Today was the first proper ride of the year. The daily commute into work just doesnâ€™t cut it as a proper ride. Itâ€™s just a fairly monotonous and dull route into work that is only made more interesting by the attempts of motorists to add another kill marking to the wing of their car. This weeks special was an elderly chinese woman driving a Skoda saloon whose inability to hold her line on a round about almost but me into the Armco.
The plan was to meet up with Tyrrell and ride the river run out past Reddish Vale and then to stop of at the Jodhpur CafÃ© for a brew and a bacon and mushroom sandwich before riding home. It was decided that 10am was a fair time to meet so, this morning I left home about 9.30am and span over to our meeting spot near Jacksonâ€™s Boat on the banks of the Mersey.
After waiting for half an hour it was clear that some fate had befallen my riding partner and today was going to be a solo run. The river run is to the uninitiated a fairly uninteresting route. Over the last five or six years improvement by the local councils have only served to eliminate any of the interesting bits of singletrack by making them into â€˜properâ€™ trails or by passing them altogether and them falling into disrepair. Itâ€™s an undeniably flat for the majority of itâ€™s length, although there are a few little rises over spurs in the river valley if you venture up and off the rivers double levees.
It was on todayâ€™s ride over one of these small rises that I managed to run over a dog. Not some little terrier, but a full on sheepdog. The owners were it seems just about to launch a tennis ball for it and in anticipation the canine was belting it full tilt down the trail looking behind it to identify the moment of launch. Unfortunately the hurtling hound found itself to be wedged under the front wheel of the singlespeed seconds later and was obviously completely startled by the whole thing. A brief chat with the owners followed in which we joked about the whole thing after checking out the dog was okay. It certainly seemed to have learned its lesson as on the way back it cowered behind the walkers as I went past.
Shortly after this there is a break in the riverbank where there is a concrete structure that houses an automated hydraulic sluice gate. This is opened during bank full conditions to flood a designated area of wasteland and golf courses to prevent flooding down stream. During the summer this is generally dry and dusty and you can whiz down it through the bottom and with enough speed going in you can generally pop a bit of air off the top on the way out.
After scoping it out from above, I anticipated that it might be a bit wet and in the past it has generally been a bit sketchy after rain so I went in reasonably quick, but not at a warp factor that would be launching me skyward on exit. Big mistake. The floor of the channel was covered in well over a foot of alluvial mud and as my front wheel rapidly disappeared into the mire I began to panic, for as the hub went under I knew what was coming next. Air time, but of the unwanted kind. Over the bars and smack down into the mud. Boy did that stuff smell. Euurrgh.
So I carried on and went as far as Ye Olde Woolpack in Stockport. It seems Smith Knight Fay have relocated their Stockport Dealership, so caked in mud and armed with the Indy Fab I went over to scout it out. Sure enough they had the new S3 in stock, a pretty mean looking black thing. All it needed was the bucket seatsâ€¦
Having received some funny looks from the staff I took the hint and headed home. The rear tyre had picked up a puncture, but it was slow enough just to have generated that slight bobbing sensation you get as the tyre starts to soften and then squirm around the corners. Given the amount of drift debris on the river banks the puncture wasnâ€™t really unexpected, but feeling cold by this point I decided that I would just pump it up and change it at home later.
After crossing the Cheadle Road and passing the health club, there is a small section of woodland. A ribbon of singletrack runs through this parallel to the more recent pushchair buggy trail and in my mind itâ€™s a must. There are a few fallen trees along it that you have to duck under, one of which is particularly low and a real limbo job. Iâ€™d failed to clean it on the way out and was determined to give it ago on the way back.
Check the speed. Check the angle of approach to get maximum headroom. Off the saddle crouched down to one side of the bike as low as I can go. Entry. Weâ€™re throughâ€¦Yayâ€¦Whhhoooaaaâ€¦.WTF?….Oooommmph. Down like a sack of spuds. Thatâ€™ll be mistake number too then. Seems the backpack caught on the tree and flipped me off the back of the bike and hit me down flat on my back like some wrestling move. Damn I really should learn. Trees donâ€™t move.