Cross Fertilisation

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Tim was someone I knew. Actually… I didn’t know him at all. I followed him on Twitter. I read “his” blog at The North Race. I’d never met the guy, never had a real life conversation.

But, I saw that he was thinking of getting a disc-braked CX bike, and fancied a Kinesis Crosslight Pro 6. As a fellow Leeds resident, and owner of said bike, I offered to lend Tim my pride and joy, and show him around some of the local trails.

We met on a Wednesday evening – on one of those perfect late summer days. It was warm, but not oppressive, and I knew the trails would be in beautiful condition. Now, it is a bit of a cliche, and sometimes proved wrong, but I stand by the truism that the vast majority of people who ride bikes are Good People. Tim absolutely falls into this category. Very friendly, personable, and he was enthused at the opportunity to try a different kind of riding to his usual road-based and fixed gear activities.

We headed out from my house, and span and chatted our way up to the first section of singletrack. I could hear Tim giggling, whooping and generally extolling the pleasures of off-road riding just behind me, as I re-familiarised myself with the stopping properties of rim brakes (they don’t work quite as well as discs, in case you were wondering)…

Much of the ride continued like this, as we wiggled along swooping, buff singletrack, to be spat out onto roads and field edges. There are times where I am at risk of taking what I have for granted. The urban/rural cross over trails on the north edge of Leeds are not the Highlands. But, on their day they are wonderful. Seeing them with the fresh eyes of someone who has very rarely ridden off road, and lives just a couple of miles away in the city centre reminded me how lucky I am, and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for my local riding.

We continued as the sun got lower, nature putting on a perfect slideshow backdrop for our couple of hours of escapism from the city… I led us through shadowy woods and dingy ginnels and snickets, trying to eke out the very last sections of off road before we arrived back at the start. Or not quite the start, but the pub round the corner for a pint or three… for rehydration purposes, and more enthusiastic bike talk.

Tim was sold on the Pro 6 (lets face it – it wasn’t a hard sell. Great bike, in perfect conditions!) and will hopefully be picking one up in the near future. He seemed to enjoy the ride too: http://thenorthrace.co.uk/2013/09/crossing-over/

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Clean

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***written on Wednesday, so a little bit out of date now***

Last night, I cleaned my bike.

I always perform this chore in the same order. Frame in stand, top to bottom, plenty of soapy water. Remove the wheels. Get the toothbrush out for the chain and derailleurs, maybe resort to using some degreaser if things are getting clogged up. Clean the wheels, working my way round each side, quickly wiping each spoke. Scrub the cassette. Replace wheels, rinse. Air dry. Lube.

I quietly did this on the lawn. Snatched pieces of conversation drifted over from the radio in the kitchen. Dandelion seeds, carried in the gentle breeze stuck to the wet frame of my bike. The young birds that have had the garden almost to themselves for the last few weeks watched from a cautious distance.

The bike didn’t really need washing. Everything was functional, it wasn’t even dirty. There was a layer of household dust on the parts, a hint of dry salt on the top tube. The bike hasn’t been a bike for six weeks. I have sat on it, and pedalled, but it has taken me nowhere, other than away from distant mental storm clouds. Even then, the turbo will only ever be alcohol free beer, decaffeinated coffee, methadone.

The bike didn’t really need washing. This was a ritual. A clean start.

Six weeks ago, summer finally came, the memories of late snow, cold mornings and wet rides started to fade. Evening rides became something to be savoured and enjoyed, something to look forward to. Singletrack that was a joyless, muddy slog just a month beforehand was now riding perfection. Smooth, dry, fast. Buff. Each ride allowed me to lean over one more degree through bends, clip a little more foliage, carry another mph of momentum. Rides were a mix of enjoyment of the here and now, and optimism for what more was to come.

Six weeks ago, at the end of one of these rides, as we were well on our way home, I pushed my luck one too many times. Nothing crazy or stupid. Nothing I wouldn’t do again. Nothing. Except it wasn’t nothing. I fell, and as is usually the case when one falls, I landed. Quite awkwardly. On my shoulder. While lying on the floor, my mind was already racing… quantifying and calculating scenarios and consequences.

I stood up. The crack that I heard on landing was as I had feared. My left arm was hanging limply. I cupped the elbow without consciously thinking about it, concentrating on the taste of dust in my mouth, rather than letting my mind run away with the possibility that I would miss races and events that I have been planning for for the last 12 months. There was virtually no pain, just discomfort and a hollow, empty feeling.

Accident and Emergency. Pastel coloured walls. Waiting.

X-ray. Compound fracture. A trip down the road to LGI. “Major Trauma” ward. Surgery. Real pain. Helplessness.

Home. Concentrating on the day-by-day. Short scale horizons.

Walking to work, a short spin on the turbo, freedom from the sling. A short run, a longer run, an off-road run. Physio, core work. Daring to peek into the longer term. Six week isn’t long. I could have broken a leg, or my back or neck. I was lucky.

Today I took my clean bike, rolled down the road to the woods in the valley near my house. The trails were still dry and dusty. The smell of wild garlic was less pungent, but still there. I was off road for all of ten minutes, before returning to tarmac and carrying on into work. It was the best ten minute ride I have had for a very long time.

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