Saturday, 31 July 2004

It's been a good day.

Left home this morning at 8.00am to go on a bike ride with some of my 1XV friends. I haven’t been able to get to a 1XV ride since February, and although I’ve managed the odd ride locally, maintaining fitness has been impossible.

We were riding at a place called ‘The Lookout’ just outside Bracknell, Berkshire. It’s just over an hour’s drive for me – about 65 miles each way, hence the early start. The lookout is an area of Crown land that has been opened up for public use, and is mostly forest, with a number of bridleways running through it. A local MTB club has worked with the authorities to create a number of routes that run through the woods, and provide some interesting trails. It’s all rolling countryside, so although none of the hills are huge, they are still high and steep enough to make you work hard for your height. The ground is very sandy, draining well, however this also causes riders to have interesting ‘moments’ with virtually zero grip available for steering or braking.

When I got there it was still reasonably cool – the calm before the storm, so to speak. We headed off into the woods, and I was quite pleased to be able to keep up, although that only lasted for the first hour. Fortunately Paul, our ‘guide’, was also not at an absolute peak of fitness, so I didn’t get left behind.

What can I tell you about it? We climbed. We descended. We swooped. We railed the berms (except for those that were just piled up sand). We slipped and slithered and scared ourselves a little. I remember starting a descent that would match some of the better trails in Wales (albeit much shorter) with some words of warning echoing in my ears. Partway down was a drop off (i.e. ledge). It was only about 18” high – no problem one would think. But this was on a trail about one foot wide, descending at about 35 degrees, covered in roots, shale and very loose under tyre. And about 8 feet after the drop was a 180 degree turn with a steep slope beckoning if you got it wrong. Only one of the group actually did it: big up to Nick Cummins. The rest of us: Paul ‘I’ve just come back from the Alps and it were much steeper’ Cooper, Jay ‘I like big steep descents’ Tejani, Andy ‘plastic fantastic’ and me all bottled it. Further down the trail I had a brief handlebar/tree interface moment, but survived.

There was one other section that we all bottled. At the bottom of a very steep descent someone had placed a large tree trunk across the trail. Earth was banked up to it in a ramp, and the intention was obvious – it was a jump. That wouldn’t have been too bad – it was too high to just roll off, but with a decent bit of speed it would have been OK. The problem again was the landing area: all sand, tree stumps and pot holes. Prudence prevailed. I’d like to think that if I’d been on my usual bike with 5” of suspension travel both ends I’d have done it. As it was, I was on Sharon (as the Saracen hardtail is known) with shorter travel forks, no rear suspension, and I’m just not familiar enough with that bike to risk it.

I was pleased with some of the riding I did toward the end of our time though. As I got more used to riding and relaxed, so I gradually settled down and started using the terrain. On one steep descent there was a small lump in the ground, followed by a steeper slope after that I could jump off. There’s a great feeling you get when all the rattling from the bumps stops for a second or 2 while the bike’s airborne and you’re sailing through clear air. There’s another section too, where to the left of the trail there’s a large bomb hole with a near cliff-edge. The slope into the bomb hole goes down at about 65 degrees, but is actually fine, provided you relax and just roll down. I’d done this before a couple of years ago, and although I wasn’t the first to do it this time, I had no hesitation in rolling over the edge and seeming to disappear into the ground.

After nearly 3 hours I was thoroughly saddle sore (it’s VERY bumpy) and managed to get everyone to head back to the car park.

When I got home I took a couple of hours to thoroughly clean both Sharon and the Diamondback thoroughly, perform some maintenance and generally remain being a teenager for a few hours more. By the time I’d finished they looked good enough to want to eat ;-)

Finally washed the dirt and sweat off my poor old bod, had an hours sleep, then made dinner. I wanted something a little fun, so I made a Pizza with tomato, sweet red peppers and tuna on the bottom, cheddar, sliced salami and oregano on top. Smelt wonderful J Sarah is sleeping over at a friend’s house, and we were able to sit outside in the warm evening air eating dinner. I’d opened a bottle of wine, and with music drifting gently over from our neighbour’s house, it was like being on holiday, only cheaper. We sat out there until the sun disappeared and Chris got too cool to stay out.

I’ve got a CD playing in the PC, and one of my all time favourite tracks has just come on – Snowy White’s ‘Bird of Paradise’.

I was going to post this but we just had a call from my sister in law to talk to Chris. Now ‘While my guitar gently weeps’ has just come on. I used to play this with the first band I ever played in when I was 17 – oh the memories.

The end of a good day. Thank you Father.

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