Mountain Biking is just not cricket. Although some trappings and traditions do cross over such as stopping for a nice lunch, and being inconvenienced by the occasional stump impact. Anyway, before the somewhat deceitful portrayal of my latest riding heroism, it’s worth a brief synopsis of what I’m calling ‘The Silence Of The Hedgehog’
Holidays, apathy, inability to sort through 2000 digital images, another birthday*, blank screen staring with cursor blinking on ‘Chapter 1‘ – that kind of thing. surprisingly it wasn’t just me that noticed although comments such as ‘Oh God don’t encourage him to write anything else‘ have hardly helped jump-start my muse. So here we are six weeks on, a bit rusty and creaky but winding out that same old stream of consciousness. Except for the terribly pretentious drivel composed on the day – or more accurately night – of my birthday, having staggered back into the house on a float of Merlot.
I’ve saved you from that. I’m hope you’re grateful. Carol had to read it and is still pointing and laughing now.
So returning from holiday and currently retired** after unsurprisingly stinting on absolutely nothing with particular gluttony reserved for (many) local beers, BBQ’d ribs and ice cream. This lamentable lack of self control has left me re-tyred with a midriff storing a couple of the additional kilos and the rest rounding off a pair of man boobs. No problem thought I, being essentially unemployed, every day is a riding day. Within weeks I’ll be a tanned and toned whippet beasting my youngers and betters whilst living healthily on berries and leaves and other things that don’t taste like Stilton.
Well my friends it’s not quite worked out that way. Two main reasons; firstly after returning from a land with only cloudless blue skies, the UK is clearly harbouring every other countries wet making equipment and chucking out 17 degree horizontal rain on a daily basis. This is not motivating. Not motivating at all. Secondly I’m so bloody busy doing nothing. Well not nothing but not anything that pays any real hard cash. Instead I’ve thrown myself into an orgy of manual labour where a smarter cookie would have replaced 19th century agricultural engineering with something sporting a scoop, hydraulic rams and a big bloody engine. Instead it’s been me, a fork and a losing battle against a million bastard plants hell-bent on causing death by stinging.***
Bored of that and in somewhat physical distress, I hobbled to the shed of dreams to deploy some bicycling therapy. First off was a trip to the woods on the trusty hardtail. A woods normally ridden rather lumpily on my cross bike which I’ve had to conclude isn’t a lot of fun. The Solaris was better, but still some way off the dopamine hit of my normal riding. Some of this is because the trails are overgrown/a bit wet/not very interesting but more of it is my riding pals. Or lack of them. As the bastards have apparently better things to do than ride with their mate.
How selfish is that? ‘Sorry Al can’t come riding at 1pm. I’m at work‘. That’s not an excuse, that’s an insult. Total lack of ambition if you ask me. Which I did since there was nobody else to talk to. Oh we’ve been out weekends but that’s just normal stuff you fit round work. For them it’s a paycheck, for me it’s the prospect of two more hours with my new four pronged friend while dreaming of Napalm.
Twice I’ve ridden on the traditional Sunday. Twice it’s pissed down. The second time I was managing that disappointment with many additional issues to deal with – specifically a hangover sharp enough to shave with, a stomach keen to rid itself of last nights alcoholic poisoning, a brain that was a second slower than it needed to be and limbs another second behind that. I spent most of the morning alternatively trying not to crash or throw up.
Today I picked a perfect weather window – in that it was open to let the rain in – and motored off to another wood to try my luck at solo riding. It’s nearly as far as the Forest or the Malverns so been pretty well ignored for a few years. But taught my kids to ride off-road here so it has good memories. Sadly those fading memories fail to cartograph the trail network leading to much cursing and now familiar evisceration from moist waist high brambles.
Then I found an oft-ridden trail. From there a spiders-web of damp tracks came flooding back. And new trails built by others for whom this is clearly their local patch. Including that jump on a revived trail recently destroyed by logging. By this time it really was pissing it down and the ‘trousers of excuses‘ was fully upholstered with ‘no knee pads/slippy wood/damp landing patch/recently healed ribs‘ etc. And, of course, no mates to spur me on or capture my heroism/demise.
Ummed for a bit. Stood on the end. Convinced myself it was bloody tiny – which of course it was – gave it the ‘getting it done‘ nod to let the obstacle know a veteran of the mountain bike scene was about to grace it with his presence. Clipped in, pedaled – not hard enough – felt the tyres squirm a bit but carried on regardless if a little slowly. Sort of fell off the end in a manner most likely to break a collar bone. Somehow managed to convert not enough speed into just enough flight to land safely if rather heavily.
Bah. Rubbish. Go back and do it again I said out loud to no-one. The whisper of the wind and the rain through the trees sounded like hissing. No, it really did. Riding on your own messes with your mind. I love trees and woods and forests. I’m a big old tree hugger. But today it was all bloody Heart of Darkness and brooding stumps. No matter, stop pissing about and get your aged carcass off that tiny jump with a bit of bloody committment.
So I did and it was fine. More than fine in fact. Bloody lovely. Until I landed onto a recently dampened earth-patch which had the frictional quality of glass. The next couple of seconds were far more exciting that I’d been hoping for. I wonder if a middle aged man makes a fool of himself in a Forest and there is no one there to see it, does he still feel like an idiot? I don’t wonder actually because the answer is absolutely he does.
I didn’t fancy a third attempt so drove home just as the sun came out. Sulked a bit until I found cake. Still beats working even if I’ve started talking to my front mech. That’s normal right?
* 47. Forty-Bloody-Seven. And what did I do? I went out and drank like a 19 year old only with a better wine selection. On being asked the following morning how I felt, the answer was either ‘every year of my age and then some‘ or ‘Chunderful‘. With great age comes great wisdom? Someone else has got mine.
** At some point I’ll find another contract. Probably at the point when we’ve started stealing and boiling the neighbours shoes for food.
*** I’ve started talking to plants as well. But not in the traditional encouraging manner. No it’s more of a John-Cleese inspired rant while stabbing them with sharpened garden tools ‘Right you bastard, I warned you, I bloody warned you, come back out of that freshly turned soil and you’ll be getting the rough end of my pitch fork’.