The art of not falling over.

An art – you would have thought – as distanced from me as are crayoned scrawls to Monet. Recent history shows me on medication more often than on the bike, and frequent trips to the doctors, the hospital and the shrubbery do little to detract from this picture.

However, if at first you don’t succeed, merely redefine your success criteria. In this case rather than falling off at speed, I’ve seamlessly transplanted my skills to falling off more slowly. Remember my street riding experience being frustrated by an inability to enter the world of string and wires? A world where gravity is optional and graceful slow speed exits from high places end with the merest waft of a landing rear tyre. Not my world, I’m barely even a jealous orbiting moon.

Oh I can slam dunk a few bunnyhops before the inevitable pinchflat. I’ve been known to ride slowly off walls although heard is probably a better adjective. It’s like an aerobatic stall turn without the turn as my nose, navigating a heading due south, plunges groundwards to land at expensive dentistry. Saved only so many times by big forks and the power of chance – it was time to shape up or, more likely, give up.

Good advice is something I find easy to ignore but in this case, the simple instruction to start small and work up made perfect sense. Although I’ve generally been a start small and work down kind of guy until now. The base of many gravitationally illegal moves is centred around balance, but since my inner ear only talks to my other balance centres through lawyers, I’ve favoured gyroscopic effect over stationary magic.

And yet the simplest balancing skill is the track stand; where your bike remains almost motionless at zero miles per hour. You’ve probably seen stationary bike couriers supping coffee and rolling fags while their bike sits under them like a favourite armchair. If you noticed a bloke rolling randomly forward and backward, grabbing first brakes then a legful of crank before falling into the gutter, then that was me. Thanks for your sardonic applause.

A very brave man, Trackstanding Falling over here. Very bad indeed.

First lesson, no brakes. Roll to a stop using a slope to still momentum and then engage 23rd century anti-grav. If that isn’t available, shove front wheel one way and hips (they mean arse, come on be honest here, it’s a big counterbalancing body part and should be used appropriately) the other. Rock gently forward and back on the pedals and marvel at staying level rather than crashing to ground level.

Obviously it took me a while. Well about 30 years since riding first entered my life but concentrating so hard on a monster 45 second trackstand, I didn’t notice a dog walking couple in awe of my skills. Until he uttered from about two feet away “I wonder how he does that“. I was by this time chewing berries in the verge as my trials status came to an unplanned and abrupt end. They wandered away looking over their shoulder, proud to have been present at the inaugural “fakie track stand to holly bush, extreme swearing to finish

Flushed with success, a flowing coasting manual followed which promptly dumped me on my counterbalancing body part. That’s the problem with gravity, it waits for a moment of boastful overconfidence and hurls you onto your arse.

Life mirroring art? Life mirroring gravity more like.

What’s left?

It’s a direction in which I cannot really turn.

Not sure if you’ve noticed but it’s pretty dark out there. Most of the time now it seems and the clocks have yet to as retarded as BST-1 actually is. Autumn is here, and with it final garden maintenance shackled to the ‘mower than will not die’ stubbornly ripping up the lawn in a non collection style. What remained was about a ton of wet grass and nowhere to put it, offering up the joyless prospect of a long hard afternoon with a spikey rake.

Sod that, moss is the new lawn, I’m went riding instead. And since the Autumn Chilterns are twinned with a easterly valley centred around Passchendaele, the local trails are sliding around below a layer of bike eating mud. Thankfully these conditions don’t tend to extend beyond spring, or early summer at worst.

So a exciting trip to Bedfordshire with planned; now there’s a phrase you’re not likely to hear very often is it? “Oooh Flitwick, Can we go? I really can’t wait, can we go now, please, pllleeaaasse�”. Only an inspired piece of urban planning involving a large uncontrolled explosion could improve the place. But in this flat land of dull, lies the cheery little hillock of Chicksands, a riding spot where woodwork rules the woods, air is the new ground and ambulances are on standby.

Last time out, a very large bike allied with a very small amount of bravery launched me over the log-drop. Since then, a small accident I may have mentioned, did rather more long term damage to my head than my knee. Cornering has been a problem exacerbated when the trail leans left, I tend to lean straight on instead, ploughing headlong into a waiting tree on the grounds it’ll probably be less painful. However many times I tell myself “tree bad, corner good“, the message just isn’t getting home.

The only corners at Chicksands are generally bermed allowing even Mr. Timid here to corner by essentially riding into them. So all that time and effort headbutting trees has not been entirely wasted.

Tim and Brad on the dual slalomEarly flight leaves for FlitwicjJeans are the new shorts.

Continue reading What’s left?

Feeling Peaky.

I hope you’ve noted the seamless evolution of the medical title theme, started last Friday. It’s not all beer and skittles in here you know – rather a more complex game of blogging chess where moves have to planned three posts ahead. It’s hardly classy to juxtapose grouting lyrics with a forthcoming anal probe reference. You would be rightly irked by such lazy linkage and on that tangential note, here are some words that should never be seen together.

Marketing Budget, Holiday Slideshow and, my personal Armageddon, Alcohol Shortage. Feel free to add you own while I suffix Weather Forecast to this list of unholy couplets. The finest computers which advertising revenue can buy, predicted firstly dry but cold conditions, then localised flooding before settling on dreary and prolonged showers. These meteorological charlatans have clearly shunned their electronic doomsayers in favour of a glance out of the window following an intense study of the tea leaves.

We had a fantastic ride in what are considered the lesser lights of the Peak District. A cheeky route plotted by Andy “TrackLogs” Shelley – a man who has spent three years hunched over a computer developing mapping and GPS software. It was with a little surprise and not some alarm, we noted his total lack of navigational aids other than Google maps. This Guerrilla niche double bluff marketing is clearly more subtle than I thought.

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Continue reading Feeling Peaky.

Proper ‘ills

Not medical complaints more vertical geography. A weekend in the Peak District awaits although God’s country, as ever, has rather more weather than us down here in the soft south. It’s also rather well regarded for it’s rockiness and since my rolliness has lately been on the painful side, I’ve installed “Lithuanian Lesbian” as my riding style.

It’s unlikely anyone’ll notice much difference but in case they do, the offer of joining our host in a somewhat pervy long travel hardtail covern has been pooh-poohed in the strongest possible terms. It’s about time the Turner had an outing, you never know I might find someone who can ride it properly. Statistically, it’s unlikely to be me.

Before I go, my friend Jay (the story hunter of all things sexually deviant) has insisted I be his virtual mouthpiece and post this. He’s bigger than me so it seemed prudent to give him the opportunity to share this with my reader. I hope that doesn’t include my mum.

Before you open it, I should warn you of the non lunchable contents within. It’s an expose of Bejing’s Penis Emporium with references to “knob of the day” and “Todger health cures” I’m paraphrasing but I’m sure you get the drift.

Honestly, I’ve no idea where he finds this stuff. And more worrying the frequency in which he finds it. Maybe I’ll register I-want-my-knob-back and let him get on with it.

Another new bike Sir? Surely not?

No, not for me which considering I already have *ahem* quite a few, this seemed an appropriate time to redress the balance. My wife’s old bike was, in no particular order, too big, too heavy, too old and too rusty. It also employed an innovative braking system technically described as “pointing the behemoth uphill” or, in extreme cases “abandon speeding bike and head for the soft shrubbery“. As she’s not exactly enthusiastic about riding anyway – although this could be because her husband is essentially a mobile scar tissue lab – this seemed the ideal time to add safety and a little style to her cycling environment.

Sideways Tim offered up one of these:

Hardrock Sport Disc Womens

at a very reasonable price since it was all Woman specific with ickle fork springs and lowered standover. My eyes were drawn to a proper set of brakes, although I did warn Carol than her traditional technique of using both hands to wrench the lever barwards was going to require a rethink. Unless she’d kept quiet a pechant for describing a perfect parabola over the bars before being lightly nudged by the riderless bike.

The courier had been obviously playing frisbee with the box which slightly diluted the myth than new bikes are fantastic whoever they are for, but 20 minutes later she’d properly christened it by riding it gently into a wall. I’m proud to say that she’s learnt from the master there; Al ‘target fixation‘ Leigh preaches the word of accident to the entire family. It’s a great little bike and I think we’re going to have loads of fun wobbling around the countryside as a family zoned mobile chicane. So it is mildly ironic to consider I’ve spent way more on a single set of forks than we did on this entire bike. Best to keep that quiet I think.

Having first bought cycle specific clothing in 1994 and never felt the need to purchase anything since, she’s now keen to prod the tender underbelly of modern riding clobber. I’m assuming this opens up all sorts of opportunities for me to add to my modest collection of frames and clothing, but I’ve yet to find the right time to check.

I’m so impressed with this splendid little Spesh that it’s been granted permanent residency in the barn. It’s that good 🙂

Old dogs. New Tricks.

You know how back in the good old days everyone was lumbered with an amusing middle name. Bob “Bogdoor” Smith and Will “GoatFimbler” Jones, that kind of thing. Well maybe it was just my school then, but anyway my friend Andy “The Loon” Hooper is not a man in the first flush of youth nor in possention of a full set of unbroken bones. The two may be connected.

Here he is in happier times. He’ s somewhat vertically challenged but belies his small size by going large, which is why his second nickname “The Crash Test Gnome” resonates so strongly.

He bust a wrist earlier this year which maybe should have peeled some warning bells in a man more aware of his mortality. Instead Andy felt that beginning dirt jumping in his mid 40s would be a more appropriate response. This is a part of the sport generally left to those with low hanging jeans, piss pot helments and acne. Pubety is something they still have to look forward to.

The picture below is at Dalby Forest where Andy managed to clear the “pack” on a number of occasions before stupidly having “one more go

He traded distance for height, left it a little short and straddled the last jump landing his back wheel on the lip. The energy that should have taken him forward, instead pitched him off the bike before planting him face down in the dirt from about seven feet up. Although encased in ankle to forehead body armour, he still re-cracked his wrist, broke a bone in his elbow and tarmac’d his entire left sizes with angry purple bruising. Three weeks on and he’s still limping.

The full face saved his teeth and possibly more as half an hour of his life has disappeared after the accident (although he remembers getting up and pushing the bike to the van). Andy reckons his “going big” days are over and has sold his freeride bike to fund a rather more XC orientated one.

But knowing “The Loon” as I do, I wonder how long it’ll be before he cracks. Hopefully mentally and not physically.

You see, I told you it was sunny.

I was accused of meteorological inaccuracy on declaring that Scotland had indeed but both bonny in terms of riding and weather so here are some random pictures proving my innocence. And giving me a chance to gloat a little on a fantastic – if slightly painful – weeks riding.

Rider lost in crop circle. Mabie Singletrack. Roll Down, Kirroughtree.

Rider lost in corn circleMabie forest - do my pads look big in thisNige - slabby roll down

Nigel Gurning the rock step, KT. Small bike, big balls, Ae. Tim hoisting the dirtbag, Ae.

Nigel - woooah where's he goingSmall bike, big ballsTim - Ae

Dave. Ae. Climbing. Ae. Tim, Darkside, Mabie

See told you the sun shinedMore climbingAnd once more

Dave/Jay, Lakes. Dave/Jay, having a nice push, Lakes. Descending, Lakes.

Jay's lip gets some exerciseAre we there yet?Downhill at last

Tim, Darkside. Dave, Darkside. Tim, gap jump, Darkside.

Tim - Mabie, darksideDave having a thinkTim - gap, darkside

Al, Rock roll down, KT. Al, Cold, McMoab. Nige, Darkside. Tim, Log skinny, Mabie.

First ride after accident. 10 minutes in. Thanks.Al - wet on McMoabNigel - dark side MabieTim - mabie, log skinny

Photo’s 2,3,9, 10, 12,13,15 and 15 (C) Tim Beresford. Reproduce without his permission and he’ll drop the Dirtbag on you 🙂

Okay it wasn’t exactly Sunny all the time but hopefully you can see how much fun we were having.

Might be a trip back in September. I am bidding on ebay for a suit of armour 🙂

Scotland was indeed bonny..

.. and while rain was sweeping the south, we were bathed in Scottish Sunshine. This is not the same as English sunshine as the Sun is rather shy and hides behind the clouds and often a short sharp shower reminds you that venturing out without a waterproof is an act of extreme foolhardiness. As was falling off on the second day while riding a knarly flat bit of trail. With perfect precision I ripped open the same elbow that had recently acquired a thin layer of scar tissue after the previous unplanned al/flint interface.

Luckily my riding buddies lashed me back together and through the medicinal power of alcohol I was able to stoically continue if at a slightly reduced pace. And with significantly more pain every time a bump was encountered which when you’re riding mountain bikes in Scotland is about every second. Fortunately I had sufficient body armour to protect a small frightened elephant against a nuclear attack, less fortunately, I’d left most of it in the car when gravity came calling.

While carefully wheeling the bike into our rather splendid accommodation, my bleeding and brooding elbow was perfectly positioned to slam into the door jam. For a while afterwards, I lay on the floor and tried to find my happy place. This proved to be in the pub opposite which sold painkillers under the name of “Shag-Nasties Bottom Biter” or whatever the local ale was called.

Here’s a picture taken by a friend who has kindly cut my head off. That was one course of action I was considering after impaling an open wound on the mortice lock.

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Those knee pads saw some action on the last day when I fell off twice within half a mile. The first in front of a ghoulish audience who applauded loudly my ham fisted attempt to navigate a rock garden (“plants” including spikey flint, hard edged boulder and nervous perennial). When I say applauded, of course I mean after I’d dispensed with the services of the bike and rock surfed to a grinding halt balanced precariously on, what I’m euphemistically referring to as, “the fruit basket“.

In a huff, I remounted the trusty steed and pedalled off without a backward glance. God knows where I was looking tho because a minute later, the whole sky and ground thing inverted and yet again the mean trail searched out uninjured limbs to bruise. Essentially I am now considering renting myself out as mobile scar tissue.

Still it was a fantastic week’s riding even if Easyjet provided me with no confidence in their ability to find a plane to take me home. Instead I hitched a lift in a mate’s camper van whose top speed would not trouble any form of speed camera but this was more than made up for in it’s fixtures and fittings. Nice cup of tea on the move, fridge with cold beer in it and enough space to get some decent kip. Probably should make it clear, I wasn’t doing the driving.

Back on the commuting bike tomorrow. Hopefully no one will try and kill me, it really isn’t necessary considering my recent policy of self harm 😉

Forget hangover cures…

I need something slightly stronger for this:

Riding on Sunday as an excuse to go for a couple of beers. Lost the front end on an off camber corner and ripped open my knee (and other various body parts) on some Chiltern flint. Couldn’t helped noticing that when I was looking at my knee, the  tendon was staring back at me. That’s not right I thought and it wasn’t.

Seven hours in A&E while they prodded, cleaned, injected into the open wound and before deciding it’d have to be cleaned out under a general. Of those seven hours, about one hour was being treated while the other six were spent waiting for x-rays, doctors, consultants and lots of other busy people. Still nice to see the NHS is staffed up on all our Taxes eh?

Next day they didn’t do the op as they were busy. That’s ok as I didn’t really want to eat or drink anything for 30 hours while they threatened to take me to theatre. Finally cleaned and stitched it up on Tuesday and sent me home today mainly as I am the man who put the patient into impatient.

10 days before the stitches come out. Can’t have a shower, can’t drive, can’t do more than a comedy shuffle. Wife not impressed as we’re on hols next week and my contribution will likely be lying in a chair drinking beer.

And in case you’re interested, yes it bloody hurts.