The GrimWagon(tm)

Post ride, every ride right now.

This is a post ride image familiar to any cycling enthusiast/insufficiently medicated masochist* marching on through a winter campaign of dark, cold misery. Those identifying primarily in the secondary characteristic claim not only that sliding through three** months of endless filth is a riding hack for upgraded summer skills, but further it is just damn good dirty fun.

Grudgingly I’ll partially accept the skills thing, although – for me – those skills are primarily mental; acceptance of tyre sliding anxiety, bloody mindedness on wheel sucking climbs, acknowledgement that ‘still alive’ is an excellent outcome on a favourite descent, and a stiffish upper lip enduring endless slogs finishing in twilight or starting in the dark.

As a list, it’s hardly compelling. Alternatives include fitness hibernating in winter and only being dragged painfully from the dark as evenings lighten, exchanging real landscapes for virtual worlds, or refusing to interact with the elements until that fabled bluebird day or frozen ground. None of these in isolation replace the type 2 fun of arsing around in the mud. And while I still enjoy it, as I get older so it does too.

This year, the seasons have basically disappeared. Started raining in December with no sign of it ever stopping. Spring may be emerging slowly from sodden ground, but everything trail related is still very much in winter mode. Okay the water might be a bit warmer as it floods over your ankles, but even that is overselling the joy of slop redux represented in the long term forecasts.

Here’s further evidence of the mudmageddon aftermath of a night right. Trousers may be mocked by a few of my riding buddies, but these water repellant bastions of leg wear save my arse and points south from high pressure trail enemas.

Why do you wear trousers?

The state of the kit tho? Ready the bucket of doom because the washing machine is off limits!  By February I’m really done with it, but persevere because Spring is just around the corner.

There was a brief respite in January when winter bit back with proper minus temperatures, freezing the ground hard and our faces with it. But for a couple of snatched rides, it was summer from the axles down and we returned from rides not obviously auditioning for the part of Wye Valley Swamp Monster.

The rain returned and I didn’t. Lots of reasons but hardly rode for a few weeks (I like to blame the treadmill but honestly if we didn’t have that, I’d have found another excuse) and other than assuaging guilt didn’t feel the slightest inclination to drag myself through a few hours of mud.

None of which we found on our stolen weekends riding in Malaga (back to that next time). T-shirts, dust, beers on the beach. Oh yes this is why I love mountain biking. Returning to – you guessed it – torrential rain, the four Spanish Exiles were still motivated enough to head back out for a tour of the forest over the Easter weekend.

Central to my winter riding is the GrimWagon. Steely in purpose and shorn of all but a few bearings, it’s the perfect foil for real mud and imagined glory. Fat, chunky  2.6inch tyres running low pressures provide the grip while a gert 160mm fork up front offers the bounce. In between are consumable components aging quickly, but unlikely to be upgraded until the mythical dry line returns.

Riding a full suspension bike in conditions like we’ve had suggests an edge of lunacy  far distanced from the general stupidity of riding when you’re the owner of a nice, warm house. You’re not getting much benefit of all that extra travel when the tyres are rim deep in soul sucking mud. And after the ride, the already tedious clean up routine would be augmented by the counting of collapsed bearings and a checking of available funds to replace.

Not so the GrimWagon. Ride ends, gets chucked in the shed. Sometime before the next ride, gets taken outside, beaten lightly with a brush to remove the worst of ‘dust clods’ and freshened up with some chain lube. Occasionally I’ll spray some WD40 into the mech, but really only out of a sense I should probably be taking maintenance a bit more seriously.

It just soldiers on tho. First 1000m of climbing for a while and much of that hard earned on tracks barely recognisable from their summer forms. Downhill wasn’t much easier, sliding around, trying to be brave in the corners- often with ‘enduro leg’ flailing about in a parody of balance.

Occasionally tho due to very local sandy topology and a fair wind, a dry trail emerged from the slop. And very welcome it was too. Then the GrimWagon reveals its other side, a proper sorted ‘hardcore‘ hardtail that’s slack and carve-y while being supple and somehow precise at the same time.

Is that a dry trail I see before me?

Sunshine was as welcome, if not more so. It’s hard to be annoyed that more bloody rain is coming when the big yellow orb is in full joy delivery mode.

I know it’s a rare privilege to get to ride bikes mostly whenever I like with friends who make any such ride a giggle, even when the grim has fully descended. I also know I shouldn’t moan about it, because one day I won’t be able to ride whatever is happening on the ground and in the skies.

I know all that and I’m still going to moan. But only for a few more weeks hopefully. We may not have escaped winters grasping muddy clutches, but Spring is on its way. I can feel it, I just can’t see it right now.

*delete as applicable. Or not. Both states can exist simultaneously. Schrödinger’s mountain biker.

**oh I wish. Feels like at least six.

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