… sometimes you’re the ball. Sometimes you’re caught between, betwixt hope and expectation, kidnapped by events, released by the moment. Mostly though you’re being shafted by the weather. In winter, this is stoicism blunted by seasonal storms. Summer tho, it is that hope that thrills us.
And thrilled we have been. After two months of ‘is it safe to go outside?‘, the incessant rain finally stopped, so the happy times started. Burnished trails puffing a million dust molecules into blinking optics. Nuclear stuff happening close to a 100 million miles away narrowing clothing choices to the acceptably skimpy*
We could get used to this. Mostly we did and – while the rest of the continent caught fire** – dry summer flakes combined with moist rider heat management starched frame tubes with Mandelbrot tattoos. It was never terrifyingly hot, but it was perfectly configured as one of those endless summers.
Until it wasn’t. Notice the past tense here. It feels absolutely wrong to focus on a stubborn localised low pressure system while the rest of the world basically burns, but you know what that’s just too scary so I’m drilling into the macro environment. One characterised by storms, wind, rain, sideways rain, drizzle, persistent rain, downpours, almost sleet and – no surprises here – more rain.
I swerved much of this meteorological mischief by retreading my pre-Covid gig to bisect the UK with all the efficiency a US maps App can offer*** This meant missing a couple of night rides already tagged with ‘blimey those nights are drawing in’. I did manage to snuck out Friday after a week in Scotland with eBrown which does all sort of exponential things to a heart rate used to stopping occasionally.****
The previous weekends ride was not without incident. Starting with ‘the grip is fine, amazing really considering all that rain, oh hello tree, can we be friends?’ and ending in some extreme tripoding while pretending to be ‘riding it out in a new-school ‘style often arriving both without a bike and upside down.
Lessons to be learned then. I didn’t learn them even while populating the trailer, dodging another shower, post a hard days rain on the back of a weeks’ worth of filth. My one concession to summer being a wet-ass was to load the hardtail, long ignored but always Labrador ready, to get stuck in when the going gets horrible.
Most of me loves riding the BFEmax. Not my knees tho, they tend to write a strong letter of complaint. Ankles aren’t wild about harsh landings and stutter bumps either. Lower back warns of consequences later. My strategy of ignoring age related frailties instead sets me on a splashy course of harvesting fun from dirt presenting in all forms from firm to barely suspended in liquid.
Best way to deal with that is to plug a likely looking soil stack with a low pressure 2.6 inch tyre and lean on it a bit. Winners get a bit of a corner rail, losers slide but rarely fall as speeds are lower and the ‘emergency dabber’ is on hyper-alert. It’s not the summer smashfest we’re no longer expecting, but it was balancing the unexpected with the experience of riding this stuff for 20+ years.
Still feels good. Doesn’t feel particularly fast, and while it’s not all hanging out, there’s definite evidence of sashaying back ends and tyre flung ‘clods of dust’ as we like to characterise these conditions. Stuff is happening mostly behind me which is absolutely fine as all I care about is the rubber in front of me bisecting glistening white roots and bog deep depressions.
Couple of features get done with the minimum of fuss. Any uplift I get from that bottoms out when compared to talking a couple of others down the same stuff . Although they are both smart enough to ignore my line recommendations. Getting it done, getting back on the bike, getting a bit closer to what’s important, getting dangerously near a post ride beer.
This is rightous stuff. It’s not the longest or hardest ride. The 200m optional climb was received as if I’d offered the opportunity to cuddle up to the farm animal of your choice*****. Instead we rode the valley floor to a sun kissed centre of bikes, sausage rolls and cold beer. I went with the most important of the three, diffusing a difficult world into to one I better understand.
I’ve ridden lots of scary stuff this summer. Which considering my years flipping around this planet is quite a thing. What is more of a thing is the ‘for fucks sake how many times now?’ realisation that riding is at least 50% of who you are with, and often less than 50% of what you are riding.
8am this morning it was pissing it down. Yesterday it never stopped. Not for a minute did I think I would. Dunno if I was the slugger or the ball.
I’d take either. Rain is forecast for next week. Bring in on. I’m ready to ride.
*and hats. For those of us managing climate emergencies and follicle sparseness. Also one riders’ skimpy is another’s extensive therapy session.
**We are so fucked. So great to see a debate on whether to extend the ULEZ in London is a vote winner.
***“The M6 at Stoke is blocked. Would you like to re-route via Hull?’. I wish I was making this up.
**** That’s me. Not my heart. Not keen on that stopping.
*****This is the Forest tho. So could have gone either way.