Monday. Not just a bank holiday, but a birthday, tattoo day and in fact overall a stacked out busy day. So my plans to complete a March Audax AAARTY ride were fanciful, if not farcical. There was just enough time to fit in a short local run, yet again, finding new trails just a few minutes from home. Exploring the locality is like reliving a childhood I never really fulfilled. The sense of liberation of being on foot and free to roam increases every time I run. I can't imagine it will always be this way, but the intensity of it, right now, is like a new romance.
That AAARTY though, when on earth would that fit in? There was just one evening left in March that would be workable. Who knows whether it would even be possible. The arm is not yet ready to weight bear and the roadie would be too much risk of jolting and pressure under braking. A 50 km hilly audax on a mountain bike, with off-road tyres and a rucksack full of water....well, it was worth a try. Tyres were pumped up to 40 PSI, but suspension kept soft, to absorb the road buzz and help neuter any pot holes before the shock transmitted to my arm.
It was a bit of a struggle at the beginning. Repeated self-checks 'how's the arm 'it's fine' 'are you sure' 'yes, it's fine' 'what was that funny tweak' 'it's the wrist, not the break' 'are you sure' 'YES DAMMIT IT'S FINE'. It really was fine. There was no pain at all, even changing gears was simple. I felt relatively sluggish in myself, the legs a bit shocked about having to actually climb in a normal riding position. Interestingly my average speed was a lot higher than I was expecting to the point where I pondered if I had accidentally switched the display into kilometers from miles. There was ooodles of time. Time to chat to a lovely lady roadie for a wee while as we converged on a small lane. Hearing of her adventures with a broken elbow and completing an iron man just 8 weeks later was most reassuring. There sure are some tough ladies out there.
The best thing about being on a mountain bike? Not having to concentrate too hard on the road debris and being in an upright position. This little 50 km loop has been completed a number of times, in all weathers and seasons, and yet, on the MTB, I saw so much more than on the roadie. Views that stretched for miles, as the shadows of the clouds moved over the woodland and the windows of houses glinted in the sunlight. It made me a little sad to see tiny motherless calves, left alone to eat the grass of an orchard, leaves yet to appear on the lichen-covered apple branches.
The descent from Clifton-upon-Teme normally requires acute focus, but on the MTB, the tyres controlled the speed, smoothed everything out leaving me to look over the hills to home, and avoid the angry farm dog who came tearing out a gate for my ankles.
Once back into West Malvern, there was so much time to spare I figured I may as well bump up the climbing AAA points by looping over the Beacon on the way home. Still feeling rather sluggish in myself, but keen to make the most of the stunning evening, it was a slow winch up the relentless meterage from Lower Road, Westminster Bank and right to the top.
It was great to roll home knowing, just 4.5 weeks after pretty major arm surgical repair, the riding goals continue to tick over, and I was able to enjoy such a wonderful evening on the bike.