This week is…

Will he ride it out?

… National No Crash Week. Which makes a nice change from “name a sausage week” or “staple a cat to your ear week” or whatever nonsense some worthy lobby group is pitching as the pointless-idea-de-jour. It’s instructive to understand the behaviour such initiatives drives in your average citizen.

National no smoking day generates four million grumpy people chewing fingernails and chewing out anyone within a no-smoke radius. Or consider a ‘drink applejuice not alcohol’ 24 hourmoratoriumand observe the car crash of the all-country 48 hour bender which follows.

Theantithesisis to offer a norm and pretend it is somehow special. Last week, riding and crashing became largely indistinguishable with them both starting at the same point and ending nose-down in theshrubbery. Except for the one which nearly happened and – somewhat nonintuitively- left me considerably more concerned than the previous face plants.

First tho, Martin. The man who had fetched me out of a ditch earlier in the week, andpersuaded me a further exploration of personal hurtiness was something to be positively embraced. Which, as karma dictates, put him on a collision course with an accident so amusing to watch, it very nearly included me as well.

As can be seen, the final position quite clearly demonstrates Martin missing the perfect apex-clipping line he was aiming for. He picked a line which had many things going for it; ideal entry into a tight, steep switchback, away from the washed away main line and a rather raffish approach to late braking. What it didn’t have was any grip.

It’s beencruelly observed that the Orange 5 MTB Martin is riding makes a similar racket to a large filing cabinet being tossed down a fire escape. Those big hollow stays certainly amplify sound, but that sound was more ‘arrrghhh‘ followed by ‘ooooooomppph‘ as the bike dropped onto Martin’s prone torso from a vertical trajectory.

A further sound was a manic cackle and a stern instruction not to move before the moment could be pictorially represented for posterity, and a chunk of the Internet. Martin was entirely unharmed whereas my complaints of a sore ribcage from unstoppable laughter received no sympathy.

Two days later we’re at it again. This time into the teeth of a wind measured on the brisk side of gale force and a hangover measured on the mallet side of hammered. The previous night a chance discovery of ‘Butcombe Blonde’* ended in predictable messiness which even the repeated application of strong coffee and egg-based products failed to shift.

The plan was to bag the best three descents superbly described in this months ‘What Mountain Bike’** on the never-knowingly-underpointy North side of the Malvern Hills. Most of the climbs seemed to be pitched directly into a headwind whistling over the exposed terrain. Only when hidden by the hills’ muscular shoulders or hiding below the treeline was control and direction placed back in the riders’ hands.

Fun was had tho, hangovers fading, new trail options explored, new jump built but unridden. Excuses made, silliness andinappropriatespeed elsewhere passed a happy 60 minutes. The next 20 were less joyful climbing into the face of that bastard blow further enlivened with driving rain.

Decision point now. Turn for home on an exposed ridge, or traverse on edgy singletrack leaving no option but another big climb back out. I pulled out the Asthma card and we worldlessly battled the storm to the ridgetop, conversation being ripped away by the wind. Leaving just one descent with the potential of a granite facial, that’d put Martin out for months last year in similar conditions.

No surprise to see me sent out first then. The cross wind was blowing 30+ knots and love the jumpy-lumpiness of this trail as I do, it was clearly a wheels on the floor day. Except for a rock drop where rolling really isn’t an option. While 90{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} of riding conforms to the throw-away ‘speed is your friend’ line, this line certainly does not in those conditions.

Opting for lower velocity, and a subtle weight shift to pop the front wheel over was the thinking mans stay-out-of-hospital approach. Which worked fantastically until the bike briefly pawed skywards at the exact same instant a mighty gust played man-and-bike in ascythingtackle. The view from behind tells of a one foot shift to the right between take off and landing.

A landing which ignored the relative safety of a loose rocky line and instead plunged me into some pre-cambrian nastiness full of organ slicing and spiking obstacles rarely troubled by foot or tyre. History says our hero stood tall on the pedals, fixed his eyes on some far horizon away from the horror between axles, and rode out the GNAR using a SICK riding style to the power of RAD.

History lies of course. What with it being written by the winners. My only mildly heroic action was to death-grip the bars what with the tyres having enough on their treads without me subtracting braking from a decreasing traction profile. It was a wild ride for a few seconds before spitting me out somewhat perturbed and largely a passenger back on the main trail.

I’ve said it before, riding is all about moments and margins. Some days you’re the slugger, some days you’re the ball. Somedays you’re just bloody happy not to peeling your nose from your ear. Too damn close. Too damn scary. Too easy to laugh off and get back out there tomorrow.

Except for me designating these seven days to be ‘no crash week’, If it’s successful, I might extend it to a month. Or a year.

Here’s hoping.

* A discovery which I kept on making. By about the fifth, I’d definitely found something. An inability to walk in a straight line for a start.

** Where the handsome yet modest guide appears in glorious technicolour looking slightly less handsome than he remembered.

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