Well that didn’t go quite as planned…

If a kind soul were to place me in a comfortable chair and administer a double measure of warming medicine, my response to the concerned question “What’s wrong?” would read something like

Most things. Not quite everything, but many grumpy intersects on a linear scale of increasing wrongness. Sometimes to understand why things are so rubbish right now, you must backtrack to the first point of “when stuff goes bad“.

The first trace of the element fuckup had clearly been hoovered up by the endo-Murph who then promptly exploded in the manner of his first day with us. Of course everything is bigger now, his stomach, his range and the volume of multi-coloured yawn to be founnd pebble dashed across most of the house.

This 5am wake up call provided me ample time to notice a gap where once a wheel stiffening spoke had once proudly stood. I had both a spare and the frankly unhinged tool to effect a repair, but the mechanical knowledge was lacking, and – even when faced down with cold, hard cash – the local bike shop was breathtakingly uninterested until about a week on Thursday.

Thankfully my far sighted policy of acquiring random bicycles harvested up a spare, and I was ready to drive myself all the way to Wales where some nice person would continue to do so for the rest of the day. So ready in fact, the bike was in the car, the full set of body and head protection was packed, and I’d gone all a bit OCD counting pedals and shoes.

A last check of emails showed the uplift service was anything but ready. In fact a state of cancellation had overcome it on the grounds it was too dangerous. HANG ON, I’ve been telling everyone how dangerous it is and – viz a viz -why I am so damn brave to go and ride it again. This held no truck with those driving vans on icy forest roads, and I was left with a chilly 8am dilemma.

One I hedged by using every 21st communication method to establish contact with Mike (my fellow downhiller for a day), all of which failed, and I was fresh out of pidgins. In the spirit of ‘fuck it, I’ve booked the day off, may as well go riding“, I carefully chucked the big boys collateral onto the floor to make way for xc stuff that was significantly more gay*

While all this was going on Mike was replying using the exact same talk-to-AL technologies I’d been bothering him with. Which would have worked extremely well had my dumbphone taken to doing what I’d paid it form rather than display a state of passiveness that convinced me it was actually working. Understandably Mike gave up, and I was left to a couple of solo laps of the Cwmcarn XC course.

Which was frozen solid, deserted, occasionally sleety, slightly more frequently cheekily icy on corner apex’s, and probably just what old snug-trousers(tm) needed. But not what I wanted, and even the magic of Titanium was beaten by the unforgiving ground. Although not as beaten up as the pilot who – after 20 miles of this – was suffering from cramp of everything including teeth.

So I didn’t get to go and pretend to be brave. I had to ride uphill and do so uite often. Many other small things were shittiest enough in frequency to to become big things. But on the upside I still got to ride my bike and didn’t have to go to work. Although time enough was left for me to service a set of working brakes that – after 3 hours – were ALMOST as good as when I’d started.

But there’s still a week of 2008 before Children’s holidays cull the riding season so if this sodding ice age would bugger off for 24 hours, I’ll be having it small on a mountain near me. You see while a lack of talent and a delusional complex may hold me back on the hill, bloody mindedness will damn well get me there.

* I’d like to point out the hedgehog is an equal opportunities annoyer. Sexual preference, colour, creed, religion or advanced animal husbandry techniques are all equal here. But I draw the line at trekkies, anyone using air quotes or ownership of folding bicycles. I mean all the hits are welcome, but a man must have some standards.

Slip sliding away

Yesterday I inadvertently entered the “All English Rubbish Driving Competition“. There were some real title contenders especially those enclosed in high chassis’, riding on 4×4 transmission systems, supported by complex electronics and the power of marketing.

Their faith in the brilliance of their vehicles was somewhat undermined by a cruel lack of knowledge pertaining to how the words “Ice” and “Grip” rarely fall into the same sentence. Unless someone inserts a meaningful “no” in the middle.

So I watched in amused horror as ditches became car parks, roundabouts became straight on’s, and a strictly come pranging combination of spins and pirouettes played out in front of me. The downside was it took me three and a half hours to reach Milton Keynes – a place I didn’t really want to go in the first place.

Tomorrow’s journey is both shorter, and the destination far more exciting. I’m tweaking the nose of terror back at the Cwmcarn downhill course to see if I can be this lucky twice. The ice on the roads shall be seamlessly transported to big roots, forbidding rocks and an entire section best labelled “Death by off camber

I shall report back with manly tales of riding skill and just simple down to earth bravery. That’ll be the other guy obviously, while my contribution shall be nothing more than great excuses and a nice pot of tea.

Some sports psychologists tell their clients to visualise success and “BE THE BALL” whereas I am more of the cowardly “BE ALIVE” school of thought.

As my mum is on holiday….

From Flickr Images. Random bloke giving it large
From Flickr Images. Random bloke giving it large

… May I be allowed a “FUCKING HELL THAT WAS JUST BLOODY FANTASTIC” ? Thank you.” But I cannot really tell you quite how good that was because a) I am so happy to be still alive and b) I don’t really have the words to adequately describe the feeling of mainlining adrenaline.

Cwmcarn Uplift Day Cwmcarn Uplift Day

Five minutes of riding downhill with your bollocks on fire* packs in a whole lot of life events. A gamut of emotions rollercoasting from joy to abject terror accompanied by a staccato commentary “fuck, get a grip, get inside that bloody corner, pump that, jump that, back back back some more that’s steep, fuck fuck fuck that’s rocky, get off those bloody brakes, let it go, breathe, breathe, breathe

Cwmcarn Uplift Day Cwmcarn Uplift Day

Chasing your friends is a big part of the fun, having the same limb count at the bottom is some of the rest. The course is not hardcore compared to some of the rockfests in Scotland, but if you take liberties, it’ll respond brusquely by trying to kill you. Near the end of our seventh run, I thought I had it’s measure and went for some stuff that quickly proved I didn’t.

Cwmcarn Uplift Day Cwmcarn Uplift Day (27 of 24)

We failed to crack the five minute barrier but it’ll definitely go. And the burly bike build is staying. Okay I may remove the elephant prophylactics masquerading as inner tubes, but the rest makes the whole package just so much fucking fun at a speed on the margin of fear and unreconstructed joy.

Blasting out on the Van stereo, as we ascended for our last run, was Bono lamenting he’d yet to find what he was looking for. Looking at the bike shadows cast by the falling sun, I think maybe I already have.

* this is a metaphor. Although those DH boys were suspiciously messing around with their ciggy lighters at the top.

Cwm on Down

Pace 405 DH, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Tomorrow is D-Day. D is for Downhill, or possibly Death. I’ve rubbered up the Pace with some 2.5in wide knobblies, shortened the cockpit with an ickle stem, ditched the SPD’s and bunged in some fat inner tubes.

All of this is displacement activity for thoughts of being a) really slow and shit and b) as previously mentioned, Dead.

I was further concerned by the state of my leg armour – I don’t remember being savagely attacked by a pride of lions, but from the scars and gouges, this can be the only possible explanation. Well there may be others, but I’m trying not to think about those either.

Essentially I’ll be placing myself front and centre in an experiment to test a human crumple zone. So, I’m taking the big camera to record the heroics of my friends, and to give me a good excuse to nesh out, if it all gets a big scary.

Honestly, I’m really looking forward to it. Can you tell?