Mountain Biking should not be a solitary sport. Fifty percent or more of the fun is who you are with, and the rest made up of where you are. Most riders subscribe to this opinion, so we all gravitate to people who will put up with your bullshit, and kindly check your bike for damage while you’re bleeding elsewhere.
Sure there are those outside the bell curve who decry group rides as diluting the ethereal experience, others’ chatter mere white noise against the simple beauty of being at one with the landscape. I tend to think of these people as a) a bit up their own bottom and b) having no real friends.
And whilst I say your riding world is peopled with those sharing similar mental DNA, there are always leaders and followers, fast guys up hill, nutters streaming down the other way, talkers and silent types, tech heads and don’t give a shitters. And then there’s always one, just one who has a personal mission to make you hurt yourself.
Take my pal Jezz, a rare – and bloody annoying – combination of decent technical skills, a strong climber and a firm expression when offering up a short extension likely to take you into a) the next county and b) tomorrow. But under that genial expression lies the heart of a sadistic bastard. And he worked me out quickly enough as an old bloke whose mouth was writing cheques his body couldn’t cash.
So the challenges started. Not that I really knew, as on our inaugral ride, I thought I was going to die, and on the second I was pretty sure I had. But extra bits started to be worked in, lips were expected to be stiffened during a riding into driving snow experience, hills were for going over not around. But like I say I was too busy suffering near death experiences to notice.
And then I was sucked in “Hey Jezz, I reckon this loop is all doable in the middle ring”. I tossed it out for a laugh and the bugger only went out two nights later and proved it was possible. For him anyway, when I tried I was unpleasantly reminded of singlespeeding. I am such a sucker for this stuff, all competitive bravado, no actual way of backing it up.
This morning I had a proper commute to work and electronically informed the young fella that us oldies cracked out a massive 18k of road work in 43 minutes. Adding hastily that I was weighed down by laptops, shoes (the ones the dog hadn’t eaten), knobbly wide tyres and the dark. The bastard – because that is what he is – replied I was merely a big girl and should put some bloody effort in.
Which is why I was hating my texting finger as it gripped the bars climbing the 200+ vertical feet of twatty hill separating me from home. Lowest gear (which on my CX bike is still bloody hard in case you’re interested), dribbling, sweat rolling into my eyes, 1000 yard gurn in place. The valley road was far below, but that would be far too bloody easy wouldn’t it?
Better to die up here in the rarefied air of the terminally stupid. My breath rasped out and a sane Al would have reached for a Asthma blow, but no because that may slow me down. It was the same spark of lunacy which kept me on the drops on a road much given over to mud and running water, and offering up about as much grip as jelly on ice.
“Can’t slow down, it’ll cost me 10 seconds“. Fair enough I suppose although a couple of times, it did feel I may be forty years early for the next life. Rolled up to the home gate, fumbled for my watch, clicked the light on. Looked. Looked again. 41minutes29seconds. It must be broken, it had to be faster than that.
I was explaining this to Carol while lying on the floor, legs a tremble and refusing to move. On the not unreasonable grounds there was no way I was going to tackle a difficult set of stairs. Just throw a blanket over me now and feed me my phone and some humble pie.
My riding buddies seem to be mainly Mr. Pain and Mr Suffering, but I am starting to feel sort of fit. And very, very old.