A rare day of good weather!! Perhaps we were a little spoilt with sunshine so early on in the week and assumed it would be the normal. Andy, Chipper and I went to go climbing, via a shop to buy a climbing guide we couldn't read so that we could ignore it later and prove it had been a total waste of time, while the others went for a walk to stretch the legs (not as easy as it might sound for the injured Hugh).
The debate about which crag looked best finally died off and we headed up the valley with a firm aim in mind. Which lasted as long as it took to pull up in the car park, with a much more inviting crag, omitted from our guide, was spotted tantalizingly close. On the up side we could see some people climbing it, on the down side we were without guidebook so back to the more traditional 'this way looks OK' way of route finding. A quick chat with one of the climbers at the crag suggested that the most likely looking line was harder than it looked but probably not too hard. I led pitches one and three which were frankly mickey-mouse compared to Steve's pitch two which made up for a lack of steepness by combining three joys of climbing: sandpaper like rock, a traverse to guarantee a good pendulum swing (note point one), a lack of positive jugs to hang off while putting in gear (is that the sound of a pack of cards being shuffled once again?). While Steve was battling with this pitch I was in the unfortunate position of sharing an altogether too small ledge for two with Andy. Andy took this opportunity to demonstrate that he isn't a climber at heart and started babbling about the quality of cars driving up the valley, getting far too excited about one that sounded like the high pitch squeal of a cat in distress to the layman. With Steve belaying above and Andy off I had, at last, a quiet moment to take in the view which turned into a long moment getting a little chilly willing the next patch of sunshine to arrive. Andy finally up I thought I'd best get a move on and rescue Steve from the same verbal battering I had received.
At the top we investigated the routes down, mainly because we had no guide book to tell us where to go, and set off. I fell behind while answering the call of nature (the cruel may say that I saw Andy verging on the edge of another car appreciation story as some over-powered, environmentally damaging, penis replacement hurtled up the valley) so I jogged to catch up. This was much to the detriment of a particular frog, who was hiding in the grass calmly until it saw a giant like me (to him anyway heading towards it. Leaving it until the very last minute to jump it timed it perfectly. Perfectly if it was trying to connect with my foot that is, it was last seen heading on an approximately parabolic curve off the top of a cliff, somewhere near St. Moritz. I'm not sure if the frog kept a blog up to date but if so I suspect he'll be disappointing his readers from now on.
Gravity bike racing. The only fact about this which
I knew is that it was a sport Andy had taken up a while ago, from
this we can deduce a number of things. It involves our well-known
friends and a poker table, and most likely a marked set of cards.
It involves speed. Most likely it will involved tarmac. What I
hadn't foreseen was a need for motor-cycle leathers and helmet, a
rare inclusion of safety equipment by Mr. 'See no risks' himself.
The point of all of this is that this was the evening activity, and
much fun and games were to be had. Those of you with a sharp mind
will have already worked out that a gravity bike isn't going to
have any pedals and will be relying on gravityto propel it along,
for those that this comes as a surprise perhaps try watching less
TV in the future. The recipe for such a bike is this:
1) Take a perfect normal, serviceable BMX bike and take the front forks off it and remove the back wheel.
2) Turn the frame upside down, so the pedals are in the air (for those who struggled earlier we will be taking these off, although it you want to up the challenge feel free to leave them on)
3) Put the back wheel back on (just testing to see who reads ahead before getting the spanners out - there was really no need to take the back wheel off)
4) Put the front forks back on (just to be clear for some of you, the wheel needs to be down and the handle bars up so we couldn't have left these on)
5) Surely you'll all notice at this point that the seat is pointing towards the ground so we take this off and replace it will a T shaped bit of metal so there are 'foot plates' sticking out.
6) To these 'foot' plates screw a plank of wood each side of the bike, the other end of which rests on the foot bars sticking out of the back wheel axle (they'll be there if you have a proper BMX)
7) Almost there, flip the front handle bars down as far as they can go and if you have any survival instinct whatsoever you'll also be checking the brake cables quite carefully.
Your ready to go! Find a steep bit of road, kneel on those handy planks of wood and aim directly down the fall line for maximum enjoyment. We found the experience was heightened by ensuring that the road had more hair pins than your grandmother and by being chased by your mates in the car behind! I hesitate to recommend the later but the former is almost a must.
So we arrived at the top of the pass in a couple of cars sporting Andy's gravity bike. Before we even came to a stop Andy was bouncing out of the car dragging on his leathers with a look of glee on his face. This was as close to heaven as it gets for Andy without an engine being involved. The rest of us looked on bemused as we saw the bike put together (even Andy actually tested the brakes) and being Andy a heart rate monitor/clock/brown pant probe (of more use later in the week)/gps gadget was soon strapped to his wrist. Not even given the camera men time to get in position Andy was soon zooming down the hill at quite literally break neck speed.
Given Darren's luck on a mountain bike this week we thought it brave that he not only turned up for a crack at the gravity bike but turned down the offer of the biker leathers to increase the risk a notch, much to Andy's admiration. This wasn 't to last too long as Darren soon discovered that heavy use of the front brake makes a gravity as twitchy as a snake on speed, which made a big dent in his confidence and at the first hair pin he realised that the cards were going to be against him and wisely bailed out. But not before we had a chance to catch him on film, with some particularly sound advice audible, inevitably from that man Chipper.
Chipper himself was obviously keen to show Darren the error of his ways and was soon doing a Hells Angel impression. The positions of chasing car was up for some debate before we left, with both Andy and myself keen to have the best view of what promised to be a spectacular house wins moment. With a sharp get away Colin stole the lead over a surprised Andy but this state of affairs wasn't maintained for long, with a trade mark bit of highway code breaking overtaking on his part. Steve developed an unusual tactic to eek out that last kmph out of the slope on offer which was to spank himself whenever the going got a little slow which may not have worked but did entertain the chasing pack. Time waits for no man and Chipper waits for no white van, which must have been surprised to see a determined overtaking effort by a Hells Angel spanking himself down the road, only to be followed by Andy keen to not be outdone. It has to be said that ducks take to water like Chipper takes to gravity bike racing with an admirable top speed around the 35 mph mark, but still a bit shy of Andy's benchmark of 45 mph.
Keen to join the fun I leathered up and took the
last run. I had been a bit put off by Darren's effort as on the
face of it he is a far better mountain biker than I am, but I was
soon persuading myself that perhaps if I looked at it in the right
way this might not be the case. After all, which one of us was
sporting eight stitches in his head having taken a fall over some
easy ground. I reasoned that I had never fallen on easy stuff, it
was always hard, so perhaps I had the edge on him. Confidence
suitably buoyed by this self-delusion I was dressed up worlds least
practical clothing for anything but hunching and was off. Keen not
to repeat Darren's error of using the front brake too much I abused
the back brake far too much early on, and I was waiting for the
tongue lashing from Chipper, but I was to get the feel for the road
towards the end of the run. All the while Risk is whispering
encouraging comments like:
'you'll be fine'
'of course there's no car coming round that blind bend'
'your leathers might protect you'
'go for it'
'whats the worst that can happen'
'you may as well enjoy yourself'
'you might not have long if you loose this hand....'
Which brings into sharp focus that concentration is key and this is no place for a snooze. I manage a respectable top speed only a razors width behind Chipper, which must have been the top section where I was trying to work out which was the front brake and so not using either until I was sure.
Andy chose to ride the bike back to the camp site, aided on the flat sections by a walking pole hanging out a car window. With a last flourish of his chips he hurtled over the rail tracks in the road on the final section, which given their raised nature gave him an impressive amount air time. With the world on pause Risk turns over the final community card and throws his hands in the air, throwing his cards in with disgust, as time resumes with Andy landing the jump much more neatly than the chasing car.
With most of the campsite heading to bed, we headed for the lake and a fire pit which was to be our cooker for the evening, all a bit behind time due to the immense distraction that Gravity bike racing turned out to be. While owning enough chairs for everyone at our tents it seems we did not have the foresight to bring one each to the lake and so some musical chairs was played, making getting yourself a beer a 'loosing your chair' offense. Some took this better than others, having 'acquired' Andy's chair he decided my knee was then fair game for his fair bottom. Obviously I took immediate physical action to this assault on my sexuality and removed the crushing weight from my leg, at which point Andy bundled me backwards over the chair. Sadly after some even scrapping (with a pause in mid fight to find Andy's glasses) I found my face being ground into the ash of the previous fire with a sweating, panting beast on my back. A little worried at how excited Andy appeared to be (or was that a canoe in your pocket? ;-) ) I had to concede. The seating finally sorted out we could get on with the job of burning the food for the more traditional BBQ game of 'chew the carbon'.