It’s about time..

Malvern Night Ride

… I started night riding again. But much of my non participation is easily parcelled into the excuse that ‘it’s about time‘ just as well. My feasting of late summer turned into a rain-swelled riding famine come adark, wet but mostly working autumn. Stupidly early starts, endless late finishes and far too much of our fine capital* in between.

Two weeks ago we floundered about in the fog looking for familiar trails and – for me – my lost fitness and motivation both sucked dry by too many liquid evenings staring out into dark, rainy skies. A work/life balance pivoted by other peoples deadlines and trying to be the perfect new boy.

It was fine and everything, but thelistlessness of that evening foreshadowed an overburdened immune system gradually succumbing to a new medical condition best thought of as ‘flanmoo‘** rendering me pretty much incapable of any physical activity over and above having a little moan. It passed eventually so time to get back out there.

It’d been dark quite a while whenthe car beeped an ice warning on my way into the hills. Some effort of will required to remove oneself from the warm embrace of a heated cage to go play in the real world. Very much worth it tho, as within five minutes astounding technical modern fabrics and a rather more ancient vascular system upped the internal temperature gauge to ‘moderately toasty

Until I needed a tree stopor – as I like to think of it – ‘wee is just warmth leaving the body‘ about five minutes in. No matter much more climbing to turn up the heat before a couple of sketchy descents where the gloriously dry trails were occasionally hidden under 20 yards of mud. Experience has taught me that the best approach to such conditions is to relax, point the bike in the general direction of safety and stick Newton in the driving seat.

Dry trails are the result of Nature’s hairdryer which was blowing at 30 knots plus on the tops, as we pedalled downhill into the wind and sailed splendidly on the ups. But it tool me the best part of an hour to remember exactly night riding works. Before that everything felt awkward and closed in even with amazing optics blazing 1000s of lumens for miles up front. Really you need to disengage most of you peripheral vision and make bloody sure you look where you want to go, because if you start focussing your brain on a ‘show me that rock‘ game, there’s only going to be one outcome.

That said, it’s brilliant fun knowing there’s no walker ambling round the next corner or a awkwardlyplaced conservator marking time at the start of your favourite cheeky trail. And on a clear night like this, there are views all the way to Birmingham and amusingly bugger all lit up the other way towards Wales. The valley is full of smoking chimneys drafting the expired breath of the time-expired humans who believe they’re on the right side of their insulated walls.

We had a minute where that ^^ image was captured and for about the millionth time I found myself entirely at peace with the world whenriding bikes with my friends. Life feels really very complex sometimes until you suddenlyget hit with a ‘this is why‘ moment. Christ why can’t we bottle that, and take a sipevery time the real world intrudes into what should be a pretty simple operating condition?

Pretention over and shivering a bit, we headed up one more time – straining into a headwind – to ritually tap the trig point before turning round and blasting downhill pushed alongby wind and laughter. Loose rocks, steep pitches, decent sized drops moon backlit in silhouette allflowing underfast rotating wheels. Stuff of life this.

Just once more into the fray, we cried slurry rather than Harry as the dryconditions deteriorated into sticky, tyre filling mud rendering them entirely useless for anything other than sliding about in a mildly comedic fashion. It’s a night for flat pedals with much tripod-ing of corners and last minute saves. And it’s a night for giggling like a ten year old, messing about outside under this natural planetarium and wondering why the hell this ever seemed difficult.

Motivation is a strange thing. I rode tonight because it really was about time and choosing how to fill it. But it was still a stretch to remove insufficiently motivated arse from warm sofa. And yet 30 minutes later, it’s basically undistllled joy and adrenaline spikes.

There’ll be some shit rides this winter. At night and in the semi-perpetual darkness which passes as daylight during December, January and February. But for every one of those there will be many, many more of these.

For six weeks I have made decisions about what’s important, and I have chosen poorly. Tonight reminds me why I need to make bloody sure this doesn’t become a bad habit I can’t break. Roll on next Tuesday.

* to clarify – if the irony doesn’t leap off the page – how the fuck does that place even work? It’s like the matrix without the red pill.

** A spoonerism of ‘manflu‘ with exactly the same symptoms except no one else notices or shows any sympathy. Even when the snotty patient is flopped on the sofa idly wondering if ‘he should go towards the light

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