Really, there's no point detailing a mountain bike in winter.

Last few days' of 2013 and I've not posted for what seems like ages. With the blog things go real quiet at Christmas. The blog goes from a summer readership of 500 hits per day, right down to teen figures. That hurts and proves that nobody cares!

Wife did enquire as to whether or not I'd gone off riding, as I'd not been out much. Sorry? Out last Sunday, Tuesday night, Saturday night and then again Sunday morning. In other words, situation normal. I don't think I've been blathering on about it as much, mainly because wife agreed to me collecting a load of windfall wood pre-Christmas - at the time we thought it was a few small branches, but in the end it was the entire top half of a mature Elm tree. Must have brought home a total of 1,500kg in big chunks. This has taken some work to process, but nothing that three days, a hammer and a couple of axes couldn't solve. But by heck my shoulders ache. Naturally the chopped wood had to go somewhere, so that was another rather boring day making racks out of scrap wood. All hail the local trading estate and their "free" midnight pallets say I....

So, the rides. Characterised by wind and rain. 1987 saw our biggest storm around these parts, which I missed as I lived "oooop North" then, not with the "Southern Jessies" but Monday 23rd Dec must have run it a very close second indeed. So my Tuesday post work ride up into the hills wasn't so much a ride as a hike-a-bike. The large pools of water were no issue; wet feet, go for it. The mud is a given at this time of year; deal with it. But the lack of trail was a bummer. On the Impossible Climb to the Hermitage several large trees had contrived to fall into the gulley. As the story goes, you couldn't walk over them! You couldn't walk around them! You couldn't walk under them! Yuuup, one had to force oneself through the middle of the gits. The biggest involved me posting myself through, and then hauling the bike sideways. Clearly I was one, if not the first, person through this way. It was all made worse as the trees were acting like a dam on the steep slope, and a pool of muddy water ankle deep had formed. No avoiding the slosh over the top of my shoes. This dismount and clamber style of ride has been the order of the day post Tuesday and it has made for an interesting if slightly shite ride.

Colley Hill at around 11:00 hours 15th December 2013.

Saturday night saw AD venture out with me. He's not been a regular partner since way back in April, so I've gotten used to being solo. Here I'll digress for a second if I may? It's quite hard this riding with people thing. No idea why, but mountain bikers view each other as being Rad or Shite. There's a suspicion that either the new guy will smoke you right out of the box, or will stumble at the first sign of mud, or will collapse into a heap on the hills. So there's this reserved approach to riding with other people, and this usually expresses itself in a myriad of solo riders out in the hills, who in all probability live within a quarter of a mile of 50% of the people they see out and about. Who are all, it must be said, riding at roughly similar speeds over exactly the same terrain. Back to topic. AD came out and it was fun. He only had the one handlebar mounted light, which is fine for most situations; just put it on high and be done with it. I tend to prefer the helmet and handlebar approach as it means twice the battery life, or at least one spare should I forget to charge one [ahem, ahem, note to self: charge BOTH batteries....]. We both had punctures, we both got muddy, we both dribbled over the rather attractive women at the Roe Deer post ride. It was a good night to be at large in the world.

And the next morning? Back to solo again, and I was glad of it in a way. The full day spend humping and chopping wood, followed by a ride out with beer [and then a cupboard find; bottle of Bailey's a mere fourteen months out of date] had left me, a near fifty year old, slightly knackered. Indeed shagged out would be an appropriate term. No way would I have wanted the goading of a ride partner. However, these days after reading and watching Guy Martin I have adopted a new phrase if ever I feel like giving up. It's; What would Guy do? I'm not sure he'd give up, so I hauled the bike out, hauled my knackered body on to it and set off. Actually it wasn't that straightforward. Puncture to deal with you see.

The first twenty miles were awful. Tired legs, knackered shoulders and I'd forgotten to bring food and water. Luckily the ride was only twenty two miles long, but there was a lot of swearing when I opened my pack for the first drink and it wasn't there I can tell you. This ride wasn't characterised by fallen trees; clearly Caterham had got off lightly. But it was characterised by my falling off a lot. You see we'd had a frost over night, and in some parts the frost was clearly harder. For miles I'd be riding through mud with a frosty sheen, sliding about but getting through fine, just maintain momentum. Then all of a sudden, expecting slushy mud, I'd hit solid iced up ruts and my front wheel went all independent on me. How I laughed each time a foot went through ice into water, or I fell sideways into brambles. Being hungry and thirsty didn't help either. "Buy some food en route!" I hear you cry. Well ya boo snubs, the Caterham route is lacking in cafes, shops and open pubs. It's one of those rides where detours to such places involve longer journeys than just going home.

Watery trail off Headley Heath, Sunday 22nd December, 2013.

Post ride cleaning of my bike is normally a happy little affair. Get it all shiny and bright. In the winter? Sunday saw me hosing off partially frozen mud. In a sense it was being slowly chipped off, grain by grain, leaf by leaf. Equally slowly I got cold. In the end the mud won the battle; washed the big bits off, cleaned my chain and then gave up. The bike is good to go again, which is good enough, it doesn't need to be perfect.

I'm enjoying the rides, but not the thought of getting ready for them, not this weather. And I realise that this is a First World Problem, but what kit do you take on a ride? It can be lashing it down and warm one moment, yet five miles down the road Sunny and possibly cold. Certainly Saturday night over at Banstead on the Heath it was warm enough to stand around in riding kit, yet down at Reigate ten minutes later it was too cold to stand around outside the pub even wearing a down jacket. Luckily some window seats became vacant, enabling us to watch the bikes outside. However, such were the lovelies inside that we soon forgot about the bikes.

Muddy bike, clean wood pile.