The wrong way round

A phrase conjuring many amusing anecdotes from mechanical engineering to spousal navigation passing through confused copulation, frustrating flat-pack building and – if my experience has any statistical significance – the configuration of any electrical magical devices*

I am lucky – nay blessed – to have parked our life smack bang in the middle of some bloody fantastic riding. To your left a muscly ridge built on porous glaciation and to my right a 100 kilometres of forest. Both packed full of legal and cheeky trails most likely to make any MTB rider whoop and holler. And occasionally whimper. But while these trails – on first sight – feel too numerous to count and too extensive to map, a certain groove is carved first by most fun trail selection, then by habit and finally by apathy.

When you can roll out a mental map between where you are right now and the pub some three hour distant, it’s time to kick back, break out of that groove, ride the trails less travelled and go exploring. Get in touch with your inner eleven year old who is desperate to know ‘what’s down there?’. Last week we rode for bloody ages looking for a trail that just about rewarded the effort to find it, but the absolute best bit was getting a bit lost on the way there.

Today the spirit of the navigational optimist was imbued by my good friend Martin who decided we’d ignore the tracks of our years, and instead head off in an entirely new direction. Being the Malverns this still involved climbing to a windy ridge before dropping behind on a much ignored doubletrack which proved itself rather fast and feisty – hanging off as it was the side of a bloody big drop.

Then descending something climbed a hundred times. Again vertiginously configured in a way to ensure you were fully involved in a plummet/brakes/hairpin/plummet again dance with loose rocks, tight single-track and occasional lumpy sections which are a bind as a climb but bloody brilliant bouncing down them the other way.

Then we got a bit lost which was entirely expected. Finding some new routes just above Malvern, one had a rather tempting wall drop Martin felt I should be sent down first. His reasoning was that my clown wheels were more likely to stay any possible disaster, which is fine rationale until one considers the skills-free idiot plonked on top. I menaced it with sufficient briskness for the drop to be absolutely no problem although the runout very nearly was. More run off than run out. Or run into a tree. Anyway, flight pass stamped, I happily goaded Martin into having a go explaining exactly how slick and loose it all was.

He rode it fine. Which was, frankly, a bit disappointing. Never mind we continued to ride around the problem of familiarity with all sorts of ‘oh that bit comes out there does it/we’re here, right I thought we were over there‘** Under the hills, autumn colours shone slickly in weak sunlight making skidding through thick piles almost compulsory. The buff and dry trails may have gone, but we’re not quite into winter yet ably demonstrated by the orange and gold trailscape carpeting our route and whispering breathlessly under fast tyres.

We manoeuvred ourselves onto a track ridden only once before. It was jauntily off camber, barely hanging onto a steep hillside with the a whole load of bugger all to the left. A lovely view into the valley encumbered not at all by any other geography which might break your fall. Speeds may be down, but fun, fulfilment and the occasional adrenaline shot of terror are all still fully present. It’s not muddy enough to be a slog yet, but the grip is at best variable and occasionally non existent.

So we slid about for a couple of hours before finding ourselves 200 feet above the cars under threatening but awesome looking skies. This weather keeps 90{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} of the walkers off the Malverns and we’d had some slalom free runs all afternoon. Inevitably a family photograph was held up by the camera holder adjusting the focal length by stepping onto a trail we were bombing down. Her blissful ignorance may have been shattered by my squeaking brakes, but no letters to the Malvern gazette were triggered by our back to front production.

Back at the cars, we congratulated ourselves on a lost well found. So the wrong way around would appear to be the right way round after all. There’s probably an important message there.

* still one of my all-time favourite phrases was uttered by a proper engineer ‘if it doesn’t work, hit it with a hammer. If that doesn’t work, bind it up with duct tape. If it’s still being an awkward bastard, what you have there is an electrical problem. Call the sparky. He’ll probably be in hospital having set himself on fire. Useless arseholes‘ 🙂

** Mostly from me. Who we’ve established has a fully working internal compass. Unfortunately it’s permanently pointing to ‘lost

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