Rate my Chopper

Devon 2010 (93)
Pretty impressive huh? Certainly is close up and shakingly personal. My preference – when reviewing my travel options – goes bike, foot, car, train, boat, “fuck I’m not leaving the surly bounds of earth thank you very much“, bar then plane. After a first helicopter trip, I’d insert the whirlybird somewhere between bike and car, if someone were kind enough to pop one into my garden after installing heli-pads at my places of work. An ambitious plan doomed to failure, and that’s a recurring theme in this post.

There’s a common misconception amongst my friends and family that I have a fear of flying. This is nothing more than a symptom of fabrication shadowing the cowardly cause which – while complex – can be distilled into a perfectly rationale terror of plunging to a fiery death, caught between screaming passengers and PA advocating calm and the brace position. And when some smug arsewipe trots out some hoary statistic proving that crossing the road is somehow more dangerous than an high velocity, high altitude airtight capsule built by the lowest cost bidder, it seems a good time to explain “I HAVE BEEN RUN OVER THREE TIMES YOU KNOW!“*

I feel people like that need to put in a little more research time if they’re trying to reassure the bag of nerves that I was, when stepping under the scything blades of something that clearly cannot fly. Even with a basic knowledge of aerodynamics, no one can look at a a few rotating carbon sticks without thinking “plummet-yes, fly, no”.

And yet it was surprisingly un-scary. Some of which is reduced brain function brought on by noise pollution, some more is a low speed/low altitude combo which gives much time for gawping at scenery and a conceit that – come the inevitable failure of gravity fooling – jumping out is a definite option.

The rest of the week was fairly standard, burned like a self-harmer given a flame thrower for Christmas on the only proper hot day, damp for longer periods, generally squiffy in the evenings, mostly relaxed, relatively sanguine. Then back to work, where it took almost 30 minutes befire laissez-faire holiday mode flipped to “fire up the chainsaw, there’s a staff morale issue to deal with”.

Clearly I need a holiday. And come next Friday, I’ll be embarking on a 3 day pass storming epic of the Pyrenees. This unsupported yomp up and over two high passes will see five hardy souls ascend 5000 feet of rocky mountain on two consecutive days, before a payback of an approximately infinite descent on a track where many people have died. Well possibly, or that could be more of a prediction.

Our days will be book-ended with mountain huts where our carefully chosen race fuel shall be carefully measured out before the slamming begins. Having never done anything like this before, obviously I’ve decided to throw some money at the problem – specifically in the area of kit where it seems my legion of backpacks fail to match up to a difficult requirement of hauling a sleeping bag, spare socks, comedy hat and vat of alcohol over a couple of cheeky peaks. I’ve been eyeing all sorts of stuff – much of which the purpose is entirely lost on a man of my navigational incompetence – but have so far only purchased a Spork and earplugs.

More stuff in the bag, less room for schnapps, that’s pretty much my expedition policy. The trip coincides with yet another birthday, where we’d easily lose the whole morning if my request for a minutes silence to mark each passing year were approved, so it seems pretty damn clear I’d better get on with all this shit I promised myself at 30 while I’m still on the pedalling side of only mildly decrepit. Although a serious professional carrying out a risk assessment of our quest would simply summarise “They’re all going to die falling off a mountain, ensure dental records are up to date“.

I’m mitigating any possible risk by taking a bike with two air shocks, some shed-based tubeless tyre system, a new set of brakes and knobbly new boots. All tested by rigourously riding up and down the road. Ambitious but doomed to failure? Maybe, but got to go out and do this stuff, experience things now while I still can, tweak the nose of terror before it’s too late.

“Late”. H’mm maybe I could have chosen a better word.

* Once by a bike. To be fair he was trying to avoid running over mine and apparently I was easier** to bunnyhop.

** Not easy enough tho