Chip off the old block.


Jess - FoD Blue Trail

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”

So wrong, it’s wrong.

Malverns MTB - July 2011
Is that a happy face?

I have never understood why one week you’re an athletic titan bending the landscape to your will, the next you’re a fat, old knacker wondering if this is how the end starts.

There is some logic to this I suppose; plausible deniability of the previous evenings’ alcohol content withers in the hard face of the first climb. A frenzied one man attack on anything bottling a fermented grape is merely an aperitif for hindsight.

Malverns MTB - July 2011Malverns MTB - July 2011
A poor nights’ sleep – being only one more in a week of staying awake in the dark – isn’t helpful either. Industrial gardening* wearies muscles, and a wave of unspecified tiredness makes 7am feel like a stupid time to abandon the comfort of your bed.
Malverns MTB - July 2011Malverns MTB - July 2011

The signs were all around me; lethargy when faced with the “stick game” which makes a mad Labrador even happier. One day I hope he’ll somehow communicate that stereotyping his long “Retriever” bloodline is unfair, and repeated fetching that bit of gnawed wood is so yesterday, Darling. Today was not that day.

Then I put my shorts on the wrong way round. Twice. Picked up the wrong gloves, lost the trailer key, faffed about looking for related stuff and found only excuses. Jezz seemed in similar mood hence a pre-ride cuppa and a chat before riding bicycles became a necessity.

Sometimes it’s just the first climb that hurts. Someday’s you’re a corpse uphill but demonic coming down. Mostly experience suggests you’ll work you way into a ride, and the finish will be far stronger that the start. Today wasn’t one of those days either.

The sun was out warming our clumsy limbs, the trails were grippy after another night of summer rain, we were still early enough to avoid most of the rambling hoards and the bikes were working well. Only thing missing was any semblance of technique, any sign of motivation, any power in the legs and any breath in the lungs.

Malverns MTB - July 2011Malverns MTB - July 2011

All stolen away by the God of Superficial Fitness clearly having fallen out with Bacchus. “Make them suffer, make them suffer some more, do they look like they are enjoying it yet? Yes? Fire up the gradient machine and ratchet up that next climb”.

Malverns MTB - July 2011Malverns MTB - July 2011

It was still good of course. Not as good as the last few rides, but better than many grim death-marches undertaken in the winter. Vegetation has exploded past head height throwing out obstacles that scratch, ping and bite. But the views are fantastic, the being out there so much preferred to being inside, the 650+ metres of climbing triggers a guilt free dead animal breakfast and rests a troubled mind that would otherwise be tortured by missing a ride.

Even when you’re not that keen to go. Said it before – riding is always better than not riding. Next week will be splendid I’m sure. In the meantime, I’ll wield my mighty paintbrush while musing on exactly who nicked my fitness and motivation this morning. Yes, I’m looking at you Mr Merlot.

* Happy gardeners appear to cherish the careful placement and nurture of pretty flowers. The rest of us are left with digging large holes and creosoting anything that doesn’t move. Or move that fast. I’m of the firm opinion that our now wood-stained chicken is not only happy at being fully waterproof, but also “dark oak” is this years’ Hen colour.

Beacon Run

There is significant pointy geography jutting ever upwards in my riding life. Look over there to Wales with seemingly endless ranges of sharp peaks “ proper mountains – looming over deep valleys. Closer to home are the muscular Malvern Hills, reaching not so high but still at a straining gradient.

Largely free of mud regardless of season, packed full of rocky, open descents and cheeky hidden singletrack this compact range of lumpy loveliness has much to offer the keen mountain biker.

But it hides a dirty secret. While the South and North ends are stuffed with trail nuggets, the middle is “ let’s be honest here “ a bit dull. Hilly, Yes; Interesting, Not really. Which explains why it’s a bit of a mission to summit the Beacon on the North when starting from the other end.

That and it’s a bloody long way. Not in miles, not even in my newly chosen ego stroking kilometres. Horizontally it’s nothing, vertically however it’s a bit of a monster. The hills are canted to the North so four grunty climbs are not rewarded with a similar amount of descending. But those four are the quickest way across.*

Quick being a relative term. Quick for me with a level of riding fitness someway below my Winter peak. As I wondered if my lungs were blowing out of my arse, or had already been abandoned on a previous climb I couldn’t help also wondering if a bit less biscuit tin/cheese board/wine bottle action might aid my ascending prowess.**

The descending on offer did more than take a little edge off the gurning glumness even after sufficient rain to make Mayhem more of a nightmare this weekend*** The elbow of increasing articulation may be finally healing but still ignites the mental bushfire on the scary bits. Comes and goes, better bloody go soon tho otherwise I’ll be chopping out the cowardly gland with a blunt spoon.

We’d dragged the Beacon closer through application of pedal on gradient, the peak showing itself from various angles. First we’re left of it, then right but always below. Highest point in Worcestershire, made higher by my riding bud’s choice to first descend rather than take the easy way up.

Which provided an opportunity to heckle two slower riders who didn’t seem to find our tailgating inspirational. The Irony card was played once a freak mechanical sidelined me to the side of the trail leaving them to huff past. At which point, Jezz “ who is consumed by a Labrador fetch mentality “ hunted them down on the next climb.

By the time I finally made it up there, the same two riders were looking seriously pissed off. Which “ in my experience “ is generally triggered by a large man on an even larger bicycle racing by. A hypothesis confirmed by said rider, sat a little further up the trail, with the subtle manifestations of a man seeing only black spots in front of his eyes.

We scooted off ever upwards in the fading daylight for the traditional lean the bike against the trig point which is really bikey sign language for Thank Christ that’s over, I’m having a proper rest now.

Even close to the Solstice, our light abandoning decision was beginning to look somewhere between ambitious and foolhardy. Time to go. The Beacon Run is a proper man’s descent. Fast, rocky, occasionally rutted, enlivened by big holes torn out of the track and a level of exposure that would still induce vertigo in blinkers.

Good, fast run down, too late for random walkers diving for cover under the barrage of chain slap ordinance. Hero line over the big drop, sketchy on the marbles, hold it together and chase that setting sun. All that climbing? Worth every pedal revolution.

Quick conference, time for the long way home we think. Drop back into the valley before climbing back onto the ridge, but missing a couple of pointless hills. Flat out down the next one, where a quick glance at the GPS shows nearly 60k, and a look out front shows we’re going to beat the fast incoming dark.

Until Jez cases a drop and sacrifices a tube. Still nice place for a sit while he fixes it. Had it been Winter, I’d have left the bugger 😉 Tired legs propel us gently up the last proper climb opening up my favourite jump followed by my least favourite steps. Survived those, railed the following berm with reactions now perfectly tuned to trail pitch.

Into Narnia and into the dark. Proper dark with the sun setting, we make adequate progress only though trail memory and a sudden desperate belief in ESP. We hit the only really mud on the final trail link home which is fine because now we really can’t see anything at all, and it’s some manifestation we’re not riding in a cave.

It’s way past 11pm as I wearily roll the bike back into the workshop. I’m a shower and some faffing behind a much needed bed. And in just over five hours the alarm is going to be all loud and spiteful.

Who Cares?

* Unless you choose to ride along the ridge. Which would mark you out as some kind of lithuanism lesbian.

** Probably. But what’s the option? Lettuce? If the day has come that dinner is essentially crinkly water, I’ll need to up my alcohol content somewhat mitigating a salad day.

*** For those racing. Not for those turning up in wellies, grabbing a beer while pointing and laughing.

Perfect Timing

Matt - Symmonds Yat.

Which is pretty damn impressive – considering the processing delay between shutter depression and image capture on my ickle trail camera is such that it’s best to click way before the rider is even in sight. Or born.

That’s Matt making a mockery that 40lb freeride bikes aren’t perfectly fine for 50k forest bashes. The trail is one of many built but the Dirt boys out of Monmouth, and the jump is where my riding pal David first came up short and then ended up in hospital with a nasty back injury. He’s back riding well now, but as a reminder that these trails are a step up it’s compelling.

It’s as if a bunch of naughty boys have taken the rather lovely – if safe – Forest Of Dean, roughed her up a bit, stuck a ball under her jumper, given her an aggressive haircut and a hint of menace before sitting back and asking “right then, fancy taking this on do you” to a bunch of nervous fifth formers.

As a metaphor, I accept it needs some work. Steeper and deeper here, bigger climbs, increasing gradients, bigger obstacles, fast flow then slow’n’techy, surprisingly rocky and often loose- it’s a patchwork of outstanding trails where confusing confidence with ability will end in a proper accident.

It is a place – as our American Cousins would label – to bring your A game. I don’t have an “A” game and having failed to shaken a bastard cold this week and some unreconciled crashing concerns from the elbow smash a month go, an entire new alphabet would be needed to position exactly how rubbish I was going to be.

Game tho I was. Started a bit wheezily on a 15k jaunt from Ross ensuing the car for some old-school tarmac/dismantled railway bashing. Surprisingly enjoyable because of the unending beauty of the Wye Valley, and there’s something simply right about not driving to ride.

It’s all a bit winch and plummet once you’ve hit the heights of the trails proper. Three iterations demanded the thick end of a thousand metres climbing from your legs, and some level of skill and commitment when it all went grinningly vertical.

I was reminded a bit of the Climax black run, not because of terrain or surface but more because these are trails built by people who can ride a bit and they demand that you do too. Nothing insanely dangerous* but superbly flowly if you’re pushing on a bit, frustratingly difficult if not. But anyone who builds not one but TWO dry stone wall jump/drops into a single trail is a bloody genius, and deserves a tip of my virtual hat.

Most of the stuff was new and riding unsighted – chasing a vanishing Matt – had me thinking back to when I started riding. Everything was fresh, nothing was recalled, experience turned into joy and then into memories. It got me gabbling, pointing and a little bit frightened. There’s a single world for that: Alive.

Happy to be so after a final trail off the ridge which saw Matt roosting* swathes of red dirt sliding his back tyre. Seemed a good time to finish the singletrack if not the ride. No first we had to find a pub not full of bank holiday angst and barfing kids. And our joy of riding into such as establishment was hardly metered by the shock of two pints costing nearly a tenner. Mainly as that was Matt’s round 😉

I rode to work with a stinking cold last Monday and that was good. I rode in the Malverns with the arse end of that cold in the wet, damp and single digit temperatures on Thursday and that was great. I rode today on about 70{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} lung and 50{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} competence and that was bloody outstanding.

This seems unanswerable evidence I just love riding bikes. Long may it continue.

* Well there are a couple of things. Walking works well at this point. It’s a case of “how brave am I feeling? Quite Brave, Very Brave, No not that Brave actually on reflection

** I know. I know. But honestly, it’s the perfect word. It was ground zero at at a roostage convention.

Trigger’s broom

Triggers Broom

A milestone has passed. Or – now I’ve gone metric to create the illusion of travelling further – a kilometre stone. 1250 of them to be precise. That was the point at which the previous ST4 waggled its twangy arse for the last time, and collapsed into a heap of iron fillings. The horror of finding the bottom bracket had destroyed the frame by ripping through the internal threads stayed with me right up until Orange admitted it was a bit rubbish and sent me a new one.

The plan for the original bike was to replace my Cove Hardtail so saving the cost of procuring a whole flange of expensive and shiny new parts. This was not entirely successful; within six months everything but the seatpost and saddle had been replaced by the aforementioned new and shiny, and the Cove was brought back from the shed.

Now I’ve replaced the seatpost and saddle. Fiscal irresponsibility sprayed faintly with lazy logic is a dangerous way to approach a web browser. Undeterred that such a part was unavailable from any UK reseller, I went all free market and ordered directly from the Fatherland. Two days later after various helpful emails including “Ihr aktueller Bestellstatus: In Bearbeitung“*, a box bearing clever hydraulics and an fairly eye watering invoice was swiftly transferred onto old trigger up there.

And it’s ace. Being a serial seat dropper, it’s removed the tedious need to dismount and dick about with QRs for a 30 second descent before trying to find the right pedalling position again to prevent ones knees exploding. So most of the time you don’t do it, and that is an exercise in joy limitation. I remember from my skills course Tony pushing the idea of moving down not back, with all the benefits having a low CofG can bring.

So it’s clever. Don’t ask me how it works I’ve no idea. First ride, this was clearly the case with my incessant fiddling taking twice as much time compared to dismount/sigh/adjust seat/get back on. And the marketing boys have missed a trick here – “X Fusion HiLo”? Sounds like a second rate cartoon character. Since to operate the “drop“, one must reach down and tickle ones’ wedding vegetables before releasing the lever, surely there is scope here for something more manly.

I’m going with “gruntbuster tacklegrabber” which is pretty unbeatable. The rest of the bike is pretty damn good as well. Which considering that most of the time I’m at the business end of the spanners, and it’s been thrown roughly to the ground on a number of occasions is a testament to the robustness of the new frame.

Sure it’s not exactly light for a four inch travel bike. And it’s probably a little bit slack for jedi-speeder wiggly tree action, but the limiting factor by some horizon stretching distance is the rider. As it is in 99{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} of cases, which is why magazine reviews are informative, generally well written and almost entirely useless. For me, the only thing about a bike that matters is does it put a big grin on your face every time you ride it.

Certainly does. And with the “tacklegrabber” installed, that grin’s going to get even bigger 🙂

* Which I translated as “Congratulation, we’ve shipped your product” or “For information: We’ve annexed the Sudenland”

Done and Dusty.

10th anniversary of the CLiC24 event is done. I am back and still fully capable of independent movement. I am also very, very tired. So here’s a summary of the good, the not so good and the occasionally amusing.

Things that rocked:

1) Atmosphere. Chilled out but superbly organised. It’s a million miles from Mayhem and a million times better for it. Full of happy people having an ace time.

2) Organisation. Astounding – great food, top beers at the bar, ever cheerful marshalls, warm showers, unsmelly loos, great marque playing top tunes.

3) Course. 30{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} different and extended. Tougher but better. Fantastic yomp across the moor to finish. Fast, rocky singletrack to start. Engaging twiddly bits in between. Hard on the legs, good for the soul.

4) Charity. Probably should be no#’1. CLiC24 is the only endurance event I’ll ever ride now. Because they’re worth it 😉

5) Team Hardcore Loafing (or Lardcore Huffing as we became) putting in an outstanding first twelve hours before tapering off a bit. I blame the wine.

6) Fitness. Having some. First two laps had a feeling of what being properly fit might feel like. Was reminded how far away from that I am by soloists cheerily passing me this morning having nearly doubled the laps I’d completed.

7) Having an awesome team mate in Nig. Top man, entirely unflappable, strong rider, brings excellent wine which we decanted into plastic glasses. Class.

8) It didn’t rain. OTHANKYOUGOD.

Thinks that sucked a bit:

1) Not full. 100 entries under the 500 maximum. Everyone struggling to fill their events this year. Twice as many soloists than teams so clearly there’s a niche worth mining there for future events. Cannot understand how Mayhem/Sleepless get so many entries when – in my wildly uninformed opinion – this is a shit load better

2) Er, that’s about it. Pretty chilly for some of the event and bloody windy for all of it. That got a bit old but honestly I’m just whinging on the periphery now.

Al’s round up of stuff that was in chucking distance of funny:

1) Attempting the erection* of the famous Leigh Family Tent/Small fabric country in a 30mph wind in the fading light. Entertainment unbounded for the increasing amused watchers who seem to be pointing and hiding laughing behind their hands. At one point I felt the whole shebang was ready to ascend to the Heavens but we wrested back control providing us with more than adequate loafing space, bar area, sleeping compartments, stove and kettle. This time around we didn’t actually set fire to anything either. Bonus.

2) “Hmmm Beer“. Nig and Al on entering the marquee.

3 “H’mm Cake“. Same, two seconds later

4) “I bet Max Mosely paid more than five quid for this amount of pain“: Al on the massage bed being given a right seeing too by a no nonsense lady who repeatedly told me it was hurting her more than me. Not unless she was stabbing herself in the eye with a fork it bloody wasn’t.

5) “I rode so slowly, I nearly drowned in the watersplash” : Nig succinctly summarises the pace of his night lap.

6) “Those are six inch travel bikes, yes? That’s about the distance you’ve travelled in the last minute, get a bloody move on“: Al on the motivational trail in the best bit of singletrack.

7) “Hear my squeeky brakes? That’s a metaphor for YOU’RE NOT GOING FAST ENOUGH“: More motivational stuff from me. I think it helped. Helped me anyway.

8) “10 laps you say? Solo? Well done” followed by an urgent whisper “THE ALIENS ARE HERE, SOUND THE ALARM

9) “I am the kind of racing machine that needs constant oiling… get the beers in” overheard in the bar

10) “The sweatiest thing in this tent is my helmet….” pause “I’ll be off for a shower then eh?” domestic bliss in the Parker/Leigh tented village.

I forgot my camera, but many others didn’t even taking time to get a photo of yours mugly. But we were worthy, you can be assured of that. Significantly more worthy in the first twelve hours than the second twelve, but worthy nevertheless.

Thanks for those who sponsored me for CLiC Sargent. You’ve made a happy man very old.

* I believe the correct camping term is “Pitch” but where’s the fun in that?

This. And That.

Black Mountains Loop - April 2011

is one memory of a properly fantastic day in the mountains.

And that has just clocked a 1,000 kilometres without feeling the urge to tear itself apart like the previous incarnation.
Black Mountains Loop - April 2011

And, after beer and sleep. I shall try and write some more about how ace those two things allied with old friends and stunning weather has made my day/week/holiday 🙂


BlueSmell Ride

Not one of my favourite words. Especially when used to describe an everyday object and/or an attractive member of the opposite sex. Try as I might, it’s hard to improve upon “I tell thee what, tha scrubs up well for a plain lass”*. Honest, hint of northern romanticism and in snogging distance of affectionate. So Lush, rubbish word but entirely appropriate composite of Lust and Dust.

Actually it isn’t at all, that’d be, er, Lust. Or Dust. Never mind, we’ve got this far may as well plough on and ignore my inability to combine two four letter words. Two rides in the Forest this week – and one more to follow – have raised the bar high for perfect singletrack mountain-biking this year.

This time last year, the country was basically under snow and the bluebells were trapped below that wintry blanket. This Spring of sunshine and no showers has seen them cover acres of Forest, and already they’re wilting back. Best get some sustained viewing from the height of a bike then.

Last night the “Malvern’rs” were treated to a 25k of lust/lush/dust singletrack, most of which was perfectly framed by swaying columns of bluebells. Since I was mostly route-finding – simply achieved by asked David riding next to me where we were going – out on point with the fellas in close attendance was the default downhill configuration.

Which is all fine, except for the massive distractions of dust whipping off the tyres into eyes entirely focussed on the periphery leaving almost no visual assistance to a brain demanding a little help on the next muscle movement. Flowing, nose to tail, through singletrack is one of the absolutely emotions to explain to those not obsessed by bicycles.

Let’s go with Lush for the moment shall we?

* Not that I’ve ever tried it myself. a) because women are one of the few things on this planet that regularly render me speechless and b) because a hard-swung bit of 2×4 is unlikely to improve my day.

Elbows out!

Jessie, Haugh Woods from Alex Leigh on Vimeo.

Jess and I have been out a few times “skills training” since our last video production in the woods. And it shows I think, both in how much better she’s getting (although still has that cursed-dad stiff looking riding technique!) and how much time I have to spend showing her the “rushes” before we can go ride the next section.

Today I found riding is possible with a dodgy elbow and we lost the dog. Luckily he retreived the rest of the riding family pacing it out on the fireroads while Jess and I were so busy having fun on dusty singletrack, our reaction to missing mutt would have been “we own a dog? Are you sure?

Trails are lovely. Elbow less so but it’s definitely on the working side of ridable. Off back to local community hospital tomorrow to beg stitches out. I’ve borrowed some elbow pads for the next few rides, as there is no way they will be passing me by in my favourite season.

Still I did miss HONC, so that’s something. Looked hot I thought as a beer and I made an afternoon acquaintance. Much rather ride with my kids than 1,000 lunatics on trails of mostly dull.

Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Rock: Mid-Trail, nasty misshapen lump, anchored grimly to a steep and loose descent. Requires avoidance or commitment.

Paper: “Fell off Bike“. Scrawled about four times across two hospitals. Appended with “significant abrasions to right side” and “elbow cut, bone in view

Scissors: “This might sting a bit” says the child-Doctor in her bedside pre-laceration chat.

Post lurgey comes a desperate need to ride. After a week off, the trails are running super fast, so we’re on a speed mission. First descent dispatched in a blur of hip-jumps and mini doubles. Wheels off the ground, bike whooshing through spring-leaved trees, brain some distance behind.

Big grins, bullets dodged. Climb and climb but going well, eight days of not riding fails to spike the fitness balloon of three months solid effort. Feels good to be back in the hills, day fading, bike lights dancing in the twilight, so dry and so fast, going to be an epic.

You go first“. Ego stroked, I go as hard as I dare, sketchy, it’s loose and my brain is still not calibrated for the speed, think about rock step, dither, engage fuck it gland, fail to get a line or a decent pop.

Bad stuff happens. Tankslapper briefly caught, thoughts of redemption founder on second rock, abandon bike calling “turtle” as over bar exit has me wrapping limbs to the inside. Cacophony of bike and rider smashing down the trail. Goes on far too long, roll, roll, roll, miss tree, momentum done, pain starts.

Big one that, you okay” / “Grrr…yes…no..fuck dunno fuckfuckfuck that hurts“. Important stuff works, nothing broken, much scarred. Abrasions run to half a side and most of an elbow. An elbow that has the bone poking out. End of ride then, get up, sit down quickly, feel a bit odd. Babble a bit. Hurt a lot.

Push down steep section then back on bike. So slow, where did the confidence go? Back there in the dirt with some of my skin probably. Road home, can’t quite remember which shifter does what. Did I fall on my head? Might have asked the question more than once.

Driven to Ledbury hospital which is big, clean and open but entirely unpopulated by anyone qualified to stitch me up. No amount of pleading saves me from the ball-ache of Hereford A&E. Refuse further chauffeuring and head homewards with a woozy head full of irritation and angst.

I know the drill. Shower now saves pain later. Sticky Grit has adhesive properties of superglue. Some swearing but it gets done. Double Vodka with a Nurofen chaser. Carol – entirely unflappable as ever – takes over the driving. A&E full of drunks, police and heavily pregnant teenagers smoking endless tabs.

Wait, wait, wait. Bored, bored, bored. Sore as well. Relieved to have swapped bloody and sweaty attire for something cleaner and less gritty. Still small on pleasures, long on fuck all happening when phone alarms me that in five hours I need to leave for London.

Midnight comes, nobody else does for some time. Then it’s us, ten minutes of not much drama, no antibiotics, some brave little soldier action while staring anywhere where the needle isn’t.

Home, wine transfusion, three hours sleep, bastard alarm call, get up very slowly. Driving isn’t any fun. Neither is sitting on a train for three hours typing one handed.

Both infinitely preferable to tube buffeting and eight hours of gentle ridicule and more pain that I’m ever going to show. Someone carelessly knocks my elbow and the world goes fuzzy and soft for a few seconds.

More tube, hide in the corner hoping it’ll be over soon. Fall onto train and fall into bar. Grab a beer and a brace of painkillers. Worst is over. Bored of “aren’t you too old to be falling off bikes?” no point crafting a reply because they won’t understand, and I don’t care. But I’ll take occasional A&E thanks for asking.

Summary? Riding ragged and fast. It’s going to happen. Could’ve been a whole lot worse – arm, rib or collarbone. I’ll back off not because I want to, but because survival instinct will cut the speed. For a while. Let’s not hope too long. Going to be another week before I find out when the stitches come out.

But roadbikes are going to be fine. Ride to work Friday? I should bloody well think so, if I can attire myself in cycling clothing without excessive chaffing. Bikes you see, like the Hotel California – you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.