My return to mountain biking has brought me pleasure and copious servings of humble pie.
This is a good thing – right? – ‘cos one should never get too big for one’s boots, and while the (small) rational coachy bit of me understands this the emotional animal bit still finds it hard to digest: When you’ve been used to playing ding dong at the sharp end it’s a bit of a shock to find yourself scrabbling at the back while self-respect plays a game of frantic catch-up.
Giving It My All used to equate to being up at the sharp end if not the entire field then at least my age group – which will happen when I do eventually return to running. Right?
And while I was jumping back into this biking thing after a quarter of a century away I had at least expected some level of respectability to come from the results.
Hello, real world.
Some serious reframing was clearly in order if I was going to experience even a hint of joy and progress in a project that I was putting 7-10 hours a week voluntary effort in to.
If my first race back had me lowering the bar and widening the goals (see previous blog Two Wheels Good) the second one had me reaching for the matches to burn the f**kin’ things down and elevate my Scottish effort right up the rankings on my ‘Sh** I’m Really Proud Of’ List.
This time we were in an old quarry in Lancashire on a tight rock-strewn course that packed an awful lot of what we’ll call Stimuli into a small space (Course Preview - Crank It Cycling Lee Quarry 2023)
Once again Sons Of Mouncey had acquitted themselves well in the earlier races: Joe had coped with a thrown chain right at the start that had the entire field ride away from him to re-mount and haul a few back strays on his way to a lonely finish. Elder brother Tom had chatted his way through the easier stuff early on keeping his powder dry to focus on his favourite gnarly downhill sections and take the big technical drop off with style on every lap.
And then Dad.
It was Scotland all over again and then some:
Once again I’m the only one in the field riding an old-style – make that a 30year old – bike: Upright geometry and small frame, triple chainring and small wheels. Everyone else – and I do mean everyone – is on modern longer framesets with big wheels and single chainring.
Without going all bike geek on you let’s just say that over the years bike manufacturers have got way better at making machines that are fit for purpose using technology undreamed of a few short decades ago. This means that all things being equal you go faster for the same effort on a modern machine – period – and that difference gets bigger as the terrain gets rougher. I’d begun to appreciate that after Scotland and then somewhat indignantly asking Coach the ‘But I’m in shape - Can I Really Be This Sh** On A Bike?’ question.
Er, yes – but it’s more about the bike these days than you might think, old man.
Anyway, at this point in the experiment I’m still resolutely doing Luddite and clinging to the ‘I’ll beat you on my bone-shaker anyway and prove I’m twice the man you are’ mindset. Once again reality (and physics) was having no truck with that as the entire field rode away from me with uncaring ease from the start, and I had to fight like a bast**d to salvage a sliver of pride that came with catching the rider in front.
Once again I was lapped multiple times.
Once again I was shaken, stirred and slow over the rough stuff.
And this time for good measure I was very publicly dumped off the bike and onto my face every time I attempted the big technical drop off that eldest son had taken with style not once but three times.
Oh yeah, and my saddle came loose and locked itself into a grossly uncomfortable/unhelpful position early on which make my feeble attempts at fluid athletic motion even more pathetic, and a final lap puncture had me finishing not just out of sight but also out of mind.
Fortunately by the time the finish line arrived I’d worked out my self-indulgent pissed-offness, chalked it all up as ‘Taking Time Out On Two Wheels To Grow As A Person’ and was just looking forwards to a nice cup of tea.
And resolved to doing more training – and buying a new bike.