Monday, 31 October 2011

Soft Sunday

The trouble with living in a valley is that every road out of it seems to go up. And the trouble with living in the Peak District is that there are an awful lot of hills. Which is great. It's easy to ride hill after hill after hill, to sneak out for a gentle roll down the Longdendale Trail and end up honking back over Holme Moss three hours later with warm legs and sparkly eyes... But sometimes you just need to CTFO.

Which is how I came to chuck the Double Cross in the back of the car and drive over to Ladybower in a very mellow, slow sort of way. Then ride gently on mostly flat tarmac and easy trails around the reservoir looking at ducks and russet brown leaves and the sun glinting on the water and the strange misery of Sunday walkers, which is an odd contagion spread by frowning. 

And I was considerate and friendly and smiley. I said hello personally to every dog I passed because, unlike people, they seemed happy to be out in the sunshine. And to top it all off, I had a lavish picnic consisting of a PowerBar.

I didn't ride lots of miles. Or climb any hills. Or inch down desperately steep techy things. I just sort of trundled along in the odd October sunshine. Topped it down with tea and a flapjack and headed home for pastrami and gherkin pizza followed by melt in the middle chocolate sponge pud with chocolate ice cream.

The 100-mile road ride can wait for another day.

Chill The Feck Out.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

My head's at a funny angle...

I've shamelessly stolen this photo from Steve Turner. It's Saturday. Somewhere above Halifax. On a mellow group ride with mellow group people on a selection of really nice trails that aren't made from the Peak's characteristic selection of rock and rubble.

A ride marred only by some wizzened old bat of a dog walker who lectured us on riding footpaths on private land - 'it is you know' - when the council had made a perfectly nice concrete cycle path going roughly in the same direction 'specially for mountain bikers'.

In a better world we'd have fed her to her dog, but there are laws about that sort of thing and the RAC has a long and litigious reach. Besides, the dog seemed quite pleasant and vaguely embarassed by its rabid owner.

So it was a nice day. In a part of Calderdale with mostly good memories. But my head was still at a funny angle.

And today, which is Sunday, went for a proper, aimless meander on the Double Cross. Three hours of mostly riding up hills and breezing down them, except for that descent towards the Fox which was like riding a rigid steel bike with narrow, over inflated tyres down a series of bedrock steps covered with loose rubble with the sun in my eyes. So that wasn't really that much of a breeze at all.

And there were nice clouds in the late afternoon light above Hayfield. The same place the raggety moon was sat the other night, but no relation. I'm writing gibberish now. You can tell this isn't written on the assumption that anyone'll ever read it... Sleep.

Sunday, 2 October 2011


Comedy Friday, Indian summer style and I sneak out into the heat to meet a couple of friends and ride in the sunshine. It starts badly when Rich realises that the lateral movement in his rear end is around the same as the up and down motion and abandons all hope to scoot home.

I am grumpy. It's fashionable to like heat and dust and sunshine, but I don't. I like dry and cold and crisp. I like ice. And frozen Peak ground that grips and rips like coarse Velcro. Given sunshine I mostly want to stop and bask in it. Look at distant hills. Yawn and doze and sleep. I don't want to ride in it with sweat running into my eyes and soaking my clothes.

The wrong bike, skulking. As well it might. Nothing to do with the rider's shortcomings...
And, like Gromit, I have 'the wrong bike'. I have my RC405 which after a change of head angle and fork and return to the original shock feels slow and heavy and just wrong. I have no idea why I brought it. Well I do, a small, quiet bit of my brain thinks it might be 'necessary' for the not very legit', rocky, twisty trail we've earmarked.

God knows why. Why I think the Ragley might not be up to it, it's ripped down everything else round here with a sort of bright-eyed, disdainful, insouciance.

And I ride the trail incredibly badly. Part of it I don't ride at all, I ride round it, and the rest I sort of thump and graunch and haltingly fall down. It's really quite nasty. And meanwhile Emmy makes it look easy and graceful and smooth and streaks off into the distance grinning like a cat that's massacred a whole park's worth of pigeons.

The rest of the ride is similarly rubbish on my part. I feel guilty for being grumpy and cussed. I choose a really astonishingly bad route back out of Glossop and even a new to me, entertaining, twisty, grassy descent doesn't change things.

So on Saturday I break myself in the sun on the road bike. Savouring the oddness of furnace-like heat, bright sunshine and wafting gently down back lanes strewn with autumnal leaves. In temperatures of 25˚C or so. You can't help thinking that however pleasant it is, the world is somehow broken. This is October?

Sunday. Redemption day. Early day. Head out with Dave Next Door and ride a succession of bad things on a weekend linked with the odd legitimate trail.  This time I'm on the 'right bike', the Ragley. Fast, borderline psychotic, and lover of steep things.

And the right one. A tight bundle of aggressive, slack-steering confidence.
 This time we ride the grassy, twisty downhill thing without the bike sucking the life out of it. Then twist our way round, via a chance meeting with a local friend out on his rather nice new bike, to the top of 'the trail'. A rubbly, rocky mix of steps and turns and twists that corkscrews its way down the hillside. It's as good as anything I've ridden in Spain or France or Nepal or the Andes and this time, I ride it properly - neat and composed and smooth.

Feeling relaxed on the bike and just, well, together. And halfway down I start to grin like an idiot, because it's a brilliant trail. And the sun is shining. And the Ragley's ability to slow down time on the steeps and the trickies means I never feel remotely out of control.

It is the right bike. And just for ten minutes or so, I feel like the right rider.