Let's talk about cycling in the rain then shall we?

Saturday during the day I was collecting and chopping firewood, so had kind of gotten used to the rain, which was constant and heavy, and of which we've had rather a lot of this past week - Thursday alone in one hour saw one seventh of our average rainfall for the month. Saturday was bad, raining all day. Charged my lights up, got my bike and kit ready. And then it REALLY started to rain. Boy did it lash it down, and no way was I going out in that. Sure I've been out in heavy rain before, but that's been on rides where it starts during not prior. Just seemed a bit daft to venture out into the woods at night, alone in a storm, so I didn't.

Sunday. Woke up to torrential rain again. Really hammering against the window it was, so I tucked up into the duvet. Wife, however, went out in it for a run so that was it; I had to to save face. But blow me down it only went and stopped just as I set off. Literally within 100m of my ride it went from horrid to zero rain. By the time I got to the top of the hill the sun had come out and all was well with the world. Weather wise it was very pleasant indeed.

Trail wise was a different story entirely. Mud was a given that was for sure. Lots of fallen branches and trail debris, naturally. Water? After the rain we've had? Boy was there a lot and there has been a fair degree of trail erosion, with little gulleys forming on any down-slope. As here in lovely Surrey the trails aren't hugely wide, then there was little chance of missing these emergent streams. I got soaked. So wet indeed that after a time it made no difference to my wetness whether or not I rode the puddles and streams, so that's what I did; rode right through them for grip. Well I did until I encountered one over at Headley. That one was making little waterfalls. These were great to pop off at speed, but the following stream was just too deep to allow for easy riding through. Just couldn't see where I was going thanks to a near constant spray into my face.

Somehow the rear Maxxis Aspen is providing grip, and I don't know how or why it is, as it has very little tread indeed. Sure on some of the muddy off-camber slopes the rear will slip sideways, and even on level ground at speed the rear can side step to such an extent that it drags the front off line as well. In essence it's stupid winter tyre, but I'm not about to spend £40 or £50 replacing it right now just before Christmas am I? OK I'll fess up; I'm not about to spend £50 on a tyre at any time of year. Economies of scale and all that, but a tyre fitted to my Fiesta costs less. My car tyres will do 40,000 miles easily enough, whilst the bike ones can be shagged at a few hundred miles - indeed last year I got through four tyres in five weeks thanks to sidewalls ripping out.

Ooops, I'm ranting. Sorry.

All in all a good day out in the Surrey Hills. Where were you?

Post ride the action didn't stop. Wife has gone all "woodburner" on me, and had one installed a few months back. Prior I figured it would be work, and that dearest would not be involved in any form with wood. As usual it has been left to me to do the collection and management of our stash, something which I seem to have a knack for. In just over a month I've enough in stock now to keep us going all winter, and even have enough new wood drying to keep us through half of next year. None of which cost me a penny - you just casually say to anybody "I have a woodburner" and pretty soon you're being asked to clear gardens. Saturday it was an old Elm tree; perhaps 900kg all in. Only problem now is finding somewhere to put it all, so the task is storage. Got any spare pallets anybody?

Now although all of my wood has been free, which I'm more than happy with, that is not to say that by the time it gets burnt there is no cost to the project. Big lumps mean a saw, axe, hammer and sharpening tools have to be bought. Storage, although made from old pallets, well they have to be dismantled so I needed a wrecking bar. They then need to be assembled into little wood shelters, so nails and screws purchased. In essence collecting free wood [gas as well don't forget] is probably the same cost wise as buying it in, but most certainly costs way more time wise. But there's the rub, and also a connection to being a mountain biker, or indeed a lot of other time consuming activities, like cooking or cleaning. I could buy a road bike and get to Box Hill or Headley Heath nice and clean, and do it faster, more efficiently. My bike wouldn't wear out either. But it's not the same is it? Sure I could buy in bags of wood reasonably cheaply [wife has seen logs as cheap as £20 a car full] but where's the fun in that? Say it quietly, but I quite enjoy the activity of finding wood in the first place, manhandling it, then there's the cutting and storing. Furthermore my children get involved as well, as does our cat. It's a pretty sociable event in our house, this wood management thing.

And say it quietly, but hauling wood, using an axe to chop it, and then burning it, well, it's all a bit, manly isn't it? There's nothing poncy about chopping 40kg lumps of wood.