I blame Pervy Bob. Or his dad. Or possibly even his beautiful, unobtainable, older sister (she was two years older which meant that at the time she was pretty much Mrs. Robinson. Oh, and she spoke fluent French which only added to the unobtainable mystique). Actually, most of all I blame Pervy Bob, and not only for the effect the following had on me.
Back in 1986 I was at college and Pervy Bob invited me for a weekend in Nelson; despite his name this was in no way sinister. Having enjoyed a pleasantly boozy Saturday night I was a bit put out to be raised from my slumber in the attic at some unearthly hour the next morning to go and watch Pervy Bob’s dad perform unspeakable acts in public. I must admit that I was a little unnerved to be standing on a desolate and godforsaken hillside with no idea what to come – and then men appeared racing down the grass on bikes. Very fragile looking bikes heading at top speed down a gradient that would have given me pause for thought about walking down. Occassionally one rider would decide to leave his bike behind while performming acrobatic feats rarely seen outside of Billy Smart’s Big Top – I swear to this day that one bearded fellow exited over the bars, performed a perfect forward roll to standing and proceeded to run down the hill (no mean acomplishment when the bike was fitted with toeclips and straps pulled tight and he was wearing studded Walsh fell running shoes), although the effect was slightly spoiled when he had to return up the slope to retrieve his bike. Memory may be betraying me (again) but the fact that it was a grassy slope indicates that I was spectating on the descent off Ingleborough near Cold Cotes but I was awestruck by what I was seeing – this was well before the days that mountainbikes were ubiquitous and I wasn’t one of those kids who went scrambling around the local woods on a hopped up Raleigh Arena – and there was no way that I would ever achieve the levels of fitness never mind skill to match these wiry men of iron. But I was intrigued and an itch started that wouldn’t even be mentioned, let alone scratched, until 21 years later in 2007.