Some riders think that thirteen is an unlucky number and as Carl led out and Toby ran sweeper I looked around to spot the likely candidate. Straight into the first trail and then a quick push up the the incline, change down ready to restart and chain jumps off and jams firmly. As the other riders rode off ahead I had found the unlucky rider of the night.
Several minutes of pushing, pulling, turning, twisting and repeat, repeat, repeat the chain eventually slipped free. A KOM up Child Labour looked a challenge so I contented myself with clipping a branch and scrabbling for grip.
Eventually rejoined somewhere in the dark of the woods and we ran as a single group to a newer bit. It was off camber, rollercoaster-ish, tight, deliberate and just needed a positive approach; grip may be lacking but the MudX on the back should ensure nothing could go wrong. And I had luck on my side now.
So when I spun on a root to a complete standstill and blocked everyone behind I was a mite disappointed but with both feet on the ground and completely stationary it was just a matter of stepping forward to restart. I then tumbled backwards, head over heel down the slope, with the bike, over and over. I did not feel lucky until Luke pointed out that as I had thrown myself down a leaf strewn slope I was not muddy.
I could hear Steve laughing inside somewhere behind.
We climbed up and addressed the murmurings that we do not push at any of the uphill stuff on a Thursday. Luke was thrown to the front and Rick set to chase his tyre. This was unfair as Luke’s fat bike weighs the same as a small hippopotamus and the fat tyres are no advantage on a fire road. He then proceeded to hurtle uphill in the lead dragging Rick and I behind with me on full push wondering why he was not slowing down on his little tank. He made the top first just as Steve caught up having “whooshed- source Carl” past everyone at some point on the hill.
Into “Recovery” and one of us should get a KOM – it could have been me – I could have been a contender (film fan Christmas quiz bonus) until Carl demonstrated a magnificent kung fu dismount with flailing, windmilling and sound effects. The unlucky badge had moved at last.
Some of the trails were slippery but we were still managing so we tried another up as a challenge to the mud. I thought careful pressure may be the key but got stuck at one point, just after Stuart had tried to dismount backwards in reverse or something when stuck on a steep incline – not recommended. Alex looked a certainty with his rubber queen finding traction at the rear just until it slipped completely. Ashley had no problem with the front tyre but the rear failed him too. I expected somebody to race past but we walked to the top where Luke had ridden – fat bikes 1 not fat bikes 0 – he had dabbed once he confessed. The rest of us started using sticks to clear jammed detritus and hoped for a clear run down. The unlucky badge jumped to Alex and the snap link on his chain pinged off into the undergrowth so I waited and the rest spunaway into more mud.
Chain repaired he headed home and I trundled down the fire road looking for lights. I did not see a flicker as a thrash of riders cut through the trees proving my assertion that there may be a black panther hidden in the woods unseen and waiting to startle the last rider in the group. The only lights were my own as they reflected a gaggle of sheep eyes as I departed from the trees. Then a flicker as the lights from bars and helmets escaped from the end of the trees as riders poured from the black.
So travel and adventure all on a typical Thursday night’s ride. We will be out again next week.