Monday, December 15, 2008

CYCLING: Bike Club - the first rule? (hic!)

Great news.
The local authority seems to have cross party support for putting cycle paths on the prom.
Finer detail is sketchy. And war has broken out in the local newspaper's letters page.
But it signals an attitude shift which could be very important to the future of the area where I live, I'll predict.

People might even think the town is a friendly, welcoming place.

And at the very least, parked cars blindly backing out into a petrified family of peddlers, forced onto the seafront road (the clear and present danger) may soon be a thing of a murky and distant past.

Thus ends the news.


Possibly more important:
Bike Club was this weekend officially born.

(Suggestions for the first rule of Bike Club are welcome.)

Its three members learned they are stupid enough to cycle in truly horrendous conditions if there is the promise of ale or wine at the other end.
This they know because it happened twice in three days which makes chance a less likely culprit.

Friday - newly official Bike Club night.
I learned you can download most bike maintenance information via the web - even while really quite drunk.
And Daniel learned not to put his finger between the cog and the derailleur if I am nearby and really quite drunk.

We then sat and Neil told us often how he'd just doubled his money on ebay with the Scott he was gleefully cleaning and preening for collection.

I put my bike on the new stand, forgot why and then Neil lifted it out because I was drunk and knocking things over.

We ate snaks (sausages, olives and chocolate brownies so plentiful we couldn't possibly hope to work them off if we spent the whole month on the saddle) and took the piss out of each other a lot.
It was absolutely fucking great.

Sunday, Bike Club outing day
Friston wanted us elsewhere almost as much as the weather and my hockey tired thighs.
But we are now officially paid up adventurers and must earn the respect we crave as such.
Proudly we ploughed up and down boggy tracks where gravity was no help in either direction - finding pleasure in small pockets and pain in prominence.

Squeaks reminded me about the oil I'd forgotten to apply on Friday night.

We bitched light heartedly - assuring ourselves often how easy this would be come the summer thanks to our dedication.

Neil, atop the wife's ill-equipped machine, fell at the third attempt. Upset we both missed it he re-enacted the event on a muddy track with surprising vigour and quite a thud.

Meanwhile Dan looked like he could go all day.
I felt the opposite - tried not to want to go home, but was delirious when we got there.
Don't tell the others... I may get kicked out.

The first rule of Bike Club: Drink less before and more after?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

CYCLING: Tinkering and tyrants continued

We've brought a bike stand.
To save money and be more self contained during future trips three of us decided it's time, at the tender age of thirtysomething, to get some bike knowledge. We all chipped in.

I drank wine and got in Neil's light as he tinkered on Friday evening.
He fixed his gears and breaks and I can't say I know why.

I ate Chinese food and drank port as he used his new knowledge and a few You Tube how to videos to adjust my gears too. They're smooth as a James Bond pick up line now. It's a mystery.

I learned that as long as Neil comes on future trips I will be fine.



New to us sections of Friston forest opened out in front of Dan and I, each promising adventure and challenges unknown.

Once you're fit enough this is the unique freedom to mountain bike cyclist.
The day's destiny is unhindered by logic or habit or hill. If you reach a dead end you turn around. If you don't, you keep going, wide-eyed - riding at your limit.

The next path could bring jumps, glorious tree-weaving single track, frightening downhill or wide open leafy paths where speed has no master. Or it could be a boggy disaster like the one we took.

Ten painful minutes later I was pulling a gloopy mixture of mud and leaves from between the back wheel and frame. It had glued the wheel fast. My feet were in deep puddles.

Friston was in no mood for the fun we had planned it seemed.

I caught Dan up and we left her behind, headed across the angry road into a field towards the Cuckmere cleaning our tyres on reliable medow grass.
We have a right to roam, Dan said.
Fence. Barbed Wire. Another field. Another fence. Bugger this. Back across the road to our mistress.
She was more welcoming this time, and as the path dropped towards Exceat our wheels picked up speed enough to fan leafs in their hundreds into a rusty confetti.
We yelped.
We whooped.
There was no danger - no need for concentration. It's at times like this that you must make the sounds of gleeful boyhood. It's part of the reason you're here. So we did.

Forest drained we weaved further along into a fabulous path, more narrow and dusted with inviting obstacles which we hopped over or zipped around. The bare trees seemed to step aside graciously. Our hosts also welcomed in all the afternoon's half-light to see us happily through their home.
We caught our breath and thanked them with smiles.

Soon we were in the valley, splashing through more puddles. West Dean offered us the admiration of a small boy and an aggressive hill, but soon we bumped out onto the Road to Littlington where a pacey ale in the Pub's garden spurred us up and over the rut of the Downs and into Wilmington for our meeting with the Clobbys.

Monday, December 01, 2008

CYCLING: Tartan tyrants of Wilmington

You should try pushing the thing…, puffed David Dimbleby who was propelling a kart up the muddy Folkington track we were sliding down.
…It’s harder for the person at the back.

Peter Sissons. Did you see? Did you SEE? I whispered excitedly.
See who? I was too busy looking at the kid in the go-kart, said Daniel.
That looked like fun.

The track was a mistake.
If I was a cynical man I would blame the old couple dressed prematurely for Christmas day in all over green and red tartan and tweed.
They had seemed nice.
If they were senior members of the anti cycle lobby – Clobbys for future reference –, as we later suspected, they hid it well.
When we asked for a way from Wilmington to Wannock without risking our necks on the neighboring main road they’d hardly paused before suggesting we peddled back up the hill and hang a left.
There’s a track along to Folkington, then go down the lane, take a right and then there’s another across to the back of Polegate, they instructed.
They even smiled.
Mind you, it’s completely unwalkable, let along peddleable, they said to themselves with a wicked grin - but not until we were well on out of earshot.

The thing about riding in the mud is that when the time comes it’s too boggy to ride, walking conditions are a thing of the even more distant past. Then you have to push the bike too.
They knew this, we agreed, up to our ankles.

Earlier we’d left cold Old Town and peddled a little too enthusiastically onto the Downs on the Seaford road.
Luckily, made lonesome by the weather, she welcomed us with a backdraft as we neared the top and saved our legs a little for the hack ahead.

Daniel was gleeful atop his shining new silver steed.
I was jealous and failing to hide it.

We’d planned a vague loop through East Dean, along the top edge of Friston Forest, along to Littlington. Pint, Chips, around to the Long Man at Wilmington and, well, home the safest way we could find.
We shot along the side of golf holes against the tide of drives and onto a valley cut which whizzed us between fields of shivering sheep to East Dean. Cars suddenly buzzed over our conversation and we turned off to take a back path up the steep side of a village made ghostly by Sunday and season.

Out we popped puffing plumes of hot lung air. And across the tarmac stream of growling metal once more. Kind walkers, Clobby Resistance Fighters, held the gate open for us and then our smiles of thanks widened as we saw what waited.