Old, but not bold
An attempt to describe my age as the composite of a fit 32 year old man with the mind of a 13 year old failed to illicit the hoped for response. It was strongly mooted that only if I paid random passers by to shout ‘hey Al you’re looking damn good for 30‘ and really upped my maturity game could this age denial fantasy come to pass.
Even then, it would be a stretch. But that’s the problem with growing older without growing up. Most of us in our middle years still feel about sixteen inside unti we try something physically difficult. Like bending down. My favourite definition of middle age is ‘you cannot stand up without making a noise‘, which in my case is the grunt of effort accompanied by a creaking knee, clicking ankle and graunching shoulder.
Again the hoped for wisdom, gravitas, having the slightest clue of how I should run my life failed to be mentally unwrapped on my birthday, so – listening to that inner teenager – I went to play outside instead. Because, while the weather had continued to moistly disappoint, the summer is moving on and with it the evening light and elevated temperatures. If I don’t shift my ravaged carcass now, what chance come winter?
Another joy of advancing years is as what little remaining hair makes a run for the shower plug, karmic balance insists on adding the tyre of fading metabolisms around the middle. To be fair even the most active fifteen year old with a hummingbird genome would struggle to work off my Scone, Cheese and Wine diet greedily imbued on holiday.
A shifty glance in the mirror suggested bigger trousers were on the horizon unless I fancied grooving the middle aged sloping chest/straining button look so seemingly cherished by many my age. I’m sure that as I turned away in disgust, the fat bit over the belt hung about for another second before centrifugal force wrenched it back. Bit of a relief the ensuing Newtonic reaction didn’t throw me down the stairs.
So shorts snugly fitted, a bike selected from the ‘shed of dreams‘ and a tootle out to the Malverns where fat bodies/tired legs are found out in the turn of a pedal. A quick up and down suggested the few rides shoehorned in this last ten days had at least gainstayed the rasping breath/burning legs of a non riding man. Still always room for improvement of bike if not rider and, as a birthday present, Martin lent me his very capable Orange 5 for a quick blast.
Not so quick uphill. It’s a bit of a pig frankly. But shod with what I assume are recycled tractor tyres and with a frame welded by a blind man working deep in the remains of the Ark Royal, it’s never going to be a sprinter. Aesthetically it’s somewhere between industrial chic and mind-bleachingly ugly so the best place to view it from is definitely on top.
I wasn’t feeling much love even from that position tho, with Martin sprinting away on my ST4 declaring it ‘fast, fun and poppy’ which is everything the 5 isn’t. Having finally winched myself to the top of a rocky descent, the time had come to remove ever withering brain, pick an object on the far horizon and see what a super stiff frame suspended on six inches of clever shock trickery could do.
It could scare me that’s for sure. Only at warp speed does this bike make sense. Any less and there’s nothing apparently happening as fat baby-head rocks and wheel sized drops are dispatched with nothing more than a feeling of sinking gently into a sofa. I knew the ST4 was a little bit flexy, but this thing is stiff beyond belief. The only feeling of speed – other than landscape being thrust at overrun optical nerves – is the noise. It’s very much like piloting an old steel filing cabinet being thrown down a metal fire escape.
As I watched Martin find the limits of my ST4, it would have been easy to go quicker. But foolish. In a moment of clarity, I realised the reason the ST4 is such a great bike for me is exactly because it does have limits that provide a perfect excuse not to go any faster. The 5 is a brilliant – if simple – piece of honed engineering, but it only makes sense if you are the type of rider who craves speed over everything else.
I’m happy to say that rider isn’t me anymore. Probably never was. Swapping bikes back, I watched Martin create an effortless gap between us on the next descent clearly defining him as exactly that type of speed freak. Fast I like, insanely fast I’ll leave to everyone else including my younger self. But that’s not going to stop me getting on a bike at every opportunity and tweaking the nose of terror. Before running away.
Ten years ago when I fetched my old rigid mountain bike out of the shed and set out , helmetless, clueless and without a thought where this may lead, the only thing of certainty was this pastime couldn’t extend beyond 45 years old. I couldn’t have been more wrong. And on that basis, it’s probably time to go and play outside again.