In June we are restricted to six for easing the boredom of lock-down. Not six gin and tonics a day, but groups of six riders for a club event. It was perfect then, when Andrew, Deborah, Geoff, Maurice, Rod and Simon accepted the challenge of an ‘off road’ route organised and planned by Andrew. With a three o’clock start it was warm but this was saved by a cooling breeze. Rod just made it to the starting gun after an abortive tele-medicine attempt, likewise Deborah, because that’s what we expect of her. After a month with practically no rain the ground was like concrete, the tracks were rough and anything loose on the bike was subject an extreme test; would it fall off. And fall off it did.
The tracks were mostly bridleways, which Andrew had learned during many years in the saddle. Now, I don’t know much about horses, certainly not when compared to some other members of the club. I do know from hard experience that standing at the front sometimes results in being bitten, but that standing at the back is even more dangerous. I have seen people sitting on top of them, but that seems ridiculously risky. Two meters off to the side was early practice in social distancing for me. I have noticed however, they have four legs and that these are positioned one at each corner. This gives them enviable stability on rough ground. Bikes on the other hand have just two points of contact with the earth and these are thin and round. Still riding on bridleways was going to be easy and fun. I just knew it.
We set off with every piece of the bike soon clattering. The flints shot out like bullets from the sides of the tyres. I was great. Soon Andrew stopped, his saddle-bag had rattled off and was now an extra brake on the back wheel. Then Maurice’s handle-bars shook loose. I think handle-bars are an underrated safety item. You can pay a fortune for a nice saddle-bag but people think any old handle-bars will do, best to bolt them on nice and tight. At every bump Rod’s bell gave out another tinkle. We only needed a chant of ‘bring out your dead’ to be just like the undertakers of old. Perhaps that’s not as funny right now as it once might have been.
This route is amazing. With long open sections across expansive hillsides and equally long green tunnels filled with dappled light. We went from trail to trail popping up in village after village. I knew some of these trails but not how they all joined up. It was a bit of a master-class and if you missed this ride I recommend trying it out.
We had overlooked the final, crucial bike component which is not firmly bolted on, club members. After two hours of challenging riding, on a heavy bike, through forest path, gravelled trail and deep ruts, Rod finally came off in the last half mile. Still Maurice was there, as he always is for club members and soon a slightly battered Rod was able to complete the course.
All that was left was a socially-distanced beer in the cool evening air, spaced around Andrew’s garden. So thanks to Andrew for organising the trip and planning the route. Also for hosting the start, finish, and for the beer. Thanks to Maurice for keeping a watchful eye on the rest of us. Back to road biking for me this Thursday, my looser bits have had a terrible shaking.
Not all the trails are well marked and a few years of exploring are recommended.