One of the things I really appreciate about mountain biking is that there's nowhere to hide if you're not up to it. If you get things wrong, there's no "deferred success", no letting you down gently. You don't "not pass", you fail and there's just the smack of you hitting the dirt. That was how last night went:
Work had slipped into the way again, and I set off late. I had deliberately eaten a light dinner in the hope that I could ride light, but that was too long ago. Even on the way to the woods, I was thinking that it could have been better to stay home. But it felt like a ride that had to be done. Even in the first corner, my bike felt like a sack of spanners. Rattling over bumps, dropping the chain, spanging over the roots, everything was disjointed. With my new bike expected the next day (today!), I resented this machine. I lacked flow, and it responded in kind.
I was here to ride though, so I hit the Full 9 Yards as hard as I could. It has some great fast sweeping corners that can usually flatter your riding. They mocked mine. I wasn't as fast as fast or as precise as tidy. I carelessly jumped into a left-hander, and my back wheel clipped a small tree-stump mid-air. In the next moment, I was on the ground. My bike tumbled down towards my back and I redirected its fall into the bushes. I was dusty and hoping that I hadn't broken ribs again. As I sat there, my teeth hurt. So I must have hit my face on the ground. Everything seemed to work ok though: some grazes and a bruised thigh. The bike was fine. So I got back on and limped up the hill.
The rest of the ride was taken at a jog and that's not something I've done recently at Swinley. Suddenly, I could see all kinds of things off the trail: the trees and the deer, the sinking sun and the needles on the ground. It was nice to really feel the corners without trying to go quickly. It reminded me of that feeling you get when trying something new at swimming. I could feel the trails as I could sometimes feel water caught under my hand.
And as I rode, my iPod shuffled up some reminders of the near future. Both Josh Ritter's "Other Side" and Steve Earl's "Fort Worth Blues" mention The Great Divide. As if I don't spend enough time brooding on it already!