You can be smooth, then fast…

… but you can never be fast, then smooth. Sage advice for almost any walk of life, but properly pertinent for those riding avoiding death. It was delivered as the single version of a truth by a man who was both, to another man who was neither. And since that day, I’ve spent quite some cash and a little less time looking for what happened between fast and stacked.

Afan December 2008 Afan December 2008

The problem wasn’t a lack of bravery. That’s the default position of the riding hedgehog and it’s never really been the high water mark of speed, perceived or otherwise. No it was the constant fear of crashing on every single corner, the neural link between that and the brakes, the frustration of being left behind – again – by my riding pals, and the total lack of bloody enjoyment every time I went out.

Afan December 2008 Afan December 2008

Get a grip I hear you say. And you’d be right because a second unquestionable truth is that once your front wheel is pointing in the right direction, most other stuff is merely distracting detail. Having lost that grip about half a second before ripping my knee open, it’s only taken me two and a half years to find it again.

Afan December 2008 Afan December 2008

That and frozen hard trails at Afan, a year riding the same bike and so much grip that – short of taking the front wheel out and installing a melon – the corners would go as fast as your eyes can deal with. This proved to be jolly good fun, and most of it came together on the last trail I real remember riding properly on.

Afan December 2008 Afan December 2008

To be fair, it wasn’t all one way Karma, two of the fellas received frostnip on a day colder enough to promise IceWilly(tm) later. Dave forgot most of his kit on the way down, and the rest of it before every ride. Andy’s lad made the near fatal mistake of chasing his dad, resulting in some quality learning time lying dazed some way away from his bike.

Afan December 2008 Afan December 2008

Nige found that eight weeks, and one wedding is not the ideal training regime for hauling cold muscles up big hills, and Jason’s poor wardrobe decision left him with extreme chafing where no man should feel even the lightest of chafes. Still I had a great time, and would take frozen and hard over cold and sloppy* regardless of chill blaines in the nether regions.

Afan December 2008 Afan December 2008

Last year we slopped about for two days trying to find some grip. This warm up to 2009** must be a sign that we’ve paid our cosmic debt, and a proper summer is merely a few months away. Probably means I’m due another huge stack then.

* Any situation. Every time 😉

** The whole new year nonsense can go and get stuffed with what’s left of the turkey as far as I’m concerned. I covered that off last year and nothing much has changed. Except getting a year closer to death. but hey let’s not start the year on that kind of downer.

Afan’in a laugh

At 10pm last night, I was suffused with anticipation with a bike already packed in the truck, a favourable weather forecast, a meet up early the next day with two old friends, and three of my favourite trails at the Afan MTB centre.

To say I was looking forward to a day of dry, fast riding on flowing singletrack is a phrase laced with understatement. In the same way as saying that Murphy quite enjoys his breakfast. So finding myself on a fourth visit to the toilet at 3am this morning, was a situation meriting more that a soupcon of disappointment.

It is not the worst food pointing ever inflicted on my innocent guts. That would be the night before flying home from South Africa a few years ago, where I completed an entire novel* while pooing out the contents of my small intestine. Determined not to shit my pants on the 11 hour flight home, I overdosed on Immodium which was both a spectacular success and – later – a painful disaster.

It was five days before I could go again. I honestly thought the local A&E crash team were going to be forced to remove the backed up bolus’s of bodily waste using a caesarian procedure. Last night was a mere three chapter experience, although made substantially worse by being undertaken in the outer reaches of the Arctic bathroom.

No heat can live here. You squat in trumpety misery while the icy tentacles of a chilly draught gently caresses your testicles. After one particularly lengthy exposure, my knees gave way and I crashed – head first – into the sink in the manner of a tall tree being chainsawed.

At 7am, I attempted to rise from the pit to begin my cycling odyssey. Such a noble deed was hampered by three not insignificant problems: a) an all over body weakness making even trousers a physically demanding step too far b) a poppin’ and a bangin’ stomach that suggested I’d best get started on the next chapter and c) a certain soreness where a Gentleman would normally insert a saddle.

Because I’m not even close to heroic, the best I could manage was a pathetic moan and a flaccid collapse back into the pit. The next few hours passed in extreme irritation with a perfect autumnal day loomed large in the window. Wisps of high cloud punctuated the blue sky, whisked along by a warm breeze. Weather I could best describe as “perfect for riding“.

Eventually I de-pitted myself due to a lack of hot towels and sympathy from the rest of the family, and took the kids out cycling. They certainly enjoyed themselves, disappearing to worryingly small specs on the horizon as their old-feeling man laboured breatherly behind them.

Tomorrow I’m in the slot for driving Random to a birthday party back in Aylesbury. A perfect opportunity to bag a couple of previously enjoyed trails and maybe a memorial pint. Unless tonight, I’m forced to move onto the complete works of Shakespeare, in which case the central thesis of my existence will be again confirmed.

Life isn’t bloody fair 🙁

* and not a small one at that.