Sun’s out, Rain Jacket out…

Matt, Em, Steve, Old Ferrie Inn, Herefordshire

….yeah about that.

Steve has risked moistening a body part to sneak a very localised weather report. His damp head darts quickly back under our broadleaf organic umbrella. “Not stopped yet? we ask pointlessly. He responds with a Labrador shake* and at least one of us wonders where his lightweight rain jacket might be**

Too warm for a jacket anyway. Still pissing it down though. We’re back in the Yat heading east up the ever steepening escarpment. Until five minutes ago it’s been tinder dry so cementing a plan of riding everything on this side and beer medalling*** without crossing back over the bridge.

A fine plan until one understands the relationship between recent moistness and the local geology. That geology being propped up on layers of sloping limestone. If you’ve ever wondered what riding on wet glass might feel like, let me introduce you to damp limestone. Offers between zero and a bit less than zero grip.

This seemed an ideal time to check out some of the steepest trails. The rain had finally stopped some forty minutes later leaving only shiny roots and sweating rock as its legacy. A legacy we hurtled into with the kind of wild abandon best captured in after action reports.

Before recording our heroics and possible injuries, I’d taken stock of my riding companions and broken out the big bike. 35lb of 170mm of Enduro ready beastliness isn’t my favourite thing to winch uphill, but it’s a willing climber if you’re not in a hurry. Flip gravity tho and it’s a calming sled occasionally flicking Vs at gnarly terrain.

Good job as I was bloody useless. One of those ‘not going very fast, but everything seems to be happening far too quickly‘ days. We headed out to ‘Merlin’s‘ where performative tyre deflating failed to raise my confidence level. Still we’re here now. Well the front tyre is, the rear is partying hard out back flicking left and right on the steep switchbacks.

That front tho is planted deep enough to qualify for a drilling permit. Lean on that, wave the enduro tripod leg out for the look of the thing and remember that sometimes 64 degree head angles makes sense for normal humans. After which we were in need of strong coffee, and some excuses not to climb to the old hill fort for a while.

250m ish of ascent. A new route, occasionally confused but we got there eventually. Last time up here, I was barely post-Covid and it felt stupidly hard. Today it was still hard but not quite as stupid. Because heading down from the trig point is a descent jumbled with rocks, roots, occasional steepness before opening up to life affirming flat out sections.

God, it was so good. Even when riding like a twat. There are a couple of fast flicks through ride ending rocks which must be timed perfectly. Want to live in the moment? Go ride that section off the brakes. It’s spectacularly good even before you lift your eyes to the old**** broadleaf doing its summer forest thing.

We headed back up because, well, why wouldn’t you. These are perfect days. Do not sacrifice them to apathy or tired legs. We ended on the ‘bridge‘ trail known for being steep, chute’y and peppered with steep sided bombholes giving off a “going over the bars here Al‘ vibe.

Except with slack angled long bikes you’re going to be just fine. So much so that you get to play in the steepest chute, chucking the back wheel up a vertical bank and getting all giggly as it slides back down. Try that in winter and it’d be emergency dental procedures all round.

Not now. Not today. We slipped down a cheeky rocky footpath to emerge thirsty at the pub. Steve brandished his locals discount card and all was right in the world. Even with the post beer 11km ride home. Matt and I have done this countless times and it passed in mostly companionable silence. Except for whinging about never ending headwinds.

Four rides in a week, four different bikes. This was the latest and maybe the best but that’s not the point. It’s never about the bike. It’s about riding a bike – any bike, banter with your mates, then watching the shining river host SUPs, Canoes and occasional swimmers****** all while nursing a beer or two.

Last week I didn’t really celebrate another orbit of the planet. 55 years old. That’s pretty fucking ancient. But I still get to do this, so that’s okay then.  For now. Yeah let’s go with that living in the moment thing.

*without the actual hair. Steve and I are the “Brasso Brothers

**at home. Under the bench. Carefully placed at 7am this morning. Because I’m an idiot. Natch.

***I’m just trying to get down with the kids here.

****not that old. Most of this hillside was coppiced for Industry less than 150 years ago.

***** Mostly paddling. River is pretty low right now.

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