Hulk ‘v’ Hawking
‘Normal’ life is busy…. The time in which it takes us to produce blog posts surely cements that fact!
HULK: Anyway, here we go… ‘Twas the weeks leading t’wards Christmas, and all through the Facebook land, it seemed not a mountain bike rider was pedalling, and life and work wouldn’t lend a hand…. So as you can imagine, planning a date for a Chrismas ride was nigh impossible! And so once again the MRG and friends were forced to ride separately in various other groups whist spreading the festive cheer.
Damian and I once again found ourselves with a random day to go shed some trails across the water in rainy South Wales. Cwmcarn was the trail of choice. Only an hour away and home to some great climbs and fun, fast, technical descents, even in the wet, miserable, winter conditions! Cafall at Cwmcarn. A must ride!!
Now Damian and I share a special friendship…. Basically, he’s the intellectual, slightly eccentric one, and I’m the gung-ho, it’ll be fine just hit it with a hammer one. It makes for some interesting conversations and these are more apparent on the trails!! As we rode out of the car park to begin the trail, I bounced up and down like a kid (this is my scientific way of checking that the bike is in working order) not bothering to change the settings on my shocks because basically, I don’t really see the point, or really understand how they work….. Just ride the damn thing up, so we can have fun and and come back down again!!! Damian on the other hand was faffing about with his clever bike and adjusting the bikes geometry toooo….. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sorry I fell asleep trying to explain that bit. Anyways, eventually we were on our way up the big, Welsh hill….
HAWKING: Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait. I need to clear something up here. Whilst my Neanderthal colleague is both accurate and correct in his ‘bouncing up and down’ description, it is not without mirth that I (the apparent intellectual of the pairing, and believe me when I tell you that if I’m supposed to be the clever one we are in desperate trouble.) must fill you the reader in, on the true nature of the bouncing component as we leave the car park. Mr. ‘Hulk Smash’ bounces up and down to remind you that when he’s kicking your arse up hill….. and down, he’s doing it on a huge heavy bouncy bike, which a normal mortal wouldn’t contemplate riding cross country, let alone setting the climbing pace! For my part, a bike that I can open and close the dampers on to make the literal up hill struggle more manageable, is simply a logical choice. I dread to think just how quick Mr. ‘Lift heavy things’ would be up hill if he ever decided to increase his concentration span long enough to set his bike up even a bit….
HULK: All I just heard was “blah, blah, yada, yada…. ‘Huge, heavy, bouncy bike, kicking arse!’
Anyways, keeping in the Christmas ride spirit, there were plenty of stops to soak up the Welsh valleys beauty, and lots of GoPro picture and video taking! For once I was determined not to just put my head down and ‘pedal until the wheels fell off’ or so I thought……. I apparently forgot myself for a moment and powered my way up ‘Quadzilla’ a fun, undulating climb with some really pretty switchbacks…. Then it happened… “BANG” My free hub had given up the ghost…Sad times indeed!! It took a few moments to work out what had actually broken, but once we had, even ‘Mr ‘We’ll fix it with a twig and a piece of string’ couldn’t deliver a solution! Annnnnnnnnd then came the quote of the century from my intellectual cycling buddy…. “Geographically I have no idea where we are, and we need to get back to the car park” ??? At that moment I literally have no clue what he was talking about?!?! Fuel money, an extortionate bridge toll £££££££ and a day of riding bikes without work, family and life’s stresses….. I was already pushing up the trail! In my mind, I could walk, jog, push, even carry my steed to the top! Nothing was gonna ruin our day…… It was my mates first time riding the trail, and I wanted to ride down a fast, technical, FUN trail, not bore myself silly cruising down a fire road to the bottom! At this point, a typically nice mountain bike rider offered his local input as to the quick way down, I thanked the nice man and then began to explain to my ‘brainy biker mate from Mars’ that we were not heading to the cafe….. Then the hike’a’bike to the top began….
HAWKING: Hang on a minute. I appreciate that this is supposed to be about riding, and written to entertain, but I feel a debt of honesty has to be paid here. Dockers (rapidly being referred to as the Incredible Bulk…) having made his big bouncy bike point has joked endlessly about his approach to trail riding. Power vanquishes all. Bikes bobbing badly? Pedal harder. Trail has lots of technical features? Pedal harder. Climb has lots of technical switch backs? Pedal REALLY hard… Or (the critical ‘Or’ in my humble, considered opinion) consider the line, switch gear and pedal effectively so as not to spin the back wheel and potentially break your bike. Nuke Proof it may be, Dockrell proof? Not so much…. Also as a qualified guide it would be fool hardy not to consider the safest route off of a really very soggy and drafty Welsh hill when one of the group has (through being a nutter) disabled his bike.
A point I must make a comment on. We often grow complacent at sign posted trail centres and don’t bother to get a feel for the geography, as I hadn’t on Hulk day. This little episode reminded me how daft that is. If Captain Hammer had broken himself and not his bike a better understanding of the location could have been way more important. I’ll be remembering to take a pic of the trail map before I leave base from now on. Back to the day however. ££££’s or not safe wins every time. But, and this is a big but, I hadn’t ridden the trail. It was my only chance to ride in weeks, my bike was running sweetly and frankly I had a slightly morbid curiosity about what Mr. Heavy Handed was going to do next. I mean I love to ride, I don’t even mind an occasional trail run but would I want to complete one hauling a sodding great Nukeproof trail bike up a Welsh Mountain, which was wetter than an otters pocket? Never mind his bike, his mind wasn’t working quite right either it seems. You would think after all this time I’d be passed surprise.
HULK: Hmmmmmmm, anyhow…..
We reached the first fire road and I made the decision for us to miss out one small part of the loop to rejoin the trail a little further on. At this point I was questioning why we ride up at all, as it seemed that ‘Captain techno bike’ was struggling to keep up with me as I jogged my steed up yet another single track…. Then it happened, the first fruit of my labour…….A short section of down! No matter what ‘Clever Trevor and his tremendous pedal machine’ will try to tell you about my Neanderthal like, trail riding abilities…. I’d like to think I nailed it! Having no pedal power, made me search every section of the trail for bumps and berms to ‘pump’ my bike over and through, thus carrying my speed and propelling me down at what felt like a pretty decent pace. It was so much fun! Even when the downs turned back into ups, I bounced my way over undulations and kept on pushin’ It’s hard work being right all of the time but ‘Mr Hawkings and his intelligent bicycle’ couldn’t argue with my decision to man up and crack on with the adventure! This theme continued as after each small push up I was rewarded with another one of the technical, super fast Cafall descents…… I still got that rush of adrenalin we ‘thrill seekers’ crave, shredding my way down an epically fun trail….. and my mate still got to pop his cherry, and finish (well… Pretty much) his Cwmcarn trail centre day! Win, win situation right there I’d say!! Put the hammer down like Thor and “HULK SMASH!” Haha!
HAWKING: The worst thing about the whole episode, which is boardering on being a debacle, is having to admit that ole Captain Quads is right. Its worse having to admit he was also fast. Embarrasingly so as it happens for a man with no drive train. Knowing a little (only a little, I can read and write without moving my lips and don’t test how heavy everything is as well) about physics I could state that his granite like weight most likely helped. At least downhill. As far as ‘struggling to keep up’ I think Mr. Blunt Instrument may have hit is head crashing (again) or something as that’s certainly not how it was. My trusty Cannondale made fast, efficient work of the trail (short travel damper engaged and a tighter headangle safely in place….) and I simply sought to employ some pace control in the worry that Captain Self Harm might conk out through daft effort.
I would also point out that his speed advantage downhill must have had something to do with a knowledge of the trail in conjunction with the services of his mighty Mud Hugger front mud guard. There is much about Ole Bulkys bike I don’t admire but the sheer brilliance of his somewhat ugly mud guard isn’t one of them. In comparison my Enduro guard was a bit like trying to pee into a force ten gale and stay dry, it was never really going to work. And so to the point in hand. Yes Mr. Stomp got round. Yes I loved it. Yes he was (due to mud/eyeball contact issues) ‘able to sustain a reasonable pace’ compared to me but what if there had been a bit more thought? What if ‘Hulk Smash’ was replaced by ‘Hulk change gear and loose a few’? How much quicker would he have been? I’m actually hoping we never find out as it happens. It seems to be way more fun watching what the guy is going to do next.
HULK: Alright, alright…. There is a fair amount of theory in my riding style…. Admittedly, Mr Hawking has been responsible for my greater understanding of reading the trails and improving my flow! But when all is said and done, I think what we’re both trying to say is we all have different levels of ability, different fitness levels, different skill sets, personal preferences on bikes, kit and terrain to ride…. But we all do it for the same reasons! We love riding bikes to feel alive, to break free from ‘life’ and there is nothing better than pedalling with your mates, no matter how pedantic and annoying they can be!
Oh and the bike…….. I destroyed my rear hub beyond repair! There is always a silver lining though….
Thanks to my mate Nath at the Independent Bike Co I now have a shiny new wheel set, rolling on Hope Pro 4’s!! We all love shiny new bike kit! Clicky, Clicky, Click!