You cannot live on a small windswept island, sandwiched between a massive ocean and a fickle jet stream, and not enjoy the weather. Well if not enjoy at least appreciate the every changing meteorological conditions apparently immune to seasonal change.
It’s 35 degrees some 500 miles due east in the proper French mountains. In fact all of central Europe is sweating under the kind of heatwave that’d have UK citizens reaching for the factor 50 and wondering if the end has come.
We’re saved from such nonsense by onshore winds and prevailing westerlies delivering sunshine and showers in the low 20s. You can tell it’s summer here because the rain is quite a lot warmer. Green and pleasant land? That’ll be the precipitation with no respect for seasons.
This matters not. Mountain bikers do not judge summers by median hours of sunshine or average temperatures. We care not for blue skies feting traditional gatherings of Saturday salutations on village greens. Our medium is largely defined by the quality of dirt and, specifically, its moisture coefficient.
And right now it’s absolutely fantastic. A couple of low pressure systems damped down the dusty marbles so firming up the dirt. The day dawned without a view of the sky as dirty clouds raced across the horizon threatening dampness later. The BBQ set tutted but we just grinned, this day belongs to us.
Bikes thrown into the van. One shining in its brand new clothes. New bikes are always awesome even if they belong to someone else. Coffee and cake delayed us long enough for the clouds to partially clear, before we’re disturbing dust laying heavy on trails which ride entirely differently once the seasons ratchet to the dark side.
There’s an almost unchallenged hypothesis suggesting riding in winter is so much harder than when the planet shifts half a revolution. I”m not so sure – days like these you push, push, push all the time. Climbs are there to be taken, descents to be beaten. It’s perfect dirt – if not now, when? If not you, who? The shitiness of winter is never far away so you’d best make the most of short sleeves, sweat and speed right now.
And you do. Always pushing against nebulous excuses that difficult trail conditions may lie ahead. If you brake, you brake because you’re scared not because you’re making a margin call on changing conditions. The only reason your tyres won’t grip at funky angle has nothing to do with compounds and pressures – it’s entirely a UK view that 9 months out of 12 such insouciance will see you splattered against a fast growing pine.
Swinging the bike between apexes is a truly wonderful thing. Not one easily explained when even breaking traction is something to be embraced with a ‘woo… fuck.. got it… shit let’s do that again‘. There’s no question of short cuts or avoiding that extra climb because it is soon dispatched and the reward is quickly found on the other side.
I love summer because of this and many other things. Sure the vegetation is big and more than occasionally obstructive. This is a tiny price to pay when every turn is kicking out dust and every jump has absolutely no demons except those in your head.
After a few hours, we hauled ourselves out of one last valley and flicked suspension options to fun. A favourite trail that’s more than engaging in the winter with its off camber turns and enduring steepness is nothing more than a bravery test when it’s baked dry.
If you can stay loose and look far ahead, the next three minutes may very well be right up there with the best you’ve ever had. Let the bikes do their thing, but be more than a passenger. Believe in entropy – it may never be this good again until the next summer and how many of those do you have left?
Responsibilities and all that shit never go away, but mountain biking is pretty much the zero datum for living in the moment. There’s not much nuance here, it’s black and white, binary one and zero – chase your mates, pick a line, commit to the jump, get it done and just revel in the fact that 99% of people don’t get to do this. Jeez – that’s not living, it’s merely counting off the minutes.
Being blokes we’re not given much to introspection or passion for what pretty much defines us. But later – after a few beers sat in the sun planning for what we’ll be doing next – my phone pings with “Bloody ace day today. What an utter bunch of twats you are, I couldn’t wish for better mates”
He’s right. On all sorts of levels. That picture ^^ up there is a man contemplating how much fun he’s going to have with his new bike, The rest of us weren’t far behind in feeling the love for this stupid sport. I cannot conceive of a day when it’s not part of my life. Even in the depth of midwinter slogging through the gloop and slop of what I’ve come to think of as ‘the waiting for Spring’
Right now tho, that doesn’t matter. Today encapsulates ‘this is why‘. As if you’d ever have to ask the question.