Racers. You know the type. Defined by an engorged competitive gland fused with unbreachable self belief. Scarily focused and endlessly driven. Success boxed by results and targets. Sure, you know the type. I’m not that type at all as my blotted copybook of event based ineptitude confirms.
Which doesn’t stop a Wolverine like snap of pointy elbows under entirely appropriate contextual circumstances. To whit the temerity of a good mate believing there’s a line his pace and skill can lace between me and that tree. Oh there’s a line alright and he just crossed it. Catching is one thing, passing quite something else.
We’re not talking rock hard race courses here, buttressed by striped tape and peopled by those who’ve confused pain with pleasure. Nor seasonally race-boarded chubby weekend warriors gurning out mid pack mediocracy. No this is something entirely different and rather more configured for fun. It’s a cheeky singletrack nestling below the much travelled ridges of the Malvern hills. It was first an animal track and latterly exactly a minute of tree carving joy in the summer months.
Which have been and gone leaving us with sheep trampled mud, a moistness of dirt running infinitely deep and grip occasionally found but mostly lost. Martin built most of this trail and claims first-down blagging rights in conditions from dusty to disastrous. Except tonight when the tyres were slicked with a mud pack, and direction was 5% rider input and 95% the current direction of travel.
I slipped by as he slipped off and gently pointed my slithering steed in the direction of any local geography not entirely filled with hurty trees. Luckily – and I use this word with some charity – the sheer volume of mud ensured velocity was restrained almost sufficiently for brakes not to be required. Careful use of the word ‘almost‘ there as a brief caress of the rear* slowed me only as a direct consequence of the tyre breaking away and attempting to overtake the front.
Probably best not to try that again. Instead hip steer the sliding bike onto a perpendicular bearing to a phalanx of glassy roots, take a deep breadth, unweight the now rather portly mud-transporter and breathe again as success is briefly declared when considering the alternative. I’ve always been a big advocate of the maxim that if ‘at first you don’t succeed, redefine exactly WHAT you mean by success’
All this dithering and procrastination has Martin line astern on my weaving tyre. In commentators parlance he’s ‘all over me like a rash’ and looking ‘fast and racy’. In my language he’s clearly cheating and that’s my speciality. All that separates us from trails end and bragging rights are two ninety degree bends that reward bravery and balance back in those halcyon summer days.
Try that now and earn a free mud pack with added twigs, stumps and surprised rabbits. I’m not really prepared to let Martin by, nor am I keen to splatter various important but squiggly body parts against a tree. So rather than make a decision, I curl my toes, worry a bit, run out of time and push oh-so-gently on the bar. Somehow we’re though the first and setting up for the second but Martin is now ‘all over me like a cheap suit’
Grr. Testosterone. Stupidity. Chuck it’ll in, it’ll be fine. Of course it will. Of course it wasn’t. Rear wheel slides are fun, front wheel slides are scary, both wheel slides are essentiality a finite period of time before brave face hits the dirt. This was a proper two wheel slide enacted at the exact time Martin made his dive for the inside line. Good luck with that.
I’d stopped worrying about being overtaken because any such thoughts were overtaken by hanging onto a bike that was rebounding between one axis and the next. The front and rear clearly had a proper strop with a refusal to agree on a common direction. Corner of one wide eye saw a bar to my left but by this time I was a passenger somewhere between ‘riding it out through awesome bike handling’ and ‘bracing for impact‘.
After a few more fishtails we regained control of the bucking bronco and stuffed it happily into the stile** declaring to almost nobody who was interested ‘that my friends is an entirely new race move. Forget that nonsense around tactics, strategy and pointy elbows. No, what we have here is a Nigel-Mansell-esque approach to trail ownership. You’ve just been privileged to witness is ‘the startled Turbot’
It only works if you’re riding with like minded individuals who really should be doing something rather more productive with their Friday nights, a trail at least tyre deep in tractionless mud, a configuration of perfect corners and a view that racing is really rather less serious than some will insist it is.
Lucky for us then that’s exactly what riding with your mates in November brings forth on every night ride. Don’t get me wrong, I’m already pining for Spring but until then I shall be ‘doing the Turbot’. It’s al whole load of fun and I’m fairly sure it’s legal 😉
* the brake in case you’ve lost the thread. And certainly not the front because that’s the hydraulic equivalent of penning a suicide note.
** Honestly, you’d never get a horse over there. I shall be writing to the footpaths officer 😉