New Years Bleed.

Haugh Woods NYE Ride
Once I’ve shoehorned one dog, two children, three bikes and my long suffering wife into the truck, any actual riding feels like a bonus. But even before the geometrically puzzling angst of loading the trailer has begun, first we must repair what is broken.

Abi hasn’t ridden much this year. And when she has managed to get on her bike, it’s not long before she’s off it again, furrowing a trowel line with her head – stopping only on contact with a painful stump. This may account for her noticeable lack of enthusiasm when offered an opportunity to hurt herself again.

Still game enough this morning, leaving me with to fettle hastily on her dusty steed* so bringing hammer no.2 to bear on a bent mech with the kind of satisfying twang promising component purchases soon.

The woods could best be described as ‘encouragingly moist“. I know this to be true because they were the exact words I chose in my motivational opening to the children. I didn’t feel this was the right time to ponder the adhesive qualities of slick-wet roots cambered at bike-punting angles. They’d find out soon enough.

They both showed some proper bravery clearly not inherited from my DNA. Jess christened her new bike by throwing it roughly to the ground at least twice, but was usurped for “best crash award” by her Sis who attacked one particularly nasty set of wheel sucking roots with innocent vigour. The tyres held on for – oh – nanoseconds before letting go and starting a sequence of events that could only end in one eleven year old lying on the track.

Again I kept my council other than to offer parental sympathy while checking surreptitiously for unattached body parts. Probably for the best as it is unlikely that a blow by fall account of our two days Welsh “Slush Puppy” tour focussing on exactly how hardcore, skillfull and downright manly their old Pa is would have had the desired effect. Unless that effect was to receive a couple of yawned “Yeah Dad, whatever

As it was – and even tho we’d had to finish with a rather testing ten minute climb – both kids are now mad keen to get out ‘every weekend when it’s sunny‘. I know this to be a fallacy, which in no way shall stop me reminding them of it every Saturday come the Spring.

Riding with your kids is ace. Much as the Wales trip was fab fun, and much as I am properly excited by oodles of mountain biking here and there come 2011, I’d happily give up my weekends to ride with these two.

If only to get the crashes on video next time 🙂

* In my younger years, I would assume that sort of thing would annoy the farmer if he caught you at it.

Feeling the pressure

I’ve always admired the type of mind that doesn’t really have a lot of time for instructions, recommended settings or any type of measuring equipment. Individuals of this class will merely prod, spanner, poke or eyeball anything from a simple bolt to a quantumly physiced quark* before confidently declaring “That’ll do, lad“. I am a wannabee member of such a social group, but my application would surely be rejected on the not unreasonable grounds that I’m both mechanically incompetent and habitually lazy.

My view of fixing stuff not quite broken tends to run something like this; start off with all the correct tools, optimal settings and clear instructions, then – after at least ten minutes of increasingly frustrated getting nowhere type of actions – sweep it all to one side before selecting the biggest hammer off the tool wall. Assuming that doesn’t go well, I’ll up the ante by reaching underneath the bench for the fire axe.

So my pre-ride check of the not much ridden DMR went “Bars attached, wheels on, chain not totally brown, it’s good to go“. I further decided not to offer any kind of mechanical sympathy to the bike on the grounds I wanted to use it in a few minutes.

Dymock Woods Snow Ride! Dymock Woods Snow Ride!

Want being a good verb, need being a better one. After a week of “Shed Fever“** where leaving the boundaries of our property was limited to some food foraging and an icy blast depositing the kids at school, I desperately needed some two wheeled action. There’s only so many times you can re-arrange the tool wall or sit in front of 500 unsorted photographs thinking “No, I really can’t be arsed, I’ll just stare at the floor instead“. The snow and ice seem entirely undiminished, and while this provided much smugness as my happy truck motored past low profile tyred and single axled snow blowers, it’s not been brilliant for Mountain biking.

Dymock Woods Snow Ride! Dymock Woods Snow Ride!

Snow is ace for the first 12 hours before becoming cut up and thin, so making progress difficult and largely unrewarding. The Malverns are currently an unhappy combination of deep drifts and overtrodden tracks leaving little for the MTB’r to enjoy. The woods however are a little different, attracting less traffic and sheltering favourite trails under an organic, evergreen roof. Without a 4×4 you’re not getting there either, so I abandoned the ten legs of family and dog to strike out on two wheels through a snowy, tamped down and mostly deserted Winter wilderness.

Dymock Woods Snow Ride! Dymock Woods Snow Ride!

Which in the trees was a lot of fun. Like riding in mud without the muck, grip comes and goes, bold moves are needed to make the turns and – I find – it’s important to clench everything while murmuring “I‘ll vote Liberal Democrat, Be a nicer person, help old people, just let me please end this corner on the inside of that tree and not in it” to the Gods of the Trail. They seemed entirely indifferent to my pleas, and yet it took quite a few sky-ground-sky rider exits to take matters into my own hands. Those hands incautiously whipping off gloves and getting jiggy with the presta valve reducing pressure from not much to a smidge more than bugger all.

Dymock Woods Snow Ride! Dymock Woods Snow Ride!

That’ll do, Lad” I parodied in the manner of One Who Knows and struck forth is quite a few different directions as the rear tyre fought for traction, but at least I was still sat atop it. I briefly toyed with a practical experiment testing thin lake ice by prostrating heavy bike and *ahem* mid weight rider on top of it. But instead settled for a photograph and a double scoot round the lake side trail that was somehow even more brilliant in the snow. Possibly because again I didn’t fall off, but soon I was off the bike again of my own violation as the freeze/thaw cycle made the busier fireroads to much effort for too little reward.

Dymock Woods Snow Ride! Dymock Woods Snow Ride!

Back on the singletrack, the thin white line between carving success and tree banging failure was perfectly demonstrated by whether your awesome two wheel slide ended in a “Brappp Brapp” stamp on the pedals to bring the flicking beast back into line, or the thump of man on bark. I crossed that white line a number of times but somehow this hardly devalued the experience, and on rendezvousing with my family the world had become a nicer place and my place within it more tolerant, forgiving and significantly less grumpy.

Short of stuffing yourself full of Class “A” Drugs, I cannot think of a single way in which 90 minutes can transform your perspective of what’s important. I don’t just love riding bikes on buffed, dry trails, or perfect flits through the warm moonlight, or even fast and loose with my best friends and the promise of beer to follow. I just love bikes, and my whole hand wringing about which ones to keep is absolutely bloody irrelevant.

All of them, of course. And to ride them as often as I can. That’s a simple enough concept that defies any measurement.

* This is not the not the noise a posh duck makes. And don’t get me started on bytes and nibbles.

** Like Cabin but for smaller buildings.