The sun shines warm on my neck, weaving magic as it filters through the greenery surrounding us. It is a crisp blue morning- slightly cold, with an occasional, rather austere, breeze. The tarmac looks enticing- beautifully dry and smooth. But today I am going off it; on a sluggish orange bike which with its too-small chainrings and morbidly obese tyres, is the polar opposite of my regular steed.
I must be nuts.
I roll down into the field after Peter, my stomach in a tight knot. Branches whip my knees as I follow the faint trail of dust his tyres kick up, my nostrils full of the smell of the earth. He drifts through a corner. I rise up in my saddle, feathering the brake levers, and…
I can roll over gravel without skidding! I can power over ditches without flying over the handlebars! I can drop from a height without breaking my wrists! It’s a bit of a culture-shock, and idiot-grin fun!
I feel invulnerable.
The easy skill with which my companions manoeuvre their bikes amazes me. I, however, possess all the grace of a steamroller, crunching over gravel, dirt and bushes with the sheer brute power of my roadie legs.
But you cannot possibly hope to get away with trying to flatten anything and everything that gets in your way, as a boulder soon teaches me on a climb.
I fly off my line into the thorny embrace of a bush as Hugo and Peter slowly pull away.
I leap onto the saddle, and extend my leg full-force. There is a funny screech from my rear tyre as it struggles to find traction.
“You can’t be serious!”
I lean back further from the handlebars, and kick again. The front tyre lifts off the track and the bush warmly declares its undying love for me.
“Too far back!”
I am more careful with my torso this time, and…
I am rolling again.
I peer up the slope, and spot Peter and Hugo about halfway up. Can I catch them before they get to the top? I lean forward a little, just enough to ensure that my front wheel stays on the ground, and shift to a smaller cog.
“God mode: Engage!”
“Good climbing, man.” Hugo gives me a fist-bump as the two of them roll up to where I stand waiting for them. I suppress a chuckle as I resolve to put the 50/34 crankset back on my road bike for the next race.
It is perhaps time to try out a few XC races. I think I am getting the hang of it. There is only one, minor, snag- I shall have to buy yet another bike.
Follow this link for a video from the ride.
Photo courtesy: Hugo