The ultimate riding machine

30 mins hard graft to get here. Absolutely worth it.

BMW went full Carlsberg with their pre millennium sloganeering when promising the impossible to the ineligible. ‘Ultimate‘ tops out a class system bestrewn by ‘platinum‘, ‘exclusive‘ and most importantly ‘special‘. The vain and vacuous amassing status points pointing to entitled. Get one of these, be one of those.

It’s absolute bollocks of course. Porsche did it better, with a generation of wannabees wanting it so hard their hedge funds positioned endings in actual hedges. 95% blokes, mostly found lapping in the tosser shallows of the gene pool.

What has any of this to do with bikes? Well quite a lot, but not before we return to my eye-rolling reputation of ‘context‘* and how to apply it. There is no perfect bike whatever the marketing folk spaff at distracted eyeballs, through the fabrication of ChatGPT and their credulous  ‘boosting socials‘.

No bike is perfect. It can’t be. Outside of making things up, compromises begat decisions, budgets slice away at idealism, manufacturing swaps bespoke for standards. What you get isn’t what you’ve seen. Which is absolutely fine because modern bikes run close to the marketing lies in the hands of the ordinary rider.

As an ordinary rider, my RipMo unashamedly presents itself as exhibit A when calls for the perfect trail bike are shouted out. I’d be the first to agree, but not without caveats. Californian design has little truck with four seasons on a storm tossed island, battered by an increasingly random jet stream. Mud breaks it fast, and fast will side load clevis mounted shocks to early destruction. Bearing sealing is average at best while that sculptured back end shimmys noticeably under even my load.

How’s your Thursday going?

But on the perfect night, on the perfect trails ridden by the less than perfect rider I’d  slap my hand on a bible** and tell you my this is the best trail bike in the world. Right here and right now.  Right here we’re a relenetless thirty minute climb from the river, and right now four of us are clustered under a tree canopy amplifying incoming dusk, all the while twitching for reaffirmation of the good stuff.

The RipMo is a great climber. First one was great, this one is a little better.  I’m probably a little worse but that declining physicality is a whole other post. One I may never write, but a nominal datum punting me closer to 60 than 50, thereby nailing the venn between treating age as an abstract number and the very real manifestations of getting older is a daily existential conundrum.

End of a very long climb

Whatever, live in that moment, focus on this four minutes of everything you’ve learned and everything in front of you. A trail not desperate to please. Not ready to be categorised. Couldn’t give a shit if for the flow love-in. Narrow, nadgery, gradient diversive, squeezed between unforgiving trees and bedrocked on nasty tooth shaped  limestone positioned to throw you off line.

Off line is often going to hurt. No soft landings here, get it wrong and you’ve a Hobsons choice between chewing bark or slicing flesh. Pick one good line, get stiffed by a tight corner or a broken tooth of rock sticking it to the man. Beat that down only to be rewarded with root stacks desperate to punt you off camber and into a stone wall.

Drop onto the fireroad – long slogged some twenty minutes before – take a breath before you’re back into it, lean forward, loosely grip the bars, take a bead beyond those tyre punting rocks, go loose as they go hard, don’t get greedy tho, there’s a tight corner coming and that’s 100% commitment to the outside before tipping it in, shaping a body, moderating the brakes, eyeballs on the prize.

Then you’re through, over a steep root monster – tentacles out – into a narrow V, precision is important here, swing it left and then it’s fast switchbacks, watch out for those summer shrouded stumps, drop into a couple of horrible fork smashing compressions, boot it out, lean it into the final perfect right and brake hard to avoid the ancient gate.

Every time I ride this trail it reminds me of Molini, or similar uplifted amazement to the power of four in terms of ascent and distance. This doesn’t diminish what these last few minutes mean. And all of that without mentioning the bike. Because it’s disappeared under what skills and bravery I have.

Much of those are engendered by trusting what I have under me. Knowing the bike is better than me isn’t helpful. Knowing how far I am from those limits absolutely is. Brake a bit later, release those anchors a second before something scary, edgily pitch tyres on questionable terrain and – when options are scarce – death grip the bars and let the bike remind me what happens when you throw your trust at an inanimate object.

Bike parking :)
Every ride should end in the pub. That is the lore 🙂

So does this make it the ultimate riding machine? Of course not. But on trails I know, when conditions are perfect and my head is in the right place it is the perfect machine for me.  As a man steeped in the quantitate spectrum, anthromopising plastic and glue are an anathema. The bike is a thing, a means to an end, an engineering marvel for sure but no more than that.

I will never get bored of this view. Especially as it’s taken from the pub!

And yet. Rolling it into the shed after one of the rides of the year, I cannot help myself ‘that’ll do Pig, that’ll do’.

Ultimate no. Making a old man, very happy? Oh yes.

*I teach this stuff. Data v Information isn’t the right question. Context is everything. The numbers don’t lie, but people do.

**As an atheist, this maybe isn’t quite the assertion it would seem on first reading.

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