry onto a trail barely clinging to the edge. Martin takes what I consider a sissy line around a rock slab. I go straight over and straight over the bars rolling sideways and into soft ferns on a steep angle. Clambering back up – giggling again – Martin has gone and I give chase with all sorts of looking at the wrong stuff, lights in the valley getting closer and a widening gulley nastily adjacent to this narrow singletrack the tyres are doing their best to keep me on.
Back up top via the road because tonight is all about going down. Off the top looking to pop this drop but the run in is so slippy, we turn around and head back the “normal” route. The top of which has about a 30 mile cross wind desperate to whip the wheels away and send you pin-wheeling down the slope sans bicycle.
A fast blast back to the car via a kilometre of much loved – if unsurprisingly sketchy – trail was followed by the admission that if we dodged any more bullets, we’d be in line for playing Neo in the matrix.
This morning I spent another couple of hours trying not to look at things that were scary. Most of those were glassy roots more than keen to whip your front wheel away and provide a not-at-all soft landing for your arse. Somehow mine stayed on the bike, although any FoD dwellers were subjected to many instances of the “Tripod” where two wheels are further supported by a desperately unclipped leg.
To access Tea and Medals, we took the “SheepSkull” DH track which proved the ST4 is basically a mini-DH bike with the seat down which is an excellent fins. Except I am riding at a speed so far ahead of my ability, it’s only a matter of time before I wrap my face round a tree.
Still, if you can’t see it, it can’t hit you. As good a motto for being silly in the woods with a bicycle as I’ve heard this year.
* We’ve stayed vaguely in touch and he’s now an airline Captain for a major flag carrier. One that I absolutely will never travel on.