Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Ordeal

The Ordeal


Cycling can be a buzz, a strain, exhausting, uplifting or character building.  Sometimes it is an ordeal. 

Sometimes, it is a series of ordeals.....


Bob White (better known as his stage persona Ralph Merry) and I had decided that some mountain biking through Sherwood Forest was long overdue.  The first challenge for me was getting up, after being locked in the Local until 2.15 I seriously wanted several more hours in bed, but adventure called. Ralph and I both set off from home agreeing to meet at 10.00am, little knowing the ordeals that lurked ahead. 


Ordeal by waiting in the wrong place


After cycling round in circles for 10 minutes trying to keep warm we rang one another and discovered we were both there on time but in the wrong place.  At least one of us was in the wrong place.  The lesson is, that agreeing to meet on the corner it is best to absolutely nail down which corner.  Reunited, we pressed on to a tea stop at Sherwood Pines.


Ordeal by puncture


OK maybe not so much an ordeal as an occupational hazard but a frustration nevertheless when we were flying merrily through the woods, and especially once I discovered I had come without a pump. Fortunately Ralph was better equipped, and we both had fun trying to read its miniscule pressure gauge. 

Back in working order, we pressed on enjoyably through the forest into Clumber Park for a lunch stop at the Christmas bbq. Leaving Clumber behind we picked up a bridle path pleasantly across country towards Walesby.  After a road crossing the track dropped downhill and there were flooded patches which had to be carefully negotiated, until we came to a serious flooded obstacle.... 


Ordeal by water


After some careful examination of the best place to cross Ralph shouldered his bike and leapt through with dry feet.  I decided it could be ridden, but mid way through the front wheel came to a dead stop deep in mud.  I sprang off the bike, but to my considerable surprise there was no firm ground, just a seemingly bottomless trench filled with icy water.  I managed to stop about chest deep so didn’t completely vanish from view, but getting out proved something of a challenge. 

Although I had committed the cardinal sin of coming without a pump, I was equipped with a spare top and gloves so it was a quick change of the upper half, giving thanks once again for my Dad’s trusty waterproof underpants, left over from his days in the submarine service.

Waterproof top and spare gloves on, and then ride like mad to warm up.  Fortunately the day was not sub-zero but I did take the precaution of describing to Ralph, in a casual manner, the symptoms of immersion hypothermia should I suddenly come irrational, or at least more so than usual.  So we pressed on with all speed into some woodland and a picturesque wooden bridge until....


Ordeal by Lake


The track became increasingly flooded and rounding a corner we discovered it vanished from sight under the water.  Nothing for it, but to shoulder the bike and wade.  Ralph helpfully remind me that I was already soaked and should therefore go in front.

There was little clue to where the track might be but we pressed on until we were standing in the middle of a lake with no obvious route forward.  To our left the lake was full of bare, lifeless trees like something from Paschendaele. To our right, dense swamp like undergrowth of the sort beloved of the jolly country people in “Deliverance”.   Would we be adding “Ordeal by squealing like a piggy” to our adventures today I wondered. 

We waded on, and were eventually rewarded with the sight of the track emerging from the lake at the far side with even better a reassuring yellow way marker.  A short but rough uphill section generated some warmth when....


Ordeal by another puncture


This time it was a pretty hurried change but all went well.  At Walesby we were back on to tarmac and turned for home.


Ordeal by hill


We toiled up Nickerbush hill which I welcomed because it warmed me up, but my legs were feeling the distance by this point and I became irrationally cross at the pond weed hanging from my handlebars. 

Finally, back home, survived! ‘Fin always has plenty of spare gear’ they say. Well they’re not laughing now.




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