Or, as the Internet generation insists on calling it, MTFU. That’s a good start to end the nonsense of a New Year, with the geo-virtual warriors stuck fat behind keyboards pedalling their forum-based snake-oil distilled from pseudo-science and delusional self belief.
Move about more, eat a bit less has always worked for me. Even when I’m elbows deep in a Stilton Massacre and reaching for the port. Because tomorrow I shall sally forth from my feckless munificence to point a muddy foot at the querulously crapulent*
So tomorrow comes and I go into the default mode of not really wanting to back hubristic boasts with any physical effort. No matter, my friend Matt – the master of the winter death march – suggests an early start and a late finish interspersed with a few surprisingly dry trails and whole lot more trudgery of the first, second and third degrees.
Degrees of both latitude and longitude. First up, then down, mostly sideways and occasionally in a state of peril. A 9:30 meet assembles only two riders, but four sets of lights, three pairs of spare gloves, multiple additional layers and – because this is a training ride – money for beer.
The composition of a riding group potentially makes perfect trail music or discordant harmonies when a single member fails to ride to the beat. With just the two, there’s a lamentable absence of faffing and few hiding places. Other than those off-the-trail ‘resting areas‘ best found afterdesperately ejecting from a bucking bicycle.
Heading out on local trails and then abandoning the same some 45 minutes later, we stiffened suspension** and upper lips, before bending tarmac to our weak-winter will in a quest to find a favourite downhill some two valleys distant. This is not trail-centre riding, the good stuff must be earned through raspy-breath climbs, tremendously muddy cut throughs and head-windy yomps across seasonally bleak landscape.
All good. Or at least better than being inside. Soon we’re splatigating*** to a much loved trail, autumn leaves hiding winter mud and suggesting discretion trumps valour in terms of speed and bravery. Still fab tho in the kind of sideways type riding that always feel like fun at the time. Until someone nuts a tree.
Soon we found solace at the FoD Cafe and all things central for those who can’t be arsed to pedal. The gravitational pull of the uplift truck and the pies can clearly be seen as the extremely-upholstered slide off lovely bikes and stretch lycra with not-very-earned cake.
Not us of course. Honed athletes and all that. 20km in and we’re destroying bacon and egg sandwiches with the zeal of men last fed some days ago. But not for us a lap of easy, no we went hard on softtrails oft ridden to point muddy bikes at the Yat where every trailhad a Coroner Verdict of ‘assisted suicide’ written all over it.
Except Matt felt this lacked ambition. Instead we added another 90 minutes pushing increasingly confident lines into surprisingly grippy corners. Which in no way stopped me casing a couple of jumps fully justifying expensive forks andtheir inherent ‘don’t throw the idiot over bars‘ functionality.
Finally we began to head home – still some 25km from roofs and warmth – as the early sun disappeared behind dirty clouds, and legs began to make the kind of excuses suggesting this could be a bit of an epic journey.
It was and it wasn’t. Matt and I have been friends enough to know our strengths (mainly his) and weaknesses (mostly mine), ensuring we make the best use of drafting, encouragement, piss taking, and shared-pain as the kilometres oh-so-slowly pass by.
When your mental cartography spikes every known climb and the long road home, it’s time to stuff that into a box marked ‘stop whining‘ and just get on with it. Because getting on with it encompasses two wheel drifts, desperate saves and the occasional unscheduled punt into the shrubbery. On stoppingfor a rare breather under grey-clamped skies and fading light with much still to do, Matt declared ‘I fucking love mountain bikes‘ and I couldn’t do anything but agree.
And lie down for a bit of a rest. After riding like a twat for about three weeks, I finally got my shit together and made endorphic things happen leaving the brakes alone, disconnecting my hind brain and sashaying from entry to apex. It felt terribly real and important, so entirely missing from the whole Strava-Esque ‘am I going faster than someone I’ve never met?‘
Then the rain came. Then the last off road climb was done. Then the last descent was as well- without the injuries it promised. We rode past two favourite pubs as the weather closed in with legs pretty much in limp home mode. It’s been far too many weeks since I’ve pushed my body this hard for so long.
Needed to be done. Felt worthy. And shaky on the final little road climb to a pub some 1km from home. Beer tasted great but not as good as a chair for some much needed sitting down. We left in the pissing rain and howling wind, but that’s fine because we’re a month into winter, and a single big ride prepping for Spring.
Sometimes you really just need to ride, ride and ride. For six hours and sixty five kilometres withover a thousand metres of climbing. Because what else are you going to be doing?
Inside is overrated.
* this is a real adjective. Vaguely remembered from a long abandoned dusty classroom and confirmed by the power or Wikipedia. Really I couldn’t be happier
** No idea when I do this. Because it’s only as we roll into the pub some five hours later do I twig it never got switched back. Not that I noticed much.
** like navigating. Only mostly sideways.