… You may recall that I was standing before a mountain looking down at my mate Bunny untangle his feet from his fancy pedals. He looks sheepish and smirky. The Spaniard and I look like two punters who have sussed out a magician. There’s no turning back so we decide to start the ascent again.
Bunny heads off and this time he’s beaten the initial slope and is into his snake hip stride. The Spaniard and I are falling back at this early stage which is distressing. I notice that Bunny’s feet are pedalling quicker than mine and suddenly realised that I have gears. The right gear seems like a good idea and so I click the toggle and it gets easier. Easier… it’s all relative right?
My heart is close to explosion and we’ve only gone 500 yards. Just so you know I am better on a bike than this but this 500 yards has been directly up and on loose earth. I look ahead and see no top to this incline and start dreaming of a hospital bed in my exhausted delirium but I battle on. I briefly look behind me to see The Spaniard in full ‘rat face’ mode. He’s breathing heavy and snorting through the nose but he’s in control and in better shape than me.
Bunny is gone… flash bastard… he’s over the horizon with the laminated map. He’s probably resting at the top or perhaps engaging in push ups for pleasure. The Spaniard passes me before the plateau at which point I regret drinking ever and promise to never do it again.
At the top I find Bunny sitting down waiting. He has the waiting face on. The Spaniard is bent double breathing heavy and I arrive in what can only be described as a crash. I throw the bike to the floor and dry heave. Bun looks disgusted and rightly so. I was a mere 29 at this point and should have been in my prime. I was in fact a drunken shell of a man.
It takes a good 15 minutes of recovery time before we move on. We still aren’t on the down slope but it’s less ‘up’ which I see as key to survival at this point.
We cycle on and my body starts to adjust. I no longer feel as though I will fill my Lycra with the equivalent of 2lbs of mashed Dundee cake through a loss of control. I start to feel a slight moment of freewheeling indicating a change in gradient which raises my spirit.
“Here we Go!” shouts Bunny over his shoulder “This is what it’s all about”… We start the first descent.
It’s not a huge drop but it means speed is upon us. Ahead of me Bunny adopts the position of a speed racer and zooms off. He knows his stuff… he once purchase ‘Professional Mountain Bike Wanker Monthly’.
We hit speed and quickly reach the bottom of the drop which goes straight into another incline so I decide to change gear and pedal in order to lighten the oncoming burden and maintain the upward momentum.
Ahead I’ve spotted a deep pothole at the base of the drop but Bunny hasn’t…. this could be bad. He hits the pothole at full tilt and is thrown from the bike. His super cool shoe pedals detach and he disappears into a bush. The Spaniard and I race past the fully kitted out heap with camel pack suction tube flapping in the wind…. We cheer, laugh and scream ‘fuck you Bunyan, Fuck you!!’ in the most brazen act of Schadenfruder every seen on this hillock. He could be dead… we don’t care… he is The Devil…The Spaniard and I are ahead for the first time without the fabled laminated map which we are too stupid to control.
The Spaniard and I sit at the next natural stop. We gorge on energy bars like two 15 year old girls locked in a bedroom cupboard with a box of chocolates and a bucket. Bun won’t like this gorging as he’s marked power bar stops on the timetable in his head and this is unscheduled and unwarranted.
He arrives dishevelled… Not fully so as I’ve never seen him that way but partially rumpled. The Spaniard and I adopt our waiting faces….The worms have turned, we have the upper hand temporarily, we’ll milk this puppy till he next destroys us. We move on and it’s clear that the initial climb was worth it as we now only wind up slowly which is something even I can cope with.
We start racking up the miles with no major disasters until we come to what looks like a tarmac road descending almost out of sight through a wood. Bunny informs us that this is the big one. The full speed drop. I look at the Spaniard and he looks worried. It’s been evident throughout that he’s been at the back on the few downhill races so far. No matter we are on the edge of the reason we are here. I’m up for it and so is Bun.
I dispense with the helmet and put on a rather fetching baseball cap as I’ve decided that if I crash and fly through the air I will adopt a comedy star shape and cooler hat rather than look all flappy limbed with a dome head as I embed myself in a tree… No one wants to see that…. I’m considering the public here…
Bun sets off. My God he looks good from behind…he’s all sleek. Me and the Spaniard look like we are wearing bin linings by comparison, no wonder we are slow… Well that and the tonnage…
It’s a sweeping tarmac route through the wood but it’s quite steep so you pick up some serious pace. I’m in the slipstream of Bunny but it’s too dangerous to check behind me to see how the Spaniard is getting on. I assume that if he had crashed I’d have heard it.
It’s an exhilarating blast and I reach the bottom at roughly the same time as Bunny. There’s no sign of the Spaniard…. It could be over for him. We wait what seems like an age and I half expect a single flaming wheel to roll down the hill towards us as a sign of an explosive end but nothing comes.
And then a noise….tyres on tarmac in the distance followed by the vision of the Spaniard juddering towards us sedately in an on/off brake pumping manner. His helmet is positioned on the back of his head like the hat on that talentless ponce from Curiosity Killed the Cat. The chin strap appears to be strangling the Spaniard and his eyes are streaming and bulging.
After we stop laughing he explains that half way down the force of the air in his face pushed the helmet backwards like a head parachute as he hadn’t tightened the strap before take-off. As he was going fast (an unverified boast) he couldn’t stop and just went with it, accepting his strangulation while hoping that he would reach the end before losing consciousness. For the record I saw no signs of arousal and there was no whiff of tangerines.
Every downhill means an uphill and the next one was massive and took some time. By the time we reached the top we were all shattered but I was in a mess. We met some more professional cyclists at the top and I was overly friendly with them in a ‘pissed bloke on a night bus’ way due to a lack of oxygen in my body. We have a friendly chat and I tell one of them that I love his ‘see-through’ bike. He looks confused and humours me before riding off.
“Lovely Perspex bike eh Bunny?” I say to the Devil.
“What you talking about?” he says.
I get irate and explain that the bike we just saw the pro’s on was made of a see-through material. Bunny sits me down and explains that the bike we saw was chrome and the leg I could see through it was merely a reflexion of the nearest leg to me…
….I have been taken by the Delirium….We stop for a while and consume water.
We finally move off and discover a bespoke technical section which Bun explains is a bit like 80’s TV classic ‘Kick Start’. As it takes us downwards we decide to give it a go. The key apparently is to lock your back wheel and almost skid the whole way. Failing to do this results in gaining speed and the gradient is too great for idiots like us. The back wheel lock is essential and Bun can’t stress that enough.
As usual Bunny leads the way and soon disappears leaving the Spaniard and I trying to work it out.
“Watch me Bob” I say… “It’s easy”…
I start the descent, pull the wrong brake leaver and go over the handlebars sideways down a brambled slope. The Spaniard knows that if he laughs I’m likely to smash him to pieces so he tentatively asks if I’m ok… I piss myself laughing… It’s ok… he can now laugh.
He then gives it a go and we get the same result but crucially he loses his specs in the fall. Without glasses the Spaniard may as well be underwater with his eyes open… They must be found. Luckily he was in the ‘Biggins’ phase and we find them after 10 minutes of laughing and searching.
We finally reach the bottom where Bunny is waiting dismissively shaking his head. He thinks we are fools but we are way ahead of him… we’re idiots…
All that is left now is a final tarmac road push back to the car and the escape from Mount Doom.
We get back to Looney HQ starving and battered. All the other cyclists look clean and fit. We look like death is upon us.
We head to the room to shower and clean up before dinner. It’s at this point that I notice that my gusset area is extremely tender. I examine myself in the shower and note that my arse is bruised black from the pounding of the saddle. I feel dirty. I leave the shower and see my associates examining each other in a similar fashion… we are all pounded… It’s like a Centurion bathhouse…
Starving and ready for beer we head downstairs to the dining room and bar. Mountain men are everywhere and we notice a small area set up for live entertainment where a lone Bontempi keyboard and a microphone sit. We ignore this for now as we need food and this madhouse seems to specialise in curry.
There are only three curries available on the menu and no other food. Korma, Madras and Vindaloo. If you finish the Vindaloo you get a plastic medal of achievement. Bunny and I decide that our arses have had enough damage for one day and go for the Korma. The Spaniard is no such shirker… he’s in for the Vindaloo… He is one of this country’s finest citizens… he stands alone for London and England.
We sit and eat and the Spaniard sweats and breathes heavy. He looks like he’s had a hefty smash to the mouth but he won’t be beaten, he’s a spice God who wants a plastic medal. Inevitably he succeeds and finishes looking like a ‘Top Gear’, mouth breathing audience member at which point we retire to the ‘bar’.
The bar is small and has those fucking annoying 70’s bar tables that are at shin height. Dark wood, Double Diamond ashtrays and damp beer mats are everywhere. Due to limited choice we have to drink Stella. None of us drink this normally but we bank on it killing the arse pain. Everyone in this bar looks like they’ve had a harsh winter except us. We look like three dazzling young urbanites who thought they could do extreme sports and failed. We are not the fresh meat they are after..
In the corner of the bar next to the makeshift stage on a high stool sits a hippy chick. She’s respectable but could probably do with a long shower. She has no business in this Welsh ‘Prancing Pony’ filled with Rangers and Hobbits.
We are then introduced to the evening’s entertainment. In walks a rather scruffy tramp in a black velvet jacket. He reeks of Silk Cut. He’s a big lump with very dry ratty hair reminiscent of a dismantled Afro. Droopy eyes adorn the ruddy face and below the corned beef ball nose he has the classic Tom Selleck ‘tache. He has a great stage name like ‘Johnny Tweedy’ or ‘ Duncan Bourneville’ but I can’t recall it exactly.
He starts the show with ‘Saturday Nights alright for fighting’…. Just a tramp, a microphone and a low level Argos keyboard. He’s belting it out and becomes truly magnificent with every pint we sink. ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘White Wedding’, ‘Wonderwall’.. you name it he can nail it. The bar is rocking and even the mountain men are sombrely bobbing.
He completes the set and after a break where he sinks large Bushmills like R Whites he starts again.
“Any requests?” He says in a Brummie accent.
I’m in. “Do you know Van Halen?” I barely finish the sentence and he’s all over the keyboard intro…
“NEXT!!” he screams….
“The Who”… BOOM!! He knocks out the intro to “Won’t get Fooled again”…
“NEXT!!” he spits…. It’s hopeless, He’s a genius…
The hippy chick turns out to be his wife. I’m convinced there is some kind of Stockholm syndrome scenario happening here because they can’t really be together. She’s brought to the microphone and knocks out “Running up that Hill” by Kate Bush with the voice of an Angel. It’s a marriage made in Heaven and Hell.
The last bell rings and we head to bed happy. We crawl up the stairs and even sleep through the Spaniard’s nasal assault.
We wake early and all appear to have become disabled in our sleep…we back up, thank our hosts and head back to sanity…
“Never Again Bun” I squeak from the back seat…
“How do you fancy the Peak District?…. could be a laugh..” says the Devil Bunyan…
I see The Spaniard’s wide eyes and smiling rat face in the mirror…
Now there’s a story…..