The rain in Spain…

… had better bloody not fall on the plain. It can fall on the plane that’s transporting four of us may hundreds of mile south. To a location somewhere closer to Africa than Northern Europe, and nestled happily between the Mediterranean and the Mountains.

Mountains that are 2500 kilometres away from those close to my doorstep and significantly more defined by sunshine and dust. About this time last year, we made a similar migration to Tenerife where the weather was more than clement and the trails mostly accessed via mini-van shuttle. This time we’ll have to work a little harder with the valley floor being our base and the mountains our destination.

I’m okay with that. More than okay – possibly crossing the line marked ‘gloaters only this way‘. It does mean getting on an aeroplane which nowadays mostly has me downing pre-breakfast tranquillisers with those who believe holidaying in some way triggers a ‘it’s okay to knock back a quick five pints at five am‘ clause. For me it’s self medication and an alternative to the embarrassing sight of a crazy man rugby tackling a stewardess pleading to be ‘let off right now‘ when the engines start.

Much as I don’t like flying*, I do like riding and the chance to do so with good friends on new trails under sunny skies has sufficient box ticking potential I’d best go sharpen the pencil. Cramming in three and a half days of MTB action in foreign climbs has more than a hint of logistical angst however. There’s the start so early you might as well consider setting off the night before. There’s the mental cryptography of decoding airline regulations to understand exactly how much you’ll be fleeced for presenting anything weightier than a man bag**, and the anxiety of selecting exactly how much crap you need to take with you.

Less than you think obviously. But more than you need for a days riding. There will be some combination of a 3/8th gripley and some form of broken plumbing attachment that have absolutely no value right up to the point when something breaks, and the entire local mechanical collateral is represented by a fire axe. It also allows endless double entendres when texting friends requesting assistance on ‘determining the size and breadth of my massive tool collection’.

Got to get your laughs where you can. I’ve packed a standard but complete Landrover maintenance kit – five hammer of differing sizes and a roll of gaffer tape – and a few randomly looking useful items while assuming my more organised friends will take up the slack. Frankly the less tools I have, the more chance there is of the bike actually continuing to function. There’s a fine line between ‘maintenance‘ and ‘broken‘ when the world is a nail and you are essentially a mallet.

First tho get the bike in the bag. On the trauma. 29inch wheels do not fit into 26inch wheel bags. As much as you’d like them too. And a 20kg limit is easily breached if your packing ‘technique‘ is throw the bike in first and everything else after it. With help from a responsible adult, we made busy with a mile of pipe lagging and straps in a way that would suggest to the neighbours we have a fetish best not discussed in polite society.

Finally after much swearing, sweating, squeezing the bag and desperate acts with zips and clasps – I refer you to my previous point – the bugger was in although the zip tension was at about 4000 PSI. I fully expect the fabric to let go and disgorge my riding smalls all over the tarmac as some careful baggage handler drops it twenty feet out of the cargo bay.

Still it’s done now. Just need to get through one more day of work, ignore other peoples deadlines with an insouciant shrug and head for the bigger hills come Monday at Stupid O’Clock. Then a few weeks to Christmas, then it’s less than three months to Spring.

Not quite half way out of the dark yet, but we’re heading in the right direction. Due South 🙂

* although on closer mental examination, flying I’m actually fine with. It’s the falling from the horizon in a burning metal tube that gives me pause as I cross over the air bridge.

** Even outside of London, there’s a worrying proliferation of these items. I feel we shall look back in twenty years with similar mirth that is currently targeted at shoulder pads, puffball skirts, rolled up suit sleeves and braces. At least I hope so as I am well ahead of the game here.

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