Lost and Found

Tea and Cake

Blokes like lists. We do, it’s just the way we’re wired. Which is exactly why our level of engagement on receipt of ‘the 10 best ways to make something explode‘ is far higher than on being asked ‘so what do you think of this sofa in that shade of lilac?*“. But ask us for a sequence of famous soft furnishes in action movies and we’re your man. As long as we’re allowed to start at one and count no further than the combined sum of our digits.

Primacy in my ‘the worse time to ride a new bike‘ was firmly inked in under ‘the day before a family holiday‘ as explained in a previous post. Which partially** explains a first-up riding performance imbued with sufficient mincing to properly offend a vegetarian. But this entry at the top of the chart was summarily ejected by a ride prefixed by ten days of solid eating and one night of three hours sleep. Conditions didn’t help either. Unless helping has it’s own list where 1: dark 2: wet 3: frictionless and 4:muddy as fuck are universally accepted as ‘things most likely to help a very tired man on an unfamiliar bike

They didn’t. Not this one anyway. Riding mountain bikes when every glistening polished root promises violence and every corner is merely a pointer to a nice tree to crash into requires many things. Tell you what let’s lets get our list making skills out; 1: familiarity of the trail, 2: familiarity of the bike 3: familiarity of the tyres 4: confidence that 3: and 2: will overcome the obstacles of 1:, 5: balls of if not steel then some kind of ferrous metal.

I knew the trails but noting else. Couldn’t work out what the hell was going on under the tyres or on the pedals. Everything felt new and awkward. Nothing worked, gentle pushes on the bar or full blooded attempt to take the trail by the tail. I knew exactly where we were but I was lost. No reference points, no feel for the trail, no tactical solutions. No idea at all. It wasn’t a happy ride other than the bit where it finished without a bark splattered Al.

This wasn’t the bike I demo’d. It wasn’t anything fun at all. Clearly the problem couldn’t be with me, so a list of possible fixes filled my head as two days later the bike was unloaded on a blissfully quiet FoD***. First climb, horrid. Bouncy, thrutchy, too much rebound, it was the lilac sofa on wheels. Just nasty. Pack off, shock pump out, few quick inflations justified by the worryingly svelte-not of Al. Better, but still not right. The bike felt heavy and dead, and it just didn’t want to go.

First descent. Nearly planted myself into a tree. I realise there is a common theme here. Lists again; most likely place to have an accident 1: tree 2: tree 3: tree 4:tree …. 10:rock 11: rock in front of a tree, etc. Even in the Malverns where there aren’t many trees, I’ve still hit most of them. It’s a skill. So even less svelte than was my post holiday delusion. Fuck it, get pumping like a porn star and wind out the unwanted bronco. Rode the section again, lots better but still not right. Repeat until the magic settings coalesced into some proper carving turns, a pop off a jump and a big grin.

Close enough. Rode the rest of the trail without a pause. Took it easy on the last descent because mud and new bikes are not speedy bedfellows. Took 15 seconds off my best time. It’s absolutely all about the bike. Even factoring in purchase anxiety, this is a truly phenomenal bit of kit. A frankly ridiculous six inches of travel but not a wallowy uphill mess. Endless traction but still plush climbing over rocks. Mad poppy fun off jumps but still running through the travel. Stiff as a teenage boy with his first copy of the Internet, but low slung and playful in the bends.

I shall need to up my game by some distance to get anywhere near what this bike can do. Designer Cy suggest the simple technique of death-gripping the bars and focussing on some distant dot on the horizon. I’ve been trying this lately with some mildly astounding results. Including keeping up with my Orange-5 shod riding pal who previously gapped me on every descent. But I’m absolutely aware that the bike can only take me so far, and I’m probably not brave enough to meet it even half way.

Still I’m going to have a lot of fun trying. I wasn’t sure what I lost by selling the ST4. And I’m not sure exactly what I’ve found with the Rocket. It’s not a sit down skills compensator. It doesn’t take a trail and sanitise the difficulty so sir can get on with admiring the view. It demands you come to the party and leave your list of excuses at home.

There very little here not to like.

* Illustrative point here. Northern carriers of the Y chromosome have no concept of lilac. The more cultured may believe it is some form of plant. It is never a colour.

** But not totally. For that look in the book of excuses marked ‘lack of bravery’.

*** This was when I could still ride on a weekday. Before a job turned up and demanded my attention. It’s playing bloody hell with my Strava performance.

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