There are times when riding – as with life generally – that make you think ‘woooah that was a close one‘.Â Events that invoke the thoughtÂ that one just dodged a bullet, sailed a little close to the wind, felt the icy shiver of impending dread, that kind of thing.Â Generally followed up by a commitment not to do it again, or at least not for a while until the balance of karma is restored.
To paraphrase: “got lucky once, probably won’t next time” deep breath, nod to deity/pagan god of choice, move on. Today I had a ride just like that except for the moving on bit. If I were a cat, I’d be desperately scanning the small print for options to buy extra lives.
Riding with Martin always goes like this. Afternoons out are short on miles, long on smiles and celebrated for going heavy onÂ “shiiiiiit, eek, arrrghh, phew, never-in-doubt” moments.Â And because of riding lots, I’ve lately been overcome with a high dose of smug.
Enough in the legs to climb anything – albeit still quite slowly – and enough pedalled in muscle memory to let the bike go fast and be fantastic while I hang on up top. Not asleep at the bars tho, because this kind of riding guarantees serial hits on the adrenal gland.
First a top to bottom trail starting wide and windy, dropping into narrowing singletrack that throws out wheel stopping rocks and increased gradients before you can say “I wonder if I should have braked back there?”. A cheeky left throws up more steepness, a set of “qualifying” steps punching you straight into a second set easily identified by being sodding narrow, buttressed by shoulder high rock and long enough for major internal organs to switch locations.
Wet as well today as were all the trails. Best to look vaguely in the direction of proposed travel, loosen your muscles and your mind and go with the flow. I did, Martin didn’t leading to a bit of light ribbing especially as he’d brought his big bike to the rock party.
Multiple goes on a lovely steppy drop proved insufficient for Martin to understand how my camera worked.Â Â Never mind, big climb to height, fall off the side of another hill where I arrested a monster back-brake slide with a flick of the hips before my smugness was replaced by confusion as Martin snaked down the trail at a speed and smoothness entirely missing from the bloke behind.
No matter, one big climb to gurn, one favourite descent to dispatch. Lately I’ve been having a splendid time down here thinking that maybe – of all the riding crew – now I am the quickest. Chagrin served up with a double can of whupass for me then, as Martin careered off at a truly remarkable speed.Â Somewhere on the way down – between remembering to breathe and trying so hard not to crash – it became apparent that the only way of catching him would be to fly past at head height having been spat off at high speed.
Consulting my inner cat, I found a large flashing zero in the “remaining lives” column, and a terrified kitten hiding behind it. Did my best tho, still got whupped. But it’s not just bravado, or the not unreasonable joy of arriving alive at the bottom that makes us do this.
I cannot tell you how much fun riding fast, jumping off steps, bouncing off rocks or holding a two wheeled slide can be. I just know I want to go back and do it all again.