It’s dropped off!

It’s been an odd weekend – not totally fulfilling nor entirely without incident but odd none the less.

Firstly – and you may wish to imitate the sound of a one person’s ego trumpet being sounded here – I managed to limp off that total mind fuck that is the log drop at Chicksands. It looks a bit like this.

For those of you who don’t ride bikes, think of the challenge as essentially riding off a small cliff with no ground visible whatsoever as you fly blindly into space. For those of you who do, I’ll just lightly bask in your adoration.

There are a few caveats though. Firstly it’s taken a year of non progression to get this far. June 26th 2005 was a date neon pinked in the ride diary as I conquered the qualifier for the log drop. Once you’ve done the large ladder (drop 5-6 feet, carry about 10-12 feet), you’re ready for the log.

Well not me obviously. Six more visits, six times it never looked likely. There’s one bigger obstacle that the log drop, and at this rate I’ll be 192 before attempting it based on this level of progression. Secondly I was talent compensated in terms of the bike. A kindly soul lent me a six inch travel full suspension sort of trail bike that a proper rider could launch off Jupiter and land smoothly in Milton Keynes.

And for most of the day it wasn’t really happening. This super sprung bike mirrored my normal chosen steed for Chicksands only in that had two wheels. It was longer and heavier which made for some quality nose first dives off the ladders. Big forks saved me but didn’t really give me much confidence nor did lending it to a mate who rode it off almost everything with consummate ease. So not the bike then. Like that was a surprise.

The run in to the drop is a fast downslope downgrading to almost flat before the log appears large in your focus and the rest of the world disappears. The phrase “A leap of faith” could have been specifically coined for this drop. I’d never really tried it before – oh I’d rolled up to the end and stared down into the abyss but at all times both hands were locked hard onto the brake levers. This time though when I took a sighter, I knew it’d have to go the next run or it’d have beaten me for the day. Maybe forever. Lots of my riding buddies, who I don’t think are beneficiaries from of my death in service insurance policies, repeatedly point out that there’s no reason I can’t ride this. Except that I’m shit scared of course – I’m not sure they’ve taken that into account. I was twitching nervously, sweating from glands I’m sure don’t exist in any medical dictionary and breathing like Darth Vader having sex with a vacuum cleaner.

Top of the slope, clear my mind. And I mean clear, think of nothing at all, not technique, not consequences, just release the brakes and be a happy passenger cleared for take off. Half way down my brain rebelled and attempted to wrest control of the brake levers but by then it was far too late. Failing to stop at the edge is akin to falling off the edge of a waterfall. The first thing to hit the ground would be my head closely followed by an all body impact from a 40lb bike. That was even scarier than just – as those who understand the nuances of such things “riding off the fucker

I just rode off the fucker then. It was fine, no big deal, dunno why I’d made such a huge fuss about it. Certainly the seconds of silence between take off and landing were mildly perturbing but really there was no excuse for the emotional celebrations that followed. I threw the bike away and high fived complete strangers smug in the knowledge that I was now in the “log drop club” and other people weren’t. Yes, I really am that shallow. No I don’t intend to do anything about it.

Riding off it looks like this for those with cahoonies the size of village show root vegetables. I was having it somewhat more medium verging on the small.

But to “own” any drop (frankly I’ve never owned a drop, but I’ve rented a few on a good day), one has to survive three times at the scaffold of fear. Only then are you admitted to the club and can cheekily ignore it for a while on future visits claiming “fork issues“, “inappropriate tyres” or “bad fish the previous evening“. But now it wasn’t messing with my head, it was just another thing I knew I could do. Not well, not that quickly and certainly lacking in any style, unless hanging on for dear life and gurning has come back into fashion, but serially and without too much fear.

A little faster, a little more committed and little further out before falling back to earth cushioned by my borrowed big springs changed my state to “log ownee”. I’ve never been so proud – no honestly.

Nobody cares though. All my friends did it ages ago, my wife and kids don’t understand it and – rightfully – care even less as long as I’m back in one piece and even my ego shudders against the prospect of shouting it from the rooftops of an Internet forum.

I tell you what though, it sure beats hell out of putting up fence posts. I should know, that’s my reward for playing silly buggers yesterday.

Bristol Bikefest. Ow, Ow, Ow.

On your right please mate, whenever you’re ready“. Oh I was ready alright, ready to lie down in the cool embrace of the leafy wood and wait to be stretchered out or abandoned as a rotting corpse, whichever came first. Either were preferable to actually riding another lap, or come to that another corner.

Having not ridden my hardtail for more than two hours at a stretch and almost never ridden for six hours in a day, my piss poor performance hardly merits an entry. But being crap wasn’t what really bothered me, it’s the whole “endurance” scene man – I’m more you Enjoyence rider; couple of laps, have a few goes at the good bits, retire to the bar and point aggressively at those zero fat body Nazi’s tightly wrapped in billboard lycra.

It hadn’t started badly. Having feasted on a balanced carbo load of fish AND chips washed down with a couple of fizzy lagers, the prospect of spending any longer in a waist high field of blowing pollen drove us out to do a lap. Since this was the night before the race, the track was all ours which considering our pedestrian pace was no bad thing. At 8k, the course is short enough to be tackled with vigour, but varied enough to suspend tedium on multiple laps. Rocky and rooty sections linked buff singletrack and height was gained on a couple of easy climbs. Super quick on a hardtail if you had the strength to manual over obstacles and stand tall when the trail added gradient and undulation. Big grins at the end of the lap, we felt pretty good for the race tomorrow. But that probably was the post lap beers talking.

Continue reading Bristol Bikefest. Ow, Ow, Ow.

Burnt at one end, reamed at the other..

The Bristol BikeFest was a fantastic event. If you like that kind of thing. Which I really don’t. I’ll download the entire theorapy session later but – and this is the last time – I’d yet again failed to detect the subtle nuance between Endurance Racing and Enjoyment Riding.

The bike was great. The course was fantastic. The weather was hot. The beer was most welcome. I hated it after about 3 hours.

Oh and waist high grass, a strong breeze and a hayfever sufferer make not a happy trio.

Why oh why oh why?

This post is written in the style of an eighties revisionist parady of Barry Took presenting Points Of View. Proper Public Service Broadcasting hosted by a man for whom a Christmas Cardigan held no fashion fears.

Alison B Yoghurt writes “I see that you’ve decided to waste both your time and money entering an enduro race in which only embarrassment and possible permanent injury awaits. Why oh Why?

To answer honestly, I’ve absolutely no idea. Other than to wheel out the old staple that it seemed like a good idea at the time. Since this broad category includes painting barn doors, relocating sofas and abandoning alcohol self medication, it’s should be obvious that it lacks efficacy when compared to anything within striking distance of sensible.

Continue reading Why oh why oh why?

Welsh Rarebit

That’ll be what’s euphemistically known as my “thin bit” then. Summer arrived in Wales and with it my perennial battle of my pasty white skin versus the power of the sun. And since I accelerate from zero to angry lobster in about 30 seconds in direct sunlight, it’s a battle I’m sure to lose. None of this is helped by the fading sun cover once afforded by a full head of hair. Still I can always reconcile the rapidly receding hairline against the almost proven fact that a bald pate is a solar panel for a sex machine.

Aside from raw patches of sunburn breaking out on exposed limbs, this was the best riding weekend for bloody ages. Dry fast trails and long cold beers interspersed with drivelled bollocks being talked and the odd disaster befalling the wrecking crew.

We managed exactly no miles out of the car park Saturday before Dave fixed Brad’s brakes through the dark mechanical art of pissing the hydraulic fluid out of the calliper. No matter, this gave us time to “carbo load” on Bacon sarnies and strong coffee. Oops, yes fell off the coffee wagon this weekend although “set fire to it in glee” is probably a more accurate simile.

And again. Tes that's dustBrad - Whytes HairpinBrad and Brian - 9 foot river crossing

Continue reading Welsh Rarebit

Save the Wales

Well save a nice dry and dusty bit for me just outside the post apocalyptic horror that is Port Talbot. For the first time in living memory, a weekend’s riding has been organised and hails of trout are not predicted.

This means something else is sure to go wrong. I’ve filled the car up with appropriate juices and fluids (steady…) and left the bike completely unmolested lest my mechanical incompetence reduces it to swarf when – say – I adjust the chain and packed the suncream.

And best of all, there’s a funky uplift service that for a few beer tokens whisks you up to the top of the hill so even pedalling becomes someone elses problem.

It’s all going to go horribly wrong. I just know it 😉

Wet ‘n’ Windy

And that only begins to describe the weapons grade munitions being deployed by four mountain bikers enthusiastically endorising a diet of full English Breakfasts and hourly carbo-snots. Thank God for the great outdoors and the skill of misdirection. These photo’s are mildly interesting because:

a) They are taken on my crappy PDA/Camera/Phone/Sonic Screwdriver thingy.
b) They are in no way representative of the riding/canoe-ing we did this weekend.

CwmCarn #1Cwmcarn#2

They are in fact, a wistful snapshot of trail conditons two days before. After days confined in a hermetically sealed hotel, fresh air became a priority. CwmCarn was 20 miles away and enough pre-BST light remained for a quick lap. Shortly after these pictures were taken, I was ploughing a rapid furrow into uncharted off trail foliage thinking that one day I’m probably laugh at this misfortune. That day was not today.

Having passed a bunch of riders dithering on the final downhill to the car park, my velocity soon turned to shrubbery as a carelessly extended seat post punted me over the bars. The precursor to this has been a brief sojourn of “phin air” rapidly followed by a somewhat longer and more painful appointment with the flora and fauna of South Wales.

While I tried to pass off this misfortune as the daily lot of the wanabee freerider, it’s uncertain if I pulled it off. My gut reaction is not; a hypothesis backed up by whimpering (me) and aggressive pointing (those riders previously behind me). Still after some heroic bleeding I retired injured at the hotel bar and received almost no sympathy and many beers.

The following day, the lovely owner of the B&B was extolling the infamous South Wales superb winter weather emphasising blue skies and a noticeable absence of rain. It hardly seemed fair to point out the sheets of what looked like rain to me were hammering the windows at 40MPH. Undaunted by this biblical hail of trout, we planned epic routes emboldened by beer and a holistic view to weather forecasting – “clearing up shower this one, you can see that by the way the hillside has just suffered a major landslide”

When we made it out onto the trails, the riding was surprisingly enjoyable considering the constant rain and wind. At least it was warm rain. However getting lost on an exposed section is something I’ll probably have to consider therapy to get over. The second ride was apparently far slippier, colder and on the “why why why did I leave a warm cafe for this” side of unpleasant. I wouldn’t know as Jason and I had a note from our mums (him: assault and battery from a pine tree after an airborne trail excursion. Me: Seized cables, sore knee, Alcohol dependency) so abandoned rivers of trails for hot showers.

The guys came back from the ride looking like the survivors from the movie “Deliverance”. We embarked on mass for comfort food and – in my case – comfort lager. What followed was a slight concern for Jason as he’d never met my riding buddies before and soon became embroiled in stories of their slightly checkered history. It could be summed up by “Trained Killer” meets “Amateur Psycho”. I think his eyes would have less resembled dinner plates were it not for the small fact they represented his lift home.

I’ve not heard from him but I’m sure he’ll be fine 🙂

BST is welcome. Trails on top of the water table does not seem an unreasonable request.

Now that has got to hurt

Another occasional series showcasing the result of ego over talent. Sometimes this gap can be bridged by a very expensive bike or a nod from Lady Luck but thankfully not in this case. The stunned fella in the pictures is James Dymond – nice bloke, good rider and relatively uninjured from his flawed pathfinding instincts.

In the model of all good accident sequences, I can present a “before” and “after” photographic evidence.

This is clearly not the trail.

The trail clearly goes hard right. Except for James where it went straight on. He managed almost a complete roation before landing flat on his back in the stream. Bust his helmet and knocked him about a bit as can be seen here.

See? Told you.

A pretty big stack and he’s the first to admit he’s lucky to get away with a dislocated finger and some heavy bruising. Stiil on the upside the bike was fine. I couldn’t help noticing that earlier we have further evidence of buggering about.
This is not a sled.

But as always when you stack, it’s never on the soft stuff.

Cheers to James for letting me publicise his “Big Huck that was never right and went badly wrong”.

Quantastically muddy

As the snow drifted across the outside lane of the M5, and the police escort for the snowplough made noisy if slow progress, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would set the tone for riding after a six hour round trip.

It did but that was fine. The Quantocks were lightly dusted with snow and heavily laden with slick mud. Tyres gripped in as much as they were going forwards a little more often than sideways. Smiths Coombe was rather involving on a hardtail sporting IRC “suicides – a fine tyre in all conditions except these. My journey downhill was enlivened by several unplanned sideways shunts into the shrubbery charted by a voluble disagreement between me and said tyres: “Left, Left you b@stard, if I’d wanted to go straight on into that spikey bush, I’m sure I’d have mentioned it”. Eventually I stumbled upon a survival strategy somewhere between ships captain and motorcross ride.

Approach the turn, shout out “all ahead RIGHT RUDDER”, whip out the inside leg and let it slide. Aside from the numerous occasions where the front wheel threatened to tuck under, this was a definite improvement on the prevous approach of desperately hanging on in a style known as “rigid with fear”. My life flashed in front of my eyes so many times, I started fast forwarding to the interesting bits.

It looked a bit like this:

But it wasn’t miserable. Okay the weather was; streaming rain, hilltop cloud and gale force winds combined to test the most waterproof of riders and gear. Soon my socks had switched roles and were now providing a watersport park for lemmings and the tinglings from my finger ends promised frostbite in the near future. Yet it was strangely brill, sliding about in the mud is fun to do and even funnier to watch someone else do it. Especially when the inevietable face plant emerges as “Swamp Monster with added mud pack”.

And at the end Tea and Cake take on almost mystical healing properties. You’ve earned that brownie and by God you’re going to enjoy it. And the one after that, you’ve possibly earned that as well.

The plan was to go out again for a second loop. But the rain slashing at the windows discouraged leaving the sanctuary of the cafe and anyway the size of the portions had reduced us to – at best – walking pace. Riding went from possible to unlikely to “Another cake Alex? Go on you’ve only had three and remember we’ve covered an epic 12 miles already”. When the going gets tough, the tough get confectionary.

As we began the long journey home, Sod’s law came into play and the incessant rain was replaced by weak late winter sunshine. But we didn’t care; We came, We Swore, We ate huge slices of cake. Sometimes low expectations make the best of days.

A few more pics here but in deference to my soaking camera, I abandoned photography quite early. Not before however capturing Andy’s high technology approach to wet weather foot management. I give you the ‘bagshoe’ ™.

I mean, really 😉

Caption competition

Worryingly – for any readers of the blog who have sustained an interest way beyond the mean boredom threshold – there are 10 new entries ready to wibble. It’s getting easier to write stuff but I have this sneaking suspicion that’s because I’m getting lazier in terms of grammer, humour, vaguely contextual metaphors and the use of smilies to replace said, it, me and bollocks.

So in an attempt to buy time to convert drivelling badly informed rant to grammatically correct and appropriately punctuated drivelling rant, here’s a couple of pictures from Spain. Where it snowed. Alot.

Andy “Staying Alive” Hooper

Martyn “The Spade” Buckley

Nigel “Extreme Shaving” Parker

Captions appreciated as humiliation of others is this weeks customer care.

More here. Not terribly interesting but there’s only so much snow, steps and cold, irritated riders you can take pics of.