It’s been a good couple of months (maybe three) since I was last out on my mountain bike. When the nights get too short and it rains / snows / blows a sub-zero gale all day I get my bike, store it away, and pretty much forget about it. But sooner or later the voice in my head starts to tell me that the weather is good enough and I should get back on the saddle. But I ignore that voice and instead listen to the one that says “nah, put the TV on, there’s a great football match on”.
Luckily, I have friends who go through the same thing. And together we eventually manage to persuade each other to get our bikes out from hibernation, clean them (the last time I used it I didn’t clean it, I just put it away – it’s traditional) and hit the trail. And so it was on Sunday that a friend and I actually managed to return to our stamping ground of the lovely Yorkshire Dales. And a nice day it was too. It was sunny, reasonably warm (so I could wear my fetching shorts) and the ground wasn’t too much of a quagmire as the moors of Yorkshire can tend to be. And once a couple of us have gone biking, the inevitable enthusiasm we come back with will kick everyone else out of their winter slumber.
Thing is though, I always go through the same routine at this time of year. It consists of stages, starting with “does everything still work?” shortly followed by “was there anything I intended to do with my bike before I rode it again like buy new brakes / bearings / wheels, etc?”, then “oh, I must put the saddle up – oh dear, it seems to be welded in place, I’ll just spend the next 30 minutes trying to wrench the damn thing out before swearing to buy a new seat pin (which I’ll never get around to)”. Then I have to remember how my bike computer works. I always throw the manual away with these things and then can’t remember which of the buttons does what, press one that inevitably resets the memory and then I have to work out my wheel circumference and how to input that.
As soon as I actually get on the bike again (after lubricating the chain) I normally get a collection of clicking noises from somewhere in the drivetrain as I pedal and the gears flick around randomly. Strangely though, after a few miles and a few gallons of mud, everything seems to sort itself out and the bike is plush and sweet again. Although the same can’t be said for me. After a couple of hours of biking (including doing one climb that I failed to manage in one go last time when I was fit but did this time) I feel like I’ve gone ten rounds with a whip-crazy dominatrix (I can already hear the hits from Google coming in). I do a lot of squatting with heavy weights that exercises loads of muscles on my legs and buttocks but that serves as no preparation for the pain that comes with biking after a long absence.
And, as usual, the pain and stiffness will last exactly three days and then I’ll feel fine. But the thing with adrenaline sports like mountain biking is that it leaves me with a good pain. I earned it. And as the days get longer I look forward to more episodes of me groaning like I will when I’m in my 60s every time I stand up from my chair. Actually, whenever I need to make a decision like “should I do this or that?” I try to look back from when I’m old or dead (or both) and see which decision I’d be most happy with, retrospectively. Always gives me a good perspective on my current life. And looking back from the future, I think I need to stop writing right now. No, now.