if a complete (well almost) mountain bike novice decides to ride
Lands End to John o' Groats off road or bust? The great journey
First read Part
1 or not, it's up to you.
Home Nathaniel sits on a spike
As day four dawned bright and early we crawled down for breakfast and sat mercifully
still in a beautiful conservatory overlooking a multicolour, mature garden which looked a little like it had been affected by an explosion in a paint factory. The sun was warming and the cereal and toast we were offered disappeared rather nicely. My body didn't seem too bothered about being force fed this morning, and judging by the amount Julie consumed she wasn't having too many problems either. The only real problems at the moment were the nagging pains in my backside from sitting on the wooden chair and the knowledge that 200 more km separated us from the end of the route (at this time we were pretending we were only going to Bristol in order to prevent mental breakdown).
Finally we accepted the inevitable and the peace was broken by Julie standing up and heading for a changing/packing session. Three minutes later (we weren't carrying that much!!) we stumbled out of the house smelling rather badly and stared at the two bikes waiting for us in the garage. I can't say there were many feelings of oneness with the bike, but already I knew it would get me as far as I needed to go. As I threw my stiff leg over the crossbar and my arse lowered onto the saddle I was surprised to find that whilst the pain wasn't much improved it certainly wasn't any worse (not that it COULD have got much worse'). A quick test peddle down the drive provided the information I was expecting: Legs pretty numb and (what I foolishly thought at this point) impossibly tired.
A quick 'slow puncture' fix and chain oil by Julie allowed me some grace before we headed back to Barnstaple for our first city encounter of the day. As predicted our 1:50000 map/city nightmare struck again, but we were a little more prepared this time and carefully examined every potential turn suspiciously. One hour later we were cycling through suburbs gently sweating as another day of clear blue sky forced us to pant and vent as we climbed our first gentle incline of the day in 25 degrees of heat at 10 A.M.
Up to this point the biking had been secondary to survival. But we had made it through the first few days of Cornwall and I was secretly starting to allow myself the luxury of thinking more
than 10 minutes ahead. What was the riding going to be like today? For the first time I found myself hoping for some quality rather than just quantity, and maybe a little wilderness'
top and bottom
One hour later I was knee deep in mud thanking god for my crud catchers as I slid ever faster down the one in three incline of a broken (think destroyed') tarmac track. I tried desperately to remember my Nigel Page training day and cursed my stupid wishes for more 'quality''weight back, don't touch the front break, lift the front over the obstacles, don't grip the bars to hard'..THUMP, WHANG, GRUMPH' The usual series of bizarre noises were emitted from me and bike as a combination of bottomed out front suspension, pot holes, egg sized wash out boulder patches, and slippy mud contributed to an ever faster slide fest. Hmmm' good job I was running a nearly bald set of trailblasters' otherwise I could probably have touched the brakes, slowed to a stop and walked. What fun would that have been' As it was, braking merely produced even scarier sliding events than not braking.
My sunglasses became mud splattered and as tree cover became complete my vision was reduced to rough images of dim shapes. Technique went predictably pear shaped and I hung on grimly. It was only a question of time before the inevitable happened and a friendly tree root stuck its extra slippy fingers out into the track for a laugh. I didn't really know much about the front sliding out from under me. I just seemed to continue down the hill in a jumble of legs, forks, wheels, mud and blood, when I finally came to halt I looked a right mess. I thought quickly about two options. Play for the sympathy vote, tell Julie I was seriously hurt and get a ride home in an ambulance (I believe this particular reaction can be attributed to a mental state known as MAT, or male attention tendency), or pretend to be 'ard and jump back on the bike. If I hurried she'd never know I'd come off and I wouldn't get the piss taken mercilessly for the next week (the well known antidote to MAT). By this time the adrenaline was flowing and actually it had been one hell of a descent so far'. I quickly lifted the bike, removed my sunglasses and pushed off. Immediately we were back into a high-speed slide fest. But this time I could see, and I was ready.
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