Saturday, 27 March 2010

Silver Linings

Driving up to Kendal earlier this week and my brakes failed. Completely. Fortunately it was a relatively gradual process that began with a slightly soft pedal and intermittent warning light and ended with no pedal and no brakes fortunately less that half a mile from where I was headed for a work meeting. At very low speed. And with nothing to hit. Acceleration sense comes in handy sometimes.

The nice man in the garage in Kendal described the Corrado as 'a death trap', but what he actually meant - technically - were that the solid brake lines were badly corroded and one of them had failed allowing brake fluid free to take a guide tour of the outside world instead of doing its job and transmitting hydraulic motion to caliper pistons - bad, slack fluid. So, yes, a death trap. And I can't believe it wasn't spotted six months ago when the car was MOTd.

And yep, feeling lucky that nothing dreadful happened to me or anyone else. And beyond that, I'm not going to dwell on it.

That's old cars for you. They've been around a while, things do get tired and rust and break, a bit like old mountain bikers. The original solid lines are made from steel apparently, which given the propensity of steel to rust seems like a pretty bad idea. The replacements are a copper/nickel alloy with brass fittings, so shouldn't rust. It'll be nice to be able to stop again...

But something good did come out of it. Clive, the work friend I was meeting, offered me a lift to Oxenholme, popped home to get his car, and returned driving a bright red Triumph TR4, a proper old car with walnut dash and funny seatbelts with no inertia reel gizmos and and an engine that has all the refinement of home-brewed wine.

It's low, even after the Corrado, you sort of fall into it then sit around six inches off the ground as other traffic towers over you, I bet Noddy used to feel a bit like this... It's just got a lovely, warm, organic feel to it. But what really makes it special, is that it's the very same car that Clive's dad used to drive when he was little boy. Some of his earliest memories are of sitting in the little red Triumph.

And that, in turn, brought back fond memories of the tiny white Renault Dauphine that my parents owned when I was small and we were still a family. Small enough to stand up in the back - no seat belts back then - and bringing back distant memories of the Hendon Way lined with blossoming trees and slow, bouncy trips out into the countryside to visit our cousins Ben and Rosie, who lived in a magical world -  thatched cottage, a gigantic Great Dane called Bruno and their own orchard complete with a rusty old car as a playroom.

It doesn't really seem to matter than the Dauphine apparently has a 0-60mph figure of 32 seconds. Just thinking about it feels warm and comfortable and simple. Which I suppose is what early childhood is all about. Or maybe just memories of it. And blimey, there's one on Car and Classic right now, peeking out between Renault 5 Turbos - yes, apparently some still exist - and good grief, a Fuego... For some reason that escapes me now, I used to think the Fuego looked great, hmmm...

You have to be a lunatic to buy a French car. And curiously my family had a string of Renaults, a pair of 16s, some 18s and some godawful thing that I can't remember what it was. And my dad, characteristically, when he did eventually do the sensible thing and buy a Volvo, plumped for the sublimely dreadful, mutton dressed as angular lamb, 480ES, the weird coupe thing. A brick? Yes, why not. An Amazon, definitely. But a 480ES, no thanks.

So I guess if Clive and I swapped lives slightly, I'd be restoring a Renault Dauphine. Or maybe a Renault 16, one of the first hatchbacks ever.  Maybe not then. I think I'll stick with the Mk2 GTi thanks.

But it was a lovely, smiley ride to the station. And then there's silver lining number two, one fixed and healthy Corrado VR6 Storm is now sitting in the Kendal Home For Retired Corrados, waiting to be collected and brought home and providing an ideal excuse for a road ride from Peak to Lakes. It'd be rude not to. Hmmm...

Monday, 22 March 2010


Did the Whinlatter Challenge on Sunday as an exercise in casual indifference. It started with the clothing - camo Windstopper, baggy, three-quarters, carried on with the baggage, a Haglöfs daypack with a three-litre bladder and was preceded by equally casual preparation. Think a day of slaving over a fresh web-site after a three-hour mountain bike ride - no taper - followed by too much beer and about fours hours sleep before crawling out of bed, into a van and up the M6. The bike, erm, Rocky, my trusty Setavento hardtail with Pikes and grippy tyres. Casual, see...

So it was that I stood on the startline, pre-dehydrated, badly fuelled and utterly lacking in any motivation whatsoever. The plan, in so far as there was one, was to ride round gently, take in the views, have a friendly chat or two along the way and then eat cake and drink tea afterwards.

So much for plans. Id forgotten about pre-race adrenalin, people's tight, twitchy, humourless racefaces and the pointy elbow brigade with their points to enforce. No place for a dozy, unmotivated, slow coach like me.

Anyway... I survived the terrible music and trundled gently up the first long fire road climb and up to the first bottleneck which is the province of the casually indifferent who can't be arsed to push to the front. Walked up most of the first congested singletrack climb then pottered gently onwards watching fast people scream past on the other side of the tape.

The views were quite stunning, really lovely. Trundled down some singletrack. Marvelled that some people are even less technically adept than me. Climbed some more fireroad. And repeat. Mostly it seemed to be uphill and gradually my legs sort of woke up and we even overtook a couple of people on one of the easier climbs.

Then suddenly it was all over. My legs hurt, mostly I think because I managed to drink just one liter of flluid in three and a bit hours, which will be why I finished with burning legs and a stinking headache and proves that not only do I ride like a muppet, but I'm stupid too.

On the plus side the cake was nice, I won't be quite so pointlessly casual at an event again this year and I met some nice people along the way.

Overall, a bit of a wake-up call. If you treat stuff with disrespect, it bites yer arse. Next time it'll be lycra, bottles, the fast bike and something a little more like thoughtful preparation. But a nice day out, even if I kind of wish I'd been on the hills on the other side of the valley.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Night runnings.

I'd forgotten how much I like running. Took off to Hayfield tonight towing a sinking sun behind me. Kit - headtorch, Walshes, gloves and a burnt orange soft shell. Eased gently up 20 Trees, familiar bike trails feeling strangely different without the roundy roundy stuff, awkward lines easy on foot, engine just turning over. Struggling to remember to use stiles rather than gates.

Then onto the top and things suddenly click. Legs start to feel like running legs and lose their awkward heaviness. Stunning views across to Kinder in the setting sun, deep tranches of old snow clinging to its flanks still, but the ground's firm and refridgerated, the slow thaw seems to have been kind to the trails, no sudden melt, just a gradual release of moisture that's dried gently by the wind.

Anyway... round the corner and the best view on earth. Along the secret singletrack towards Kinder Res', complete with reflex guilt twinges that don't need to be there, then round, down, and back up the other side towards Jacobs as the sun sets and a gentle, rolling plunge back into Hayfield with Manchester's lights glowing warmly in the distance.

A final detour up and over the camp site descent in a pool of Petzl's finest light and a warm, happy, tired-legged return to the car. Nice for a change.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Dog Tired.

Well, after riding through the snow and the ice, flogging ice tyres on the road, road tyres on the ice and pretty much anything anywhere else, the legs seem to have - temporarily at least - fallen off this particular donkey.

I think I left them somewhere up near the Trough of Bowland at the weekend. In the middle of glorious climbing moorland roads with the Three Peaks lined across the skyline with frosted, snowy icing. A really nice ride with friends. In glorious arctic sunshine.

And now my legs ache in a deep down achy sort of way. As they would I suppose. So we've paused, me and the legs, for a chat and a think about biking and everything.

Things to burn.