Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Fabulous Stolen Ride

Note: I know I’ve blogged already today, but the ride I’ve just been on was so good I have to tell its story.

“Ride it like it’s stolen” is a phrase you see in biking magazines and forums every now and then. It refers to the idea that you love a bike so much that you ride it hard, fast and to the limit of your ability. Tonight I discovered it can apply to actual riding as well. Yes, you can steal a ride. A stolen ride is one that you don’t expect to have, one that seems impossible till it happens, one that you really want, but you think isn’t going to come. My plan for this afternoon to this evening was work, osteo, supermarket, dinner, wind trainer, blob on couch. My reality was so much better.

On the way back from osteo, the pain in my glut from some intense electrified acupuncture still fresh, the sun was shining brightly, not a cloud in the sky and hardly a breath of wind. It was just after 4pm and it dawned on me that I could get in a ride if I left as soon as I got home. There’s a few things that can help you steal a ride. An understanding spouse who’s willing to pick up the slack your ride creates is one. Having all your gear ready to go is another. It turns out that dumping helmets, gloves, camelbacks and shoes by the door to trip the unwary is actually a cunning idea to facilitate the quick change necessary for the stolen ride.

Out on the road with lights quickly transferred to my bouncy bike and I was off, heading to Kennedy’s Bush track for a quick ride in the sinking sun. At the base of the hill a quick stop to take my jacket off for the spin up the hill. Riding up the road on the mountain bike is often a painful and depressing experience, but not tonight. Even climbing the road was pure pleasure as I thought of the hour on the trainer I could be doing instead. My breath coming fast as I reached the top I was glad the gate wasn’t locked and I could open the gate to put my bike through. The sun sunk behind the Southern Alps sending rays of blazing orange and vivid pink streaking across the sky. Ominous grey clouds roll in. Up the wet and slippy sheep track, a cold breeze chilling muscles and tearing at lungs, the peace and beauty of the evening scene makes the pain fade away. A brief pause to snap a no mega-pixels shot of the city and sunset and then up the 4wd track. Foggy wisps of breath snatched away on the breeze show the cold. The line to the left is a flowing steam, burbling audibly as I climb. The right is comparatively dry and traction is good and I climb up, enjoying the solitude. As the track flattens out the whole track is a quagmire and mud flicks up onto my legs.

Should I ride the singletrack down? It will be wet, really wet, but it will be fun. I take the plunge and am immediately rewarded with a soaked foot. The track is pretty good and the sheep and cows scatter as I flow past. The final downhill part is super slick and running with water so I fly over the grass and come to a halt in a small lake at the bottom. Continue up or the short climb to head home? Darkness is descending fast and the cold is seeping into my muscles and bones, it’s time to head home. Spinning up the 4wd the mud flicks but I have good traction. My legs are warm and work well and on the crest I stop to put my jacket back on. The view is like a sparkling gem made harsh by the freezing wind. Further up there is snow, but I’m not going there tonight.

Down the hill I fly, gently feathering the brakes, picking lines and careful in the wet. The cold air bites deep into my cheeks and I try not to grin, I don’t want mud in my teeth. Round the corner and down the last stretch of track and the earth opens up before me. The track is rent open and deep ruts on all sides beckon my wheels. It’s the icing on the cake navigating this Worselyesque section of track. And then I blast down the road, freezing as I speed down at full speed. I’m grinning and happy and once on the flat I push my legs hard to warm them and then I’m home, muddy, chilled and huddling over the fire. This ride has been exquisite, an hour stolen unexpectedly, in the midst of a frigid and bleak wintery week.

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