That’ll be the Quantocks then. From a purely geological standpoint, it’s arguable the Peak District or North Wales may better qualify. But walk for a minute in my shoes* and try rhyming anything with district. Lift Fits? Whit Gifts? Wrist Pick? Lacking both rhythmic cadence and rhyming couplets.
So, as usual, form triumphs over function on the hedgehog. But it’s not a total fib as these were rocks garnished by marketing. One minute you’d be pinballing off square edged geography idly disputing the brochure’s claim of “dry, sun dappled singletrack nestled in the beautiful hills of Somerset“, and – just before you called a lawyer or the A&E department – suddenly it would appear right in front of you**
Legend has it that proper mountain bikers would never spend less time out in the hills than it took to travel there.. I’ve always assumed such heroes had very fast cars. But when fantastic weather and great trails intersect, even the slack can manage to ride through five snatched hours of winter daylight.
Although we did spend approximately a third of that time in the pub. And because they serve beer, it seemed rude not to embark on some light quaffing. And because the Quantocks are a sugar loaf of steep sided valleys, the subsequent climb very nearly resulted in some projectile de-quaffing.
During the occasional brief riding hiatus’s between drinking, talking and eating, the singletrack sparkled cheekily and sparked all sorts of post descent nonsense around riding proficiency rarely seen outside professional competition. For myself, I’d like to think that “I flowed through those corners like I was on snails” treads a line somewhere between natural modesty and harsh reality.
There was much talk of floating serenely over bumps and braking only when certain death was the alternative. Better still sometimes deeds even followed words with a death-grippy “ohshitgoingtofasttobrakebuggeryarrrggh” approach to the Weacoombe descent brought with it a weeks worth of adrenalin. Had it gone wrong though, the next ten seconds would have been packed full of hurty incident.
Still out of the aggressively nibbling*** wind, the weak winter sun warmed our backs, and the happy noises of right side up mountain bikers could be heard all around. Riding in winter is so often wet, cold and butt shotblastingly muddy but – on days like this – you remember just how great the next three seasons are going to be.
Back at home some time later I did the numbers. Traveling hours: 5. Traveling miles: 276. Riding miles: Not many. Riding smiles: think of a big number and multiply it by close to infinity.
Forget the rigidity of seasonal accuracy. The daffodils are out, the birds are singing in the dawn, the hedgerows are sleepily awake with new buds. Spring is coming. And so is late summer for those of us heading off to the other side of the word next month.
I may have mentioned that already.
* Probably should have warned you about the smell. They are a funky set of kipper slippers.
** Insert preferred ending
– like Hally Berry wiggling provocatively out of the sea
– like a handsome man with a beguiling – yet playful – smile
– like the Shopkeeper in Mr. Ben
– all of the above.
*** somewhere between flat calm and biting