Cake

Since the demo day, I’ve been ramping up my riding. Sadly my winter hibernation and weight gain has had quite an impact on my riding – I feel slow, fat and waddling. Fortunately, given my prodigious consumption of all that is sugary and fat filled, it’s not as bad as I feared. Yes, I’m slow, and I’m taking longer stops than I used to, and ascents are downright unpleasant, but I’m still able to ride 15+ miles comfortably and I can still ride up hills without stopping. I’ve retained some stamina, so that’s good.

My confidence is also quickly returning – on my first couple of rides, I avoided various things. The Steg on one ride, the boardwalk on another, the exit to section 8 (Zig Zak), the bridge on section 9 (Aunt Flow). In my defence, the weather had been fairly terrible, and there was a surprising amount of mud around, especially on the diversions. A chap was standing in Swinnertons, covered in stinking mud – apparently the mud on the Steg diversion had made the boardwalk slippy. Ew. Didn’t fancy that. A few rides later, I was back to riding everything that I could ride before – a somewhat ridiculous achievement, when you think about it. “Hey, I rode that rock garden I’ve been riding for nearly four years, hear me roar!” Still, I’m always pleasantly surprised.

I’ve been trying to top up my riding with some local riding too, commuting to work when the weather isn’t too bad, and doing the odd loop around Ryton Pools. I’ve not done my usual bridleway loop, as I’m still waiting for it to dry out, but soon…

 

 

Like Bananarama, I heard a Rumour

Spring is here (FINALLY), and that means a fresh batch of demo days.  I gave the Leisure Lakes one a miss due to the demos being group guided rides, and instead waited for the Specialized demo day.  Aaah, Specialized – manufacturers of my beloved Professor, not to mention three of Mr Toast’s bikes. A solid, reliable brand who’ve gone from being good value, to being overpriced, and back to being good value.  There is one slight issue with the current crop of Speshes, however, and that’s the thorny issue of wheel size.

Specialized, with a few exceptions, only make 29ers now.  Being of shorter stature, this has proven to be a bit problematic for me. Previously, back in ye olde 26 days, I struggled as women-specific bikes were far too short in the top tube for me, and bloke’s bikes often had no stand over.  My Professor, a 2009 Stumpjumper FSR, was the exception. It was still a little tight on stand over, but the reach was perfect and together, we’re a good fit.  So really, I don’t need a new bike, but I’m always trying to ensure that I have a back-up plan in case the Professor perishes.

The push towards 29ers has cut down my already limited options, however.  I kind of got on OK with a Giant Anthem, but I didn’t really get to ride it as much as I’d like to make a definite judgement. The small Specialized Camber had less than zero stand over, but the reach was fine.  The Stumpjumper was even worse, due to even longer forks.

But hark! A Rumor! A women’s specific 29er.  Would this fit me, or would it still have a crazy short cockpit for t-rex women? Looking at the geometry it seemed promising – very similar wheel base and top tube length to my Stumpy, and lower stand over. Well, I never.

So, I patiently waited to demo the Rumor.  When I arrived there, the small Rumor had been out for 50 minutes already.  Great! It should be back any time now!

It wasn’t.

The previous demo-ee finally returned the Rumor after having it out for well over two hours. By this point, there were two other women waiting for it. Despite being next in the queue, I surrendered my spot to another lady who was there with a chap – he’d already got his demo bike, and was waiting for her before going out. If I went out first, it’d mean that either that they wouldn’t be able to ride together, or that he’d wait, meaning that whoever wanted to demo the bike he was on would also be delayed.

So, after three hours of waiting, I finally got out on the Rumor. Was the wait worth it?  I sat on the bike, pleased with the geometry. Standover! Sweet, precious stand over!  Internal cable routing, niiiiice. And the Comp is white with purple grips and decals – OMG IT MATCHES MY EXISTING BIKES AND GEAR!!111

Unfortunately, my initial reaction was “HELL NO”.  It felt completely alien and just plain wrong. My body position felt weird. The handling felt weird. The brakes felt weird.  I pondered though – was it the bike that was wrong, or just me? After all, I hadn’t been out on a bike since October… unless you count my new 110cc scooter. Toot toot!

As it felt distinctly odd, I elected to skip the Steg – squiffy handling, squiffy brakes and general uneasiness on the bike does not go well with rocks.  I raised the saddle a little, and the bike immediately felt better.  Off I toddled, skipping the boardwalk section and heading up the fire road hill.

This was slightly terrifying – would I be able to get up the hill without having a cake-induced heart attack?  It was also at this point that I realised that the Rumor had different gearing to my Stumpy, having two chainrings instead of three. WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?  Yes, I paid more attention to the paint job than the gearing. Deal with it.

The more I rode it, the more it made sense. No gears that you’re not supposed to use for fear of knackering the chain, no utterly redundant big ring. By the top of the hill (which I managed to get up without stopping, much to my surprise) I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike.  A quick sip of water, and I was finally riding FtD for the first time in ages.

The Rumor did well – given that I find High Voltage particularly bountiful on the slippy pebble front, grip was excellent and it ate up braking bumps and jolts.  Again, it climbed and turned well up Zig Zak, but I decided to err on the side of caution and toddle down the ramp. A few more sections and I was really rather taken with the Rumor – I still found the handling a bit quirky, but that’s probably to be expected after a) a long time off the bike, and b) on an unfamiliar bike.  I was left with the impression that it would be awesome over somewhere like Llandegla or Glentress, but less ideal for the tighter areas of the Chase – although again that might be me, rather than the bike.  The only other gripe was that the brakes were a bit spongey and the levers pulled right back to the handlebars – I do one finger braking, and the lever kept on hitting my middle finger knuckle whenever I wanted to even feather the brakes.  But that’s something that could be fixed with a good setup (possibly involving throwing the Elixirs into the fire and replacing them with brakes that don’t need bleeding every five minutes).

I returned the bike with a big smile on my face, and the Rumor has certainly made me a bit more open minded about getting a 29er to replace the Professor, should he fall in battle.

Of the demo day itself, the Specialized guys were great – they were making sure that everyone was completely happy with the bike setup before they went out, adjusting not only forks and shocks but handlebar angles too.  They were frequently apologising for my wait, and chatting to make sure that I wasn’t forgotten. They were also handing out free t-shirts and Phenom saddles, which was a nice gift for Mr Toast. YAY! PRESENTS!

I might take another test ride of a Rumor later in the year, when I’ve shifted some of my winter bulk and gotten used to biking again.  That said, I quite fancy trying an Ibis Mojo too…

October. Bleugh.

Well, it’s been an odd few months. Confession time: I haven’t actually been on my bike since October, a thoroughly miserable little factoid there.  When I was first made redundant, I did vaguely have this dream that on days in between looking for work, I could get some extra miles in over the Chase.  Unfortunately, as time went on, I realised that the £20+ in fuel it cost to get to and fro the Chase was financially a bit irresponsible – especially as the statutory redundancy claim was taking longer than expected to sort out.   

It was, all-in-all, a pretty grim cycle of misery for a few months – I felt guilty about doing anything ‘fun’, as ‘fun’ wasn’t looking for a job or improving my skills.  Jobs were scarce, and each week that passed made me feel more useless. The redundancy claim was a fairly fraught process, with an investigation dragging it out, and leading to the delightful conclusion that my role had been TUPEd to another unrelated company.  I was informed that I’d technically resigned by refusing a job at the company in Oxford, so wasn’t entitled to anything other than my owed wages, which I’d have to claim from a company I’d never worked for. There was misery, there was despair, a fair bit of anger… put it like this, if I was strong in the Force, I would have been full on Sith and shooting lightning out of my fingertips, with Yoda looking a bit disappointed.  There was also a fair bit of weight gain – winter eating combined with no exercise plays cruel, cruel tricks on my waistline.  The weather went terrible, and EVERYTHING WAS RUBBISH.

Fortunately, things started to turn around.  The company that I was supposedly TUPEd to got their lawyers involved, and I ended up getting my statutory redundancy, loss of notice and unpaid wages/holiday after all.  Money may not buy happiness, but it pays the bills and buys motorbikes, so that was a plus.  I then managed to not only get my career back on track, but to give it a massive boost – I’m now working on two awesome projects for a company that helped shaped my childhood, and am professionally the happiest I’ve ever been.

And I’ve also taken up a new hobby – archery.  Longtime readers (if there are any) will know that I often talk of my love of Lord of the Rings, and my childhood desire to be an elf – ride a horse, live in a tree, have awesome hair, shoot a bow.  Well, I tried riding a horse, didn’t like it, but mountain biking is close.  Living in a tree is impractical, but we have a semi-detached and a mortgage. Hair… well, I try. 

But archery… I’ve been wanting to do it for years, and I finally managed to complete a beginners’ course which demonstrated that I wasn’t going to have anybody’s eye out, and joined the local archery club.  I was surprised at the bewildering array of stuff that you can get for recurve bows (my weapon of choice) – sights, long rods, clickers, etc. I’ve now got the basics, and have hopefully passed the ‘excruciatingly bad’ starting period, where my arrows were landing in strange and unpredictable places.  Unless you predicted ‘on the floor’ – then they weren’t that predictable.  Sometimes I would hit the target… just not the one I was aiming at.  Turns out you should keep your head still when shooting, instead of bobbing it around like an angry pigeon or like the possessed lass in The Exorcist.  WHO KNEW? But it’s great fun, will hopefully do something about my feeble upper body strength (18lb draw weight…), and will stand me in good stead for any forthcoming zombie apocalypse.

So now, I’ve just got to get back on the bike.  I’ve suffered from a lack of enthusiasm because of the weather, but now it’s starting to be less awful, I’m actually a little bit scared.  Scared to see how much fitness I’ve lost over six months, scared because people will be laughing at the fat girl on the expensive bike, scared because what if I’ve forgotten how to mountain bike and hurt myself on the Steg, or on the exit to section 8. What if people laugh?

But screw that – I can’t solve any of those problems unless I get back riding.  So this weekend I’m going to the Specialized Demo Day, so if anything terrible happens I can blame it on an unfamiliar bike (I’m also quite interested in the Rumour, as it looks like it might be a new-full susser that fits me). So if you see a tubby lass wobbling around – go easy on her, yeah?

Adventures in unemployment

I can’t say that redundancy agrees with me.  I don’t mind the application or interview processes, it’s the wait that follows that kills me.  I was thinking that I’d make my applications then spend my downtime wisely.  Housework! Gardening! Bike riding!  More Lua and Unity work!  I’ve done quite a bit of the latter, but everything else has taken a backseat to checking my email, Facebook and LinkedIn every five minutes.  I’m sat in front of my PC all day, so in that respect being redundant is much like being at work, only I don’t have any Proper Coders(TM) to mock my shoddy indentation.

Waiting for emails, I’m a bit like a kid at Christmas – only I don’t know if that brightly coloured box contains an exciting new job and a new phase in my career, or a big ol’ bag of unemployment.  I’ve come to deeply resent Chain Reaction, Evans Cycles and Wiggle, as I’ll see that I have a new email, excitedly open it… and find it’s from one of the aforementioned retailers.  Shiny new bikes! Winter gear now coming in?  As much as I’d love to blow my statutory redundancy (yet to arrive) on biking year, this is probably one of those situations where I have to be an adult and not spunk loads of cash on biking stuff. So not only can I not take advantage of the FABULOUS WINTER OFFERS, but they’re also not offering me a job.  Pfffft.

Still, it’s given me time to work on other things, like faffing in Unity and Corona, and I’ve also been putting some stuff together for schools, to encourage kids to consider game and app development as a viable career (and encourage them to continue in the appropriate subjects).  I’ve also been over the Chase once, on a Monday.  Fastest time ever! \o/  Hopefully I can get back over there this week too.

 

Well, that escalated quickly…

Blimey, I’ve gone a bit slack on the blogging front – I last posted on my birthday.

Well, if it’s any consolation, I’ve done a lot of riding this year – more than ever before!  Aaah, the benefits of a good summer – it was fantastic when it finally made an appearance!  I’ve been going out on rides in the evening on the local bridleways and quiet country roads, and also joining in with the Thursday night XC rides run by RLSCC.  This has made the weekends a lot more productive too – I can now do two laps of the Dog fairly comfortably, and have even done two laps of the Dog and the blue.  Admittedly I end up walking a bit like a cowboy after a hefty ride over the Chase, but it’s nothing that a bag of frozen peas and 400mg of ibuprofen can’t cure.

Sadly my racing has been limited this year – I didn’t fancy Mountain Mayhem, Sleepless was cancelled, Bonty 24/12 was the same weekend as my sister-in-law’s wedding (which was ace) and Torq in Your Sleep was the day before Mr Toast started his new job at Sega.  But things calmed down. Benny finally passed his bronze Good Citizenship test! All was well.  We started to ponder From Dusk Til Dawn.

Then I was made redundant.

To describe Thursday morning as ‘very surreal’ doesn’t really do it justice.  We were working away as usual. I went to the toilet, and, as I sat in the cubicle, I heard the door open and a male voice say, “Is anybody in here?”

I initially thought it was going to be a maintenance guy, but when I answered and had the response, “It’s Tom, you need to come to the second floor for a company meeting” – that was when I knew that something was seriously amiss. If the male company lawyer is coming into the ladies’ toilets and saying that everybody needs to go to an unscheduled company meeting, it’s not going to be for happy fun times. If you think differently, you’re either a deranged optimist or a pervert. Possibly both.

We shuffled to the second floor, a sea of concerned faces and nervous laughter.  I cracked a joke about The Hunger Games – truth be told, I was expected mass redundancies.  Blitz had tried so hard to buck the trend of hire and fire that’s prevalent in the industry that it was surely about time to slim down?  May the odds be ever in your favour.

What I wasn’t expecting was the entire company to have ceased trading, with the loss of over 170 jobs.

It was at the same time both kind of expected and a complete and an utter surprise.  Blitz had sailed close to the line over the past few years, trying to adapt from console development to a broader range of projects.  With the demise of THQ, the bottom falling out of anything other than AAA console development and the emergence of mobile and tablet gaming, it was a struggle.  But I think people always expected them to last – ten years is a long, long time in the games industry, and for an independent developer, over twenty years is almost unheard of.

It’s strange, because although Blitz never made a AAA hit, or anything that your stereotypical hardcore gamer would embrace, it’s a genuine loss to the industry.  Indie Celebrity(TM), former colleague and all-round good egg Mike Bithell wrote a lovely eulogy on Eurogamer.  So many of my former colleagues are at studios around the world – in Amsterdam, working on Killzone.  In Canada, working on Mass Effect.  Closer to home, in Twycross, working on super-secret Rare things.  I can’t help but imagine that when the news hit the gaming industry grapevine, that it was like Alderaan being blown up by the Death Star – millions of voices suddenly crying out. 

Because although Blitz wasn’t without its flaws (what company isn’t?), it contributed so much.  Blitz was willing to take on placement students, and graduates, or even with people without degrees, as long as they had the talent.  They allowed me to go out an champion accessibility in games development. They championed improved links between the industry and academia, helping students come out of university with relevant skills. And the Olivers are incredibly, incredibly nice, talking with relentless enthusiasm.  Hopefully something good will spring from the ashes.

So, what now? Well, fortunately Al started at Sega a few weeks ago, so at least one of us is in a job.  He at one point called me ‘a lady of leisure’. I threatened to punch him.  But I’ve got a few interviews coming up this week – all great companies, but I’m aware that I also have a lot of great competition now.

Interesting times!

I should be posting about my previous rides…

…over the Monkey.  Four so far this year, three of which went well, one which went… less well.  Took the Boneshaker a bit quick (not a euphemism) and came off in quite spectacular fashion, although fortunately I was remarkably unscathed apart from a few scuffs.

But no, let’s not talk about that.  Let’s consider this instead.

Best week of the year!!111

Last week was ace.  What did I get up to?  Well, let’s see… first there was…

DALBY!

It was my first ride of the year on the Professor, and a few tweaks were made – more air in the forks and rear shock, namely.  We started the red route, and it went rather well.  As previously mentioned, I’ve kept up a bit of fitness thanks to commuting by bike every day, but unfortunately I was still fighting a bit of a chest infection.

FUN FACT ABOUT MISSUS TOAST CHEST INFECTIONS!  Due to being overly ladylike, chest infections tend to linger for me.  Why?  Because instead of blowing my nose, or coughing up phlegm, I tend to… well, choke it down.  Snuffle it right back up, where it can be recycled.

As I rode around Dalby, I allowed myself to freely cough up phlegm and blow my nose like a trumpeter, as one of the joys of marriage is being disgusting without fear of reprisal.  Or at least, that’s what Mr Toast and his musical bottom tells me.

And cough I did, to the point of nearly being sick.  A definite benefit was that, since Dalby, my chest and sinuses have felt clearer than they had in months.  However, at the time, the lack of breathing ability made it somewhat difficult to ride, and we decided to do half the trail instead of the full 20-odd miles.

Unfortunately, Mr Toast’s memory (or sense of direction) wasn’t quite as good he thought, and we ended up doing only 6 miles of red route, and 10 miles of road.  It was a very pretty road, though.  We saw a stag.  That was nice…

After Yorkshire we travelled up to Scotland.  As July is a bit hectic this year, we decided to get some early Glentress in this year in case we couldn’t make it for our anniversary.  We stayed at our usual haunt, Glede Knowe, which was fantastic as always.

Somewhat stereotypically, it was beautiful weather on the drive up, and in the evening Mr Toast and I went for a lovely walk with t’boy down by the river, followed by a meal at the Traquair Arms.

The next day – the day we were riding -  started off beautiful, but quickly became gloomy and overcast.  The predictions of ‘light rain’ and ‘light showers’ were somewhat innaccurate, and we were instead faced with ‘fairly annoyingly persistent and not actually that light’ rain. For four hours.

The weather report was correct in surmising that the weather would improve in the afternoon – as we sat muddy and sodden in the cafe, the sun came out.  Then the next day, when we were driving home… sunniest and warmest day of the year. Ho hum.

We weren’t actually too disgruntled – the trails are still awesome fun in the rain. The only issue is, after that incident on Pennel’s Vennel that one rainy year, I now have no appetite to hit the red in the rain.  We did make one concession – we did the climb up to Spooky Wood, and then Spooky Wood itself.

The climb wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I remembered, and I also took to it with a bit more speed and aplomb than in previous years.  I confess, I didn’t do the very first drop, but I did everything else after that.  I didn’t get a burning sensation in my left thigh until right near the end, but my calves were screaming – I think I’m just a bit out of shape when it comes to off-road stuff!  Jolly good fun though.

And… oh look! A picture of me with the meteorite Stane.  How terribly original!

2013-05-01 13.00.51

The blue at Glentress is definitely one of my favourite trails, if not the favourite. The climb up to the Buzzard’s Nest carpark is good fun, and the descent is also amazing – so swoopy, bermy and fast!

After Scotland it was back home, but on Friday we got to ride over Cannock Chase.  As we knew we were coming over again on Sunday, Mr Toast decided to nobly escort me around the Monkey… given that I’ve not really ridden in much over the past two years, and that I’ve come a cropper a couple of times on it, it seemed a wise decision.

We took it very easy (translation: I took it easy, Mr Toast waited), and there were a few bits I gave a wide berth – I merrily bypassed the rock gardens on the original Monkey, and also avoided the Klondike rocks and the Woodbank timber feature.  In hindsight I think I’d be fine with the latter, and probably be OK with Klondike as long as I take the left line instead of the right (as my wheel goes into the dip on the one rock and I get flung over the handlebars 50% of the time).  Can’t be arsed with the original Monkey though – discretion is the finer point of not dying, as they say.

I’ll really have to get into the habit of riding the Monkey more – I’m sure it’ll up my speed and confidence (assuming I don’t fall off and die).

On Sunday I pootled around the greens… on a Duet Wheelchair Bike! Yes, Swinnerton’s have one now, so my mother can experience the joys of the Chase.  She was somewhat disconcerted by the sight of an ambulance at the Rollers (broken collar bone, apparently), and she made me promise that I wouldn’t take her on the Rollers…

The Chase greens are generally lovely for wheelchairs – they’re not quite as potholey as the Tissington Trail – but there’s the odd bit that’s awkward.  Some of the off-camber bits can be quite tricky, and returning on the green made me realise I had the choice of following the green through the stream (which my mother wasn’t keen on), or going over the bridge around the pool (which she was even less keen on due to the path crumbling away).  Still, we got around in one piece, although we ended up doing a few more laps just around the ‘Walk for Health’ green route, which was very easy.  TOP TIP! Carrying an extra 10 1/2 stone of mother on the front of the bike is great for fitness.

So overall, a great week for riding – I just wish we could do it more!

Get shorty

Ah, shorts.  Next to shoes, getting trousers and shorts that even remotely fit is the bane of my clothing existence.

A word on my physique – I am short of leg, and wide of arse and thigh, but relatively narrow of waist.  This, dear readers, is a problem.  What normally happens with trousers or shorts is that I go for one size, and I can’t get them over my hips.  Nope, nope, nope.  But if I go for the next size up… huzzah!  They pass the thighs and hips and… oh.  Oh, right.  I have an extra two inches or so of waist band.  Awesome.  I end up with loads of excess fabric, and end up having to wear belts, which I dislike for two reasons:

1) It bunches up the waistband and looks awful

2) I’m allergic to nickel, which is what’s generally used in costume jewellery and belt buckles.  So I quite often end up with an unslightly (AND ITCHY) rash on my belly.

Given that I’m not blessed with the most attractive pins in the world (especially given the events of the previous post), I like 3/4 length shorts, which seem to be quite hard to get hold of if you’re a lady – quite a few will claim to be 3/4 length but only be knee-length… and believe me, it’s not because I have long legs.

So, here, for your delight and delectation – the world of Missus Toast’s biking shorts.

Altura Synchro Women’s 3/4

Well, let’s start with some of my favourites.  I have two pairs of Synchros – a grey pair with black piping, I think from 2009 or 2010, and a black pair with white piping on, from 2010/11.  OBSERVE THE MAJESTY OF MY SYNCHROS!grey_synchrosSo these shorts have been bloody fantastic:

  • The cut is nice, reasonably loose on the legs but not massively baggy around the waist.
  •  They actually make a pretty decent effort to get past the knee.
  • There aren’t any fastenings to get caught or rub.
  • They’re very light, so they’re ideal in the summer.
  • The pockets aren’t great, although the later pair have slightly deeper ones that are more useful, but really… who puts anything in their pockets? It’s uncomfortable, and makes you look bobbly. Pockets are overrated!*

Despite being used for commuting to work, weekend mountain biking and 24 hour races in horrendous weather, they’re still in perfect condition.  And yes, I wash them after every ride as well, thanks for asking. In the case of my older grey pair, they also survived the 2010 crash that took out my helmet and a good chunk of the skin on my right arm.  The blood washed out nicely!

Loeka Tech Short Capri Length 2010

Loeka-Freeride-Shorts-Pinstripe-Side

I bought these last year.  The dimensions are a bit unusual – I’d personally say they’re a bit short to be classed as ‘capri length’, but they are just about knee length on my hobbity legs.  They’re very baggy in the leg, which makes a nice change, but they are also quite baggy around the waist and gut – not too bad though.  More room for cake, eh?

So, an overview:

  • Relatively short for ‘capri’ length
  • Nice and baggy
  • There aren’t any fastenings to get caught or rub.
  • Quality feels really nice and sturdy
  • Very cool looking

Endura Hummvee 3/4 Women’s

The Hummvees are very popular, both the male and female versions.  Unfortunately, despite being the most expensive shorts I’ve bought**, they’re the only ones I didn’t really get on with.  Again, this is probably due to my rather… ahem, ‘stout’ legs.  The Hummvees are definitely designed for those more slender of pins.  They’re a nice length, but very slim fitting, and I found the velcro fastenings around the back of the knee quite annoying.  The belt that comes with it is also a bit rubbish.  It’s frustrating, because the quality and look (when worn by others…) is great.

  • Good length
  • VERY slim fitting on the legs
  • Velcro fastenings tend to rub when pedalling
  • Good quality
  • Looks good… on non-hobbits

So overall, the Synchros are winning in the battle of the shorts, with the Loeka shorts being a close second – if they were just a bit longer, they’d probably be my favourites.  The Hummvees make me sad, because they make me realise how ridiculously out of proportion my thighs are compared to the rest of my body. :(

*Seriously, I really don’t like putting things in my pockets.  Ever.

**It’s probably worth mentioning that I have a tendency to only buy cycling clothes if they’re heavily discounted, usually because they’re last year’s stock, etc.  I am married to a Yorkshireman, after all.

Well, that escalated quickly…

Excellent. The sun is shining, it’s pleasantly warm and the trails are dry.  It’s almost like spring!

After the recent weather and a bout of the standard office lurgy, was eager to get out.  Benny was dropped off at Old Farm Dog Boarding, where he enjoys long walks and running about in a huge garden with lots of other friendly dogs ranging from pugs and shih tzus to rottweilers and labradors (it’s quite a sight to behold…).  So, with Benny safely taken care of, we were able to go forth and bike and the same time!  Huzzah!

Not together though! Mr Toast wanted to hit Follow the Dog* straight away, whereas I decided to take it easy on the blue.  As it turned out, we did almost the opposite – I decided to do a bit of Follow the Dog, and Mr Toast decided to try and catch me up on the blue… which he couldn’t, because I wasn’t there.

Instead, I headed out from Birches Valley onto the blue.  As I passed the Stegosaur, I thought, “Well… I’ll go to up the fireroad hill and do 9, 10, 11 and 12″.  So I veered off in that direction instead.  It started out quite well – I pootled up the the fireroad hill steadily, and always in middle ring, with less trouble than in the past.  It looks like the commuting over winter has definitely boosted my fitness, even if it hasn’t kept the weight off!

I did the first part of section 8, then followed the diversion to section 9. So far so good.  I was riding well, even managed to overtake a few blokes…

THEN HORROR!

The first boardwalk on section 9 is an innocent little thing.  It has a clear run onto it – no awkward roots or large pebbles – you just ride in a straight line onto it.  I’ve done it loads of times.  I’ve done it a few times on the rare occasions I’ve been biking this year, on my 29er.  So what went wrong?

Well, it seems that I slowed too much on the approach, and was in too high a gear.  The front wheel veered off to the left, but I managed to catch it and get my foot down on the ground.  Unfortunately… I’m very small.  The height difference between my left foot on the ground and the rest of my body being on a bike on a board walk a few inches higher was too great, and after stopping, with grim inevitability… I fell over.  I’m not entirely convinced that falling off the bike once you’ve stopped is classed as an ‘off’, but… well, it’s a bit of a moot point really.  I ended up on my arse, legs in the air, entangled in my bike.  And those guys I passed?

Yeah, right behind me.

At the time, it felt that my pride had taken the main blow.  My leg had a couple of nasty scratches and a few specs of blood, but I just got back up and dusted myself off, and continued.  I pondered just getting back on the blue, but decided that was stupid, because I’ve been riding FtD without incident for years, and there’s no point getting a complex now.  So I carried on with 10, 11 and 12.  Without incident.  So there!

Crossed over the road (without incident) and took to the blue, but veered off for some cheekiness down the German cemetery which was a lot more rideable than last time I attempted it.  I guess not being covered in snow and ice does wonders for a trail.

I looped back and rejoined the blue. By this point my leg was starting to smart a bit, and the nasty scratches were starting to look a bit nastier.

20130420_180052Now, I’ll never be a Pretty Polly model, but the swollen red welts weren’t a good look.

Still, I’d had an awesome day and it was fantastic being back out on the trails.  Can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs, etc-

OH SWEET MOTHER OF ZEUS!

20130422_220612Sunday was interesting.  I got out of bed, and almost immediately fell over due to not being able to put any weight on my leg.  Eventually I managed to stretch it into a usable state, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.  I got the bus in on Monday…

But today I’ve biked backwards and forwards from work, including extra sessions at lunch to check on Benny.  Other than a slight bit of stiffness, it seems fine, and the bruises are yellowing nicely!  I AM WOLVERINE! \o/ Except he’s the best at what he does.  I’m not the best at mountain biking. :(

Despite my comedy injury, I’m really looking forward to more biking this year.  We’ve got Dalby and Glentress planned for next week, so hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy those trails without anymore comedy offs…

* I nearly worded this statement “Mr Toast wanted to hit The Dog”, but given the previous paragraph I worried that people might take it out of context!