I've not done many group rides recently. Lots of pedaling solo, trying to feel what my legs are doing, looking at scenery, taking the odd snap, chatting to random folk along the way - 'Some weird cyclist collared me above Holmfirth and wouldn't shut up' - and hills, always hills.
But in the last week I've done not one, but two group outings, both with new people and both pleasantly enjoyable in a low-key, just rolling along sort of way. First one was last Sunday with Lowey and a bunch of STW forum users, mercifully there was no awful swapping of embarassing forum handles, which sort of happened after I e-mailed Dave to offer him the loan of a front brake.
Anyway, to cut a short story shorter, I did the human GPS gig from Hayfield, over the Roych, along Rushup then back up over Jacob's Ladder with a detour round under Kinder Low and down to the reservoir. Some slightly grumpy weather, but mostly just a really mellow, relaxed roll around with no ridiculous alpha-maledom in evidence and a gentle buzz from seeing other people enjoying new to them trails. But blimey, the Ragley doesn't really want to do 'gentle', wrong bike maybe...
And then last night, another mildly mellow Hayfield jaunt with Twisted Wheels peeps taking in the naughty side of Chinley Churn - Cracken Edge, which, if you've not done it is an ace bit of trail, but the exposed bit has almost fallen off the side of the hill now.
All good, but there was a strange relief in leaving the TW folk in the Sportsman and heading home solo over Middle Moor in a familiar pool of bobbling light. No stopping, no waiting, just me, the bike, a lot of memories, mostly good, some a little sad, and a track consisting mostly of loose rubble washed down by the recent torrential rain.
Screwed up the ford - I'd been riding like a drain all evening, too much tyre pressure, not looking far enough ahead - then rolled in a self-preserving, restrained way, down to the road and a final tarmac climb before the plummet down Chunal and home.
Rags and roll.