Sunday, 30 August 2009


Having chilled the hell out after last post, I was inspired by Iains comment to get off my whiney arse and just find some fun. I mean, if he can provide options from the other end of the country I can surely just grab a map and go looking, right? With a couple of hours to spare, I was sure I could at least try to figure out a reasonable route to and from one of the near-ish bits that I'd been shown by the local club. I did have another motive, too: The big hole in the ground near Stonesfield scares me. I'm not even close to going down the Big Side of it, but even the not so huge drop terrifies me. Until this expedition, I'd been there twice with the club. The first time it was dusky and rainy and very very wet. It was my first time out on my bike. I'd set off without having had chance to eat anything that evening, and we reached the woods about an hour and a half after I'd set off from home. I was already shaky from hunger, and by the time we'd climbed up through the woods (about 5 minutes of fun) to the main event, looking down it there was just no way I was going to ride it. None. I made my apologies, and one of the guys showed me the way around.

Second visit, again with the club, was at least a sunny evening. There were a few more people around, and as we rode up through the woods I could feel the apprehension growing. By the time I got to the top, I was absolutley bricking it again. This time, I was determined to ride it. I know in my head it's not that big, and it's not that hard. Just keep my weight back, hands off the front brake, let the bike do its thing. It'll be fine. Plus, you're at the top now. Too late to turn back. Nice one! You've totally fooled yourself into going down! Ahahahahaaa!

Unfortunately I was so caught up tricking myself into actually trying it that I hadn't bothered to check out how to ride it out once I reached what I thought was the bottom. It's not, there's another much moroe gentle drop after it that you need to turn into. If you don't turn, you end up ploughing straight into the other side of the bomb hole. Straight into a wall of roots. Which I did, then fell off and spent the next five minutes changing the inner tube that I popped with my crash-stop.

So, on the whole I'm feeling a bit better about it - hey, I mostly rode it. I actually got it together enough to try it. But, if I'm going to be honest, I didn't really ride it. It was a mess, I didn't have my head together, and mostly I just chucked myself over the edge before I noticed. And I'm not really feeling that much better about it... It still scares me. A lot.

So. The only sensible thing to do is ride it more, right? And now, with my determination to go out and ride is the perfect time. Perfect. I'm a little worried about going out by myself, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to manage to mangle myself that much if it goes wrong. So I tell myself as I talk myself into going.

Now, it's a fair ride out there, mostly on the roads. I'd spotted a byway that looked like it might get me a bit of the way there with some stuff to keep my mind occupied on the way, but when I tried to ride it it turned out to be pretty much impassable due to the four-foot-high nettle and thorn beds that had grown right across the track as far as the eye could see. I struggled through it a little way in the hopes it would clear up, but it seemed like a hopeless (and painful) job. I turned back, and resigned myself to just following the roads for half an hour. The whole time, I could feel the apprehension rising. By the time I reached the woods I'd worked myself up to a ridiculous state. I really, really didn't think this was going to go well. But I realised that if I turned back now, this was just going to get worse. A brief text message to some friends (just so I didn't feel like I was as alone as I actually was at this point), and I began the climb.

By the time I got to the top, I was feeling physically sick with apprehension. But screw it, I came this far. Time to do it. Weight back, off the brakes, check the exit line, pretend like you want those roots to be there... GO!

...and I made it. The adrenaline rush, having worked myself up so much, was just insane. I was whooping like I'd just pulled the most insane stunt in the world, not ridden down something that - honestly - isn't really worth fretting about as much as I had. Now the big drop, over to the left... yeah. Maybe one day.

Here's the top bit:
I went down the leftish way (right as you look at it) - over the roots, not down the way my bike is blocking in the picture.

After that, I settled in to a nice hour of pootling around various bridleways on my way home. There's a fun rocky trail up to East End past the site of a roman villa which, while easy, at least feels like you're doing something (if you catch my drift), and the bridleway to Hanborough had enough uppy-downy ness to keep the euphoria of still being alive up. I burst into fits of laughter at my one bail of the day though - a totally hidden rut just next to the trail that I acidentally rode into. It was a little over wheel width, and deep enough that even with pedals level, I grounded instantly. Fortunately I was going slowly at the time, so just had to hop off.

I had planned to head over to another wood for some more fun, but time had caught up with me. Time to head home on the roads, pausing only to provide directions to lost motorists on the way.


Farrago said...

Well done:) I probably should have suggested this *before* your death-defying stunts...but how about you show Lucy your planned route on a map before going out, let her know when you get to something scary and say how long you expect it to take. If you let her know every hour or so that you're still ok, then if something does go wrong (which I'm sure it won't), she'll know you're surprisingly silent, and where you are.

If I'm riding alone I always tell someone my route, about how long I expect it to take, and tell them when I'm home safe. I don't expect anything to go wrong, but it's nice to know that I probably won't be lying in a ditch on the hills for days on end if it does! (Admittedly on my shortish ride yesterday I saw quite a lot of people anyway!)

Anonymous said...

Well done, and good on you for trying something new. The thing to remember about riding down steep chutes is they're *always* Scary at the top, Exciting in the middle, and then Fun at the bottom. Often with the capitals, yes. If it's a steep brakes-off-and-i'll-stop-at-the-bottom type of chute, then you can decrease the fear and increase the fun by yelling "wheeeeeeeeeeeee!" as you go down it (this has the side effect of making crashes more comedy if it does go wrong, which is good).