Voting will run for a month or so in our first 'Writing Related poll'.
Never mind the quantity, feel the quality.......
orange71's "Getting Back on the Horse"
Mine is a modest story. It spans 20 years and the desire to re-live some special days in 1991.
So, cast your minds back to spring 1991, I was at university at Lancaster (not far from the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales) and got to know some guys who were into mountain biking. I had a look at their bikes - they looked really cool - especially the neon pink one (this is 1991, remember…). What was it?
It turned out underneath the respray to be a 1989 Diamondback Topanga. It had some unusual features - Campagnolo Bullet Shifters, Centaur Rear and front mechs. A 50 tooth chain ring on the front . Dia-Compe X-1 canti brakes (anybody ever seen another set?).
Well it wasn't very long before I pestered him to sell it to me and £100 later it was mine. My first ever MTB. We went up to the Lakes most weekends and rode it into the ground – we must have done nearly every route in the Lakes, but my first ride that summer remained the most special – Farleton Fell. Dressed in my cut down jeans and t-shirt, no helmet or gloves and trainers I remember having to dismount climbing up the hill out of the pig farm thinking, I’ll never get up here without stopping! I pushed it up and continued the ride.
I added some modifications to the bike over time - Deore SPDs (£45 at the time ), a Girvin Flex Stem (nice neon colour clash!), Flite saddle etc. Along with buying some appropriate clothing!
Then I moved abroad for a year and it sat in the garage untouched. When I returned I moved onto another bike.
So, wind forward 20 or so years and I'm now trying to relive my youth and I think, well why not try to recreate that bike that got me into the sport. I even still had some of the original parts - the handlebars, saddle, SPDs, canti brakes. That was a start. So then to find the rest. Inevitably I had to make some compromises. It's not a 1989 Topanga frame but a year or two more recent. It's not a Campagnolo Centaur rear mech (very rare these days). I probably didn't have a Pace ring at the time. But apart from that I am there or thereabouts.
So the bike was recreated. Now for the ride. Where shall I go on it? Well, there was only one choice surely – Farleton Fell. It was all planned, the weekend before my birthday 2010, I went up with a friend. We thought it’d be a good idea to do a night ride the evening before the main event.
We had nearly finished it and were descending the last stretch of road when out from the hedge shot a small fox which ran straight under my front wheel before I had the chance to avoid it.
Over the bars.
I landed on my shoulder and skid upside down along the road.
Am I alive? Yes. Good.
Am I injured? Yes. Not good.
I sit up winded and check myself over. Some nasty cuts and abrasions all down my side. My shirt and shorts are torn to shreds. And my ribs seriously hurt. My friend has caught up by now and checks me over – off to the hospital is the decision made. I get back on the bike and freewheel the last couple of miles to the car. Lancaster Infirmary at 2am. Broken ribs confirmed.
Get driven home back to Derby. End of dream.
For the time being.
Many sleepless nights and painful days later it’s now mid-summer and I still have yet to re-create my first ever ride. So, I book a date and some friends and at the end of July I made the trip once again to Farleton Fell where I finally rode the hill that defeated me. I must have loved that summer to have gone to these lengths to recreate it!
mechagouki's "Summer Ride"
Awake. The heat in the room is already uncomfortable and the reddish glow around the curtains tells me I’m late for work. Except this is July 15th 1992, and if I have a job I don’t care about it, and for a day like this, I’d probably consider skipping. I roll out of bed and stumble to the bathroom, through the frosted glass I can see it is one of those summer days where the sun’s radiance is almost overwhelming, a chrome-white glare that squints eyes and burns skin.
Back in my bedsit I see what the fridge has to offer; stale white bread, a near empty tub of margarine and a bottle of HP sauce – breakfast of champions! I make tea and dress from the pile of clothes in the corner that may or may not need laundering, cut down combat pants and a ragged Oakley tee so worn and old it is translucent in places. I pull on an equally threadbare pair of slip-on Vans and check my day-pack: Cool tool, tube with only a couple of patches already, Zefal Mini pump, and a spoke wrench. I’m all set. I put on my pack, hook my Frogskins into the front of my shirt and briefly consider the dusty helmet hanging on the back of the door – not today I think.
Sitting under the window at the front of the room is my 1991 Marin Bear Valley, looking stealthy and rugged in its oh-so-cool Zolatone paint. It’s wearing M732 derailleurs, M734 brakes, a Flite saddle and onza bar-ends, and I’ve sprayed the fork and stem neon-pink so I know I won’t see another like it. I love this bike; it’s 1992, and I don’t care about the fact it weighs 27 pounds, has no suspension, is mid-range. It’s shown me something about myself, given me a direction in life that has nothing to do with getting a good job, a mortgage, what everybody wants?
Outside and the day is as I suspected, I’m glad I bought two bottles, snug in their neon cages. I roll to the corner store and buy a couple of Mars bars to sustain me. Then it’s back on the bike and through the town to Paradise.
Paradise woods, aptly named, sit at the very end of the South Downs Way. A super-green canopy of foliage that hides a natural bike-park created when the ‘hurricane’ of 1987 tore through East Sussex. I’m tempted to stop and play in the ’big dipper’ for a while – a near vertical (or so it seemed back then) drop into a ravine that grabs you and hurtles you up the other side, laughing and exhilarated.
But I’ve already chosen my destination for the day , so I ride up the side of the woods, the climb enough to have me panting in just a few minutes, endorphins start flowing and by the time I reach the Beachy Head road I’m grinning like an idiot.
The trail levels out here and I roll along at a leisurely pace, enjoying the greenness, the smells of summer, and the breeze that couldn’t make it into town. I ride past milestones and markers, relics of days past when this ancient trail was the main thoroughfare along the south coast of England – no engines, no tarmac.
Time ceases to matter, the cadence of my legs, the noise of the chain, and the heat lull me into a pleasant stupor, and sooner than I expect I find myself at the top of the ‘Bone Shaker’ a rutted, bumpy trail of bare chalk that descends steeply into the village of Jevington, strewn with loose pebbles and dappled with shadow thrown by a parallel line of trees, it demands my full attention. I snug my feet into the PowerGrips bolted to my Tioga pedals, lift myself out of the seat and let gravity take me.
The vibration and speed plant a thought in my mind that crashing now would hurt a great deal, I push it away, force myself to loosen my grip on the bar, and try to pick the best line I can. It’s like flying, falling, no real control...it’s about giving up control I think.
I survive and roll to the Jevington Tea Rooms, where a welcome cuppa and wonderful baked goods await. Sitting outside, the adrenaline subsiding, I am struck again by how much my mountain bike has given me. I really do love this.
And I still have the ride home...
ededwards' "Pretentious Flight of Fancy"
The telephone rings on a Friday evening in mid 2011. “Big Man, it’s The Elf”. Now I hadn't heard from The Elf in a decade, last reports were that he was married with children and living in Norway. This was a surprise to say the least.
Now The Elf was famous for his friends – Action Jackson, the Alpine Dustman, the Nurse Hughes - plus sage advice such as "you've got to respect the distance, Big Man". He was also known for comments less based in fact, delivered out of the blue with utmost certainty - "don't get a Cannondale Big Man, you'll break the back axle". Was this call to be more of the same? How had he got my number? What did this all mean? And who invented liquid soap and why? As my mind whirled, thoughts of The Elf transported me back to Summer 94......
It was a sunny morning in June with Chaka Demus and Pliers pumping out of the transistor radio when a knock on the door revealed The Elf, carrying a grello Yo frame and fork, a greasy carrier bag and muttering darkly to himself and, then, darkly to me. It turned out that he'd been in Covent Garden on his Dynatech when he had been approached by a chap with a Yo who wanted to broker some sort of frame part ex (don't ask, these things always happened to The Elf). What we had on my doorstep was an eye searingly bright frameset I'd only seen in magazines plus an almost complete XT groupset save for some Grafton cantis. Oh, and some XT thumbies that The Elf had swapped for some XT STis just off the Old Kent Road - I did say that he was that sort of chap.
Now, I've never been particularly mechanically talented and 17 years ago I had even less experience than now. However, accompanied by nothing more than a couple of allen keys, a screwdriver I'd found in the road, the encouragement of The Elf and a naive sense of my bike building skills, I had at it on the front step of the not quite condemned house I was sharing. And something magical happened - the sun shone, every part fitted (even the cup and cone bottom bracket went in smooth and tight, adjusted sweetly by the stubby screwdriver and half a brick) and the bike was built within a couple of hours. Perhaps it was magic, perhaps it was the Tony Di Bart (in the days before he returned to fitting bathrooms for a living), who knows. But that day the colours were brighter, the strawberrys tasted sweeter, D:Ream predicted "Things Can Only Get Better" and the future was full of possibilities as The Elf pedalled off to “continue my race series Big Man”.
With a jolt, I realised that The Elf was still talking and although I’d been reminiscing on those halcyon summer days of youth for what seemed like ages, when I’d returned to the present only a matter of seconds had passed. The Elf continued to mutter about gear ratios and the like and when I asked after the Yo it turned out to have long been stolen (along with all that youthful ambition?). After an enjoyable catch up we concluded the call and I sat with sadness weighing me down as my mind reverted back to those halcyon days. Suddenly the here and now felt monochrome, cold even.
In an attempt to cheer up I flicked on the DAB radio and heard Pato Banton imploring his baby to come back – coincidence or a dream within a dream? Looking round I saw my trusty screwdriver, the connection to 17 summers ago, countless botched builds and surely my talisman. Reaching for it I slipped on the wet flagstones, hitting my head.
Next thing I remember is Pliers exhorting “Woman your love is like burning fire in me soul” as I respond to the knock at the door. Glancing down at the screwdriver in my hand I smile – it was going to be alright, it really was going to be alright.