That’s always been my motto when faced with anything even tainted with mild terror. Point me in the direction of a well stocked bar or groaning pudding trolley though and I immediately Go Large*. So when the motley Ross Night Ride Crew began enthusiastically planning some epic flirting with the Welsh Borders, I couldn’t help but remember exactly how long a previous daytime jaunt had taken. Sure we did get lost and spend a quality hour in mid ride quaffage, but – even barely past the longest day – I felt bringing lights was sporting a certain keenness my body was unable to match.
We wasted too much of that precious natural light with Olympic grade pontificating, faffing and debating route options going something like “Yeah, you know if we cut round the back of Six-Fingered Bob’s Dogging Spot – so neatly bypassing the Pheasant Shaggers – we’ll pop over dog-turd hill and slip into the back of Geoffrey’s wiggle“. To which the other revered route finders would respond with something like “But that misses a cheeky dart through Necrophilia valley and leaves us with no chance of sticking a fast one in Big Vera’s Tunnel”
I stand aside pondering if this is merely a mighty wheeze – Muddy Mornington Crescent for the new boy. Eventually some decision is made and for a happy five minutes I actually recognise where we are. But not where we might be going with a confusing mass of left-right-lefts onto trails shadowed by dense vegetation that scratched hard at my strimmer itch. At exactly the point when I became totally and irretrievably lost**, the route-finder generals too began the slow head-turning of the navigationally incapacitated.
I knew we were lost in so many ways when chief Route Finder and all round downhill-mentalist Gary asked me – Me for fucks sake, a man who can often be found lost wandering around his own house looking for the dishwasher – if I remembered where a tiny track, now covered in head high vegetation, may start. I mugged for a bit hoping to create an air of trail locating competence which was fatally exposed when said track appeared in exactly the opposite direction to which I was confidently pointing.
Great trail tho, tight and twisty then steep and deep in roots, fallen logs and – in Tim’s case – fallen riders. Top job he turned his wheel into a metal-y pretzel which Nick somehow made round again even after ignoring my suggestion to whip it out of the dropouts so to give room for a few of us to stamp on it. A brief period of collaboration broke out between the route finding factions leading us upwards before splinter groups again began whispering that if we’d wanted to get there we wouldn’t have started from here.
Not so much a tight-knit trail location committee, more a loose confederation of closely warring tribes. Amazingly we found Buckstone hill – although even our ascent to the very top again split the flat earthers from the there’s-a-trail-here-somewhere-pushers, and better still had a properly bonkers run down the multiple trail sections each one building on the last. It’s fast and open, then tight, then twisty, then tight again before a wall drop opens up a fantastic rock step closely followed by a natural table top. I remembered enough from last time to scare myself properly silly, so giving me ample excuse to mince out of the vertical roll down some of the younger/more stupid/less burdened by dependants and imagination rode off with irritating ease.
These trails are used by the boys from Dirt Magazine, so even the chicken runs are not lacking in terror for the under-skilled. Fun tho, and riding the ST4 (Pace last time) didn’t slow me down much, fear and proper wheel throwing looseness did that just fine. More singletrack, sufficiently remembered to get the ‘Jedi Speeder’ experience although, on reflection, maybe I’m at the age where I should be considering a stunt man for the difficult sections.
Ace as the night was turning out to be, it was still night clawing away at a dropping sun and sending us back homewards through a long doubletrack gradual climb enlivened by some proper views and the odd cow that looked to add “bike eating” to their list of achievements for the day. Mercifully un-chewed, we took another “Dave Special” over a style and upwards for reasons of a fine rocky descent that would have been even more thrilling had I been able to see any of it.
Luckily we were only 30 minutes or so from home. Less luckily most of this would be under the watchful gaze of a healthy forest well known for shutting out the light. Had their been any. A few riders peeled off home leaving six of us groping about and making new friends of the two enlightened ones. The last descent was properly funny but only because the two full on tank slappers I encountered due to a) very loose and dusty trail under wheel and b) not being able to see a) finishing with nothing more than 2 second slides which lasted about 2 days in my head.
Not learning – as usual – I nearly stacked it exactly 20 yards from the truck. Didn’t care much though because if I hadn’t been riding somewhere beyond the ragged edge, then I’d be sitting at home grumpily staring into the darkness and wondering if the excuses not to go ride were really good enough.
Talking to my mum tonight I was reminded of a cheesy phrase she used to send her three offspring into situations that generally ended up being rather rewarding: “In twenty years, you will regret the things you didn’t do far more than the ones you did”.
Sage advice. Right now, I can’t think of anything to top that.
* and assuming I can still stand, keep on going.
** Had they left me there, I would have been forced to throw myself in front of a car so ensuring an ambulance would take me to a place of safety. You don’t want to be outside, on your own and looking worried in the Forest at night-time. The breeze in the trees whistles “Duelling Banjo’s”