The same semantic lore which decrees “Westwood Ho!” cannot be articulated without a piratical bent, dictates that John Inman leads on vocals whenever “Myndyd Du” hits the larynx. Maybe a bit of Mr Humphries crossed with Frankie Howerd* to really kick it; “oooooooh Mynnndndddduuuuu”. Possibly it’s just me. I find it generally is nowadays.
Certainly it felt that way when meeting up with bikes I could identify but people I couldn’t one early Sunday morning. Any earlier and it would have qualified as a night ride, but my concerns were more around a worrying lack of body fat from various competent looking individuals, and finding myself significantly under-biked.
This never happens; a lack of talent and bravery ensures a cheese-straw is never taken to a gunfight, but even bleary-early-eyed I couldn’t help but notice that my nice-personality-shame-about-the-size 4 inch travel bike was entirely oversprung by a number of six inchers and one monster DH rig pretending to be a trail bike.
Wolf? Sheep’s clothing? I think so. Not much time to worry about that since – in a break from normal FoD rider protocol – adherence to the start time was confirmed by Gentlemen Starting Their Engines. I explained to the kind fellas transporting my bike, that my presence was entirely due to some opportunistic sidling up to the FoD night ride crew and looking keen and needy when a Wales trip was being mooted.
They explained right back with a whole exotic list of fantastic trails they’d ridden, most of which were entirely unknown to me – not that this stopped me nodding knowingly and assuming moon-riding had blasted off while I hadn’t been watching. I began to worry properly until a detour sent us fetching our 57 year old guide who apparently liked to take it steady. My relief was short lived when Tony sprinted from his house showing a physique clearly missing any ravages of age or poor living.
Right then, blagging and excuses it is then. I started well on the stony climb from a car park marooned at the far end of the world’s longest one way road. A quick/slow/quick seatpost clamp fettle saw the boys disappear at a pace entirely inappropriate for a 7k climb into a nasty headwind. I caught up with them eventually providing a perfect excuse for a camera/deep breathing halt. My second attempt to close the gap ended with that holy trinity of slipping chain/maximum power and gonads on the stem. On the way down I deaded a leg, which slowed me further for the entire ride, although the fire in my bollocks somewhat overrode any competing medical condition.
Gingerly remounting, I managed a few more strokes** before hopping off and limping upwards on a bouldery causeway that opened up some lovely views I entirely failed to enjoy due to throbbing grunties. And even though I was so far behind, Gary had carefully explained my special needs navigation ensuring I wasn’t left to sit astride alone on Lord Hereford’s knob. Good job too, already way too much action DOWN THERE already.
First descent, proper old school. Moorland wide tracks, little drops into wind bashed peat, gulleys, easy gradient, absolutely no corners. I passed a couple ensuring that John and Frankie were vocally active “just passing on your RIGGGGHHHHTTT”. That’ll be a result of the testicle slam some ten minutes earlier. Enjoying it so much, only when Tony turned off some distance behind us did the realisation that we had just added a bit more climbing to what was already rather a lot.
I do love this kind of riding though. Not the Gonad Mashing bit, no more the big views, non Scalextric tracks, multiple lines, bump, bounce, heft, lift and manual, few hard pedals then same again. The ridge we took had all of this even if the climb to it had the kind of grassy friction that would have made it absolutely unrideable in the wet. Which in Wales is the other 51 1/2 weeks of the year. It ended in a dusty and loose vertical drop that was properly exciting. More so as you approached seeing nothing up front but the far horizon.
It was like the map had just ended. Arse on the rear tyre, try and be a bit brave as it all gets loose back there (do your own jokes, I’ve already passed the limit on my own internal smut-o-meter), let go early enough to ping happily through a rock gulley that felt all Lake District-y except for the complete lack of grockles. The silence was broken only by contented mountain bikers mixed on conversational random; firstly nano technology, then most horrific injury before a seamless segue took us to whether having a crush on Maggie Philbin could ever be right**
Soon after a trail that was the second most lost thing in the entire Country of Wales. The first being us of course as we reconfigured the bikes to “machete mode” and ploughed through shoulder high vegetation hiding wheel sucking dips and divets. Hiding but not covering as I found after trying to fall off three times. Fourth time lucky over I went, pausing only briefly to gouge my inner thigh with a mirror image of the rear brake lever. Still it took my mind off my testicles for a bit.
We did eventually find the trail and I wasn’t entirely pleased about that as it wound a long and windy path through streams and gulleys. Sometimes a bit testing, always upwards and the fast boys were just far enough ahead for us slow coaches to realise this was going on for some time. I settled into a pace that. were it a town, would be linked with Walking, Ohio only to watch Matt and his 40lb freeirde rig breeze past. Bastard. I said nothing tho as he was my lift and I didn’t fancy riding home.
Another fern thrash and Tony doubled his chance of having my babies by declaring all the climbing was done. Good job so was I although, on reflection, next time I’ll pump more than 23PSI into my tyres and after an aborted alternative finish, we dropped fast and very loose on a fireroad before a hairpin bend closed the forest behind and above us. Where my peril-sensitive glasses changed from dark to light faster than anyone else could say “where the fuck is the trail?“. Others were less tech’d up and I followed Haydn past a couple of people laughing as he tried to divine the trail. And mostly failed.
Car park. Lie down. Pretend I’m stretching. Last few rides I have felt properly empty. Either too much riding or total lack of MTFU gene. The boys suggested we filled up on beer and peanuts in a local hostelry which was more than a little welcome. Proper day out that, very much enjoyed and a top bunch of fast and friendly riders to share it with.
I clearly didn’t make a total dick of myself (or they really are just terribly polite) because now I’m on the list to go play in Coed’Y’Brenin come end September. Based on this ride, I have a feeling it is going to be a a whole lot of fun. I’m packing the spare liver.
* You’d need a crowbar to separate that particular artistic pairing.
** Well it was bloody sore.
*** It isn’t. However we’re split on Phillipa Forester. Having just re-read that, maybe I could have chosen less descriptive words.