Which is pretty damn impressive – considering the processing delay between shutter depression and image capture on my ickle trail camera is such that it’s best to click way before the rider is even in sight. Or born.
That’s Matt making a mockery that 40lb freeride bikes aren’t perfectly fine for 50k forest bashes. The trail is one of many built but the Dirt boys out of Monmouth, and the jump is where my riding pal David first came up short and then ended up in hospital with a nasty back injury. He’s back riding well now, but as a reminder that these trails are a step up it’s compelling.
It’s as if a bunch of naughty boys have taken the rather lovely – if safe – Forest Of Dean, roughed her up a bit, stuck a ball under her jumper, given her an aggressive haircut and a hint of menace before sitting back and asking “right then, fancy taking this on do you” to a bunch of nervous fifth formers.
As a metaphor, I accept it needs some work. Steeper and deeper here, bigger climbs, increasing gradients, bigger obstacles, fast flow then slow’n’techy, surprisingly rocky and often loose- it’s a patchwork of outstanding trails where confusing confidence with ability will end in a proper accident.
It is a place – as our American Cousins would label – to bring your A game. I don’t have an “A” game and having failed to shaken a bastard cold this week and some unreconciled crashing concerns from the elbow smash a month go, an entire new alphabet would be needed to position exactly how rubbish I was going to be.
Game tho I was. Started a bit wheezily on a 15k jaunt from Ross ensuing the car for some old-school tarmac/dismantled railway bashing. Surprisingly enjoyable because of the unending beauty of the Wye Valley, and there’s something simply right about not driving to ride.
It’s all a bit winch and plummet once you’ve hit the heights of the trails proper. Three iterations demanded the thick end of a thousand metres climbing from your legs, and some level of skill and commitment when it all went grinningly vertical.
I was reminded a bit of the Climax black run, not because of terrain or surface but more because these are trails built by people who can ride a bit and they demand that you do too. Nothing insanely dangerous* but superbly flowly if you’re pushing on a bit, frustratingly difficult if not. But anyone who builds not one but TWO dry stone wall jump/drops into a single trail is a bloody genius, and deserves a tip of my virtual hat.
Most of the stuff was new and riding unsighted – chasing a vanishing Matt – had me thinking back to when I started riding. Everything was fresh, nothing was recalled, experience turned into joy and then into memories. It got me gabbling, pointing and a little bit frightened. There’s a single world for that: Alive.
Happy to be so after a final trail off the ridge which saw Matt roosting* swathes of red dirt sliding his back tyre. Seemed a good time to finish the singletrack if not the ride. No first we had to find a pub not full of bank holiday angst and barfing kids. And our joy of riding into such as establishment was hardly metered by the shock of two pints costing nearly a tenner. Mainly as that was Matt’s round 😉
I rode to work with a stinking cold last Monday and that was good. I rode in the Malverns with the arse end of that cold in the wet, damp and single digit temperatures on Thursday and that was great. I rode today on about 70% lung and 50% competence and that was bloody outstanding.
This seems unanswerable evidence I just love riding bikes. Long may it continue.
* Well there are a couple of things. Walking works well at this point. It’s a case of “how brave am I feeling? Quite Brave, Very Brave, No not that Brave actually on reflection”
** I know. I know. But honestly, it’s the perfect word. It was ground zero at at a roostage convention.