With the emphasis on old. In bingo parlance, my latest anniversary is either droopy drawers or all the fours. Not 444 as one of my lovely children slyly observed*, but still on the crumbling side of extreme antiquity. Not to worry, there’s always a pension to look forward too. Well there was until I incautiously peeped at the freefalling stock market. Maybe that cheeky child will fetch something on eBay.
Enough about me. Yes I know, bit of a departure but only because I’m so proud of Jess who rode the entire blue trail in the Forest of Dean. Now you could argue that the FoD needs built singletrack like Nick Clegg needs to be associated with the Tories, because there are 100s of brilliant tracks across the vast area enclosed by the Forest. And I’d normally be the first to raise my grubby digit in agreement, being a bit snooty and old school about manufactured trails.
And we’d all be wrong. Many reasons; here are a couple: finding trails in the FoD is bloody hard. I’ve fallen in with the Revolutions Reprobates who’ve shared their encyclopaedic knowledge of the ribbony delights snaking between endless trees. But even now I still get lost**, and creating a simple loop for little legs is not so easy. Secondly, there’s a real desire to open up the Forest to more trail users, so creating a marked track full of low-risk fun is a great way to do that.
I say low-risk. That’s if you’re putting the low into slow. The genius of the trail builders has been to create a trail that’s graded from safe to bonkers dependant entirely on velocity. With Jess, we climbed steadily and descended with increasing confidence. The berms freaked her out to start, but once she’d stopped listening to my useless advice and started throwing her little Islabike in with abandon, frowns were replaced with grins.
Of course we did suffer from the kid-standard “are we there yet?” variation which includes the lament “are there any more hills?” but it was all in a good natured way, and we certainly were not in any hurry. Until the last descent that is.
Fresh from nearly out-running a berm and finding tree rather than trail, Jess whooped into the last section secure in the knowledge it was all downhill from here. And what a downhill it is, berms, rollers – so many it’s essentially a rollercoaster – sweeping corners and a few scary steep bits. Jess swooped down the lot at ever increasing speeds – a huge grin on her face.
“Go faster if you want Dad, I’ll meet you at the bottom” she offered on a brief stop to get our breath back. But I didn’t want to, I was happier to watch someone who had been keen to please now be transformed into a proper mountain biker. This wasn’t so much about “it’s great to go riding with my dad” to “pass me some more of that prime singletrack, I’ve got the bug”
At the end, having ridden all but one monster berm she explained “You know when you can’t explain to mum how much you love riding? I get it now. I don’t know how to explain it either”. Lots of dust around that day I remember, definitely something in my eye.
There was a little disappointment the final fun was over so quickly. But we’ll be back before the rains come, probably a bit faster and certainly with a bit more confidence. Won’t be long before she’s leaving me for dead. Lucky then I was able to sneak another practice lap in to find the phone I’d abandoned half way round 😉
* that’s the one now living in the shed.
** This is not because I have no internal compass. The issue is it is always pointing to “wrong”