There is much in this world to be irritated about. Especially if one is keen to establish a firm position on how you are right and why everyone else is wrong. The revisionist wisdom of age would suggest it’s more about finding an interesting place to stand. In this case at the foot of a dubiously vertical roll in ending in that picture of Spring goodness.
The lore of trail building states that he or she who builds it gets to immortalise it with some kind of naming ceremony. Which rarely survives narrative causality hence this homage to muddy injury being labelled with the self-explanatory moniker of “Head Dab”
A name which popped into my mildly concussed skull after Iâ€™d crashed five times within the first 300 yards. Twice on the same corner. So as I lay upside-down in the slime, inconvenienced by bicycle, my thoughts turned to the rather more pertinent question “why the fuck haven’t I moved to Spain?‘
There are reasons. As there must be for why six weeks into meteorological spring, we’re still in the bastard embrace of the Disney classic ‘Frozen’, only with less singing and more swearing. I can only surmise my penance for swerving eight weeks riding with a manky ankle is to re-live January and February in March and April.
Except it’s somehow bloody worse. After making plausible excuses for missing the weekly night ride*, guilt had me spinning furious circles the following day. Mostly in an attempt to ignite some kind of warmth under more layers normally required when the suns power mirrors that of late August.
Sun? Clouds’ thief has stolen that for the last few weeks. Warmth has been replaced with single digit temperatures, trails with a filthy mess of tidal slop and motivation with the grim realisation that 2kg of winter sloth isn’t being shifted by beer and biscuits.
I’ve no one to share my misery with. Not that conversation was much an option- with ragged breaths oxygenating moist air in a futile attempt to counter the organic plastercine between the wheels. Occasionally I gasped quiet entreaties to fate idly questioning if this may be some kind of test and, further, when the fuck might it be ending?
No time soon based on the first fireroad climb slick with the detritus of recent forestry. I missed that fireroad though as the first proper off road climb spontaneously struck up an ensemble performance of slick roots and deep mud with scenery provided by a landscape mostly dead or stutteringly dormant.
Finally after 30 minutes of pointless chuntering** a descent happened. Quite slowly to be honest. First time on the hardtail for three months and not wishing to be found half eaten by walkers some days hence, my progress was somewhere between stately and worried.
In between those states, grip wasn’t entirely absent. I was too busy whinging to make any real attempt to find it. That whinge flipped between internal and external after sawing my way desperately up the next climb to find my reward somewhat not as advertised.
A year ago it looked like this.
Yesterday, this was the rather more disappointing vista.
This kind of thing went on for a while. Let me spare you that and move straight to the highlights. Oh sorry there weren’t any. Here’s an example of a non-highlight – the three and a half minute climb to access a few of the best trails took over twice that. Because that’s how long walking though churned up mud with the frictional properties of soapy glass will take.
It wasn’t all bad. Say when considered to the shed-bike of perpetual misery -which mocks my trifling efforts whenever I decide outside is just a bit too bloody depressing. Plus the bike was way easier to clean than my full suss.
And at one point when sliding properly sideways, I was silently proud of taking charge, shoving it back into line and only kissing a tree which had previously been nominated as ‘bark most likely to have an Alex Tattoo coming soon‘
What pissed me off most tho wasn’t the earth-clamping cold or the leaden skies long distanced the promised sun, nor the deep puddles freezing my feet. It was the hidden underbrush which savaged my ankle. Yeah somewhere in this apparently dead foliage was a bastard bramble pretending spring had in fact arrived.
That was a tough cut to take. As I grumpily shoved the now brown bike into the car, it started to rain a little harder. So what I thought, it’s not like anything can get any wetter. Including me.
I love riding in Spring; hero-dirt, burgeoning vegetation, myriad colours, lusty smells and fast trails. Right now in mid April that’s a verified score of zero from five.
What can you do? You can go and ride that’s what. Last week we slogged 60km through this cipher of spring. Sunday next we’ll be doing the same. A month ago I couldn’t ride at all. This is way better. Just got to keep telling myself that.
*Mud I can do. Rain I can do. Cold I can do. Night I can do. Just not all at the same time.
**if I every form a band, we’re going with that name,