(Oh, this might be a bit, errmmm, 'long'.....). The weekend arrived, I had my nice new pair of chunky Nokian Gazzaloddi 2.6's in hand, and I decided I definitely wanted to get a decent ride in on Sunday (just gone), so I searched for my club rides list. After not finding it anywhere, I called up the LBS, and John informed me the folks were meeting at the LBS at 9:00 a.m. (in the morning), on Sunday, and the ride was the Clapham Tunnels (loop) ride, starting off from near a place called summink like 'Feizor'. 'Whooo-hooooo' I thought out loud, what, with me having enjoyed that ride quite a bit the last (first) time ',;~}~ I was a bit concerned, because I hadn't been on a long-ish, tough going, off-road ride for some time, so I didn't rate my stamina, or my skills, and my back was suspect to say the least, not to mention my knees..........heheheheheh......... ........Did a bit of fettlin' and fitted the tyres on Saturday, inflated to an unusually high (for me) 25 psi (checked after I wrote that, seems my pump is out at the low end - I read about 18 psi with the big hose). Sunday, up at 7:00, shit, showered, shaved (? - nah, I didn't do that shaving thing...), collected my gear together, then Kath kindly gave the BASE and me a lift to the LBS for to be meeting up with the club folks. Well, one thing led to another, and next thing I knows, I'm in that 'Bloody Yorkshire', just outside Settle, near Feizor (or summink), and putting the bike back together. Oh, I put on my leg armour for this ride too........figured I'd prolly need it knowing me, and knowing the ride...... Weather was looking good as we 11(10 1/2? - There was the young son of one of the guys with us - good skills he had.....) folks pulled out of the car park, and crossed the road for the trail head, and our first little climb. Made it up the first steep bits with only one dab (too little mo'!), and found myself up front - tyres were gripping nicely, thankyouverymuch! I was 'chuffed', and headed over to open the gate for the others. We are now in a field with some nice swoopy vertical plane contours (aka 'bumps'), over some of which, I got me some good air! Oh, but not like the little lad did..fearless little bastard....heheheh.......He was giving his own running commentary the whole damned ride! Quite entertaining, good kid ',;~}~ Again, I'm in front all the way through, opening the gates, and tearing off, grinning bigly. We finally exit the fields down a piece of doubletrack with some good limestone bedrock chunks to launch off (this whole area is limestone), past the farm, and very briefly, we are on the road. Turn right off the road and onto a section of s/t that runs between two old dry stone walls - great stuff this is! It's narrow enough, full of loose rocks, roots, part buried boulders, slabs of limestone ledgey formation thingies emerging at strange angles from the earth, and mud! Bill, one of the older guys of the group, and quite a freak for speed and the rough stuff is in front now on his pre-monocoque Marin FS, and I'm hanging on his tail. The bike is behaving exceptionally well, and just rolling over the bumps and lumps, railing and ripping round the corners, down the muddy dips and up the ledges without even a hint that it might even want to lose traction. I'm having a hoot, a blast, a freaking great time - the earth, the bike and me, as one (but not in the same sense as when you crash, obverously). We exit this walled trail onto a short section of road, up the hill, round the corner to the left, behind a couple of nice cottages, and onto some more similar trail, but all climbing. Again, I take the lead here and spin on up over the loose rocks, part buried slick-slabs (and I mean polished 'shiny' slick), through the mud pits, round the corners - it's all great! We get to the ford, and I ride the bridge - pop up the front wheel onto the ledge of it, pull the back wheel up behind, and across. Turn at the other end, back across, pull a wheelie drop back off the ledge - just having a play while the others gather. After they arrive, I get convinced to ride the river ford itself, and so go for it with my usual enthusiasm (heheh....), spinning madly and as smoothly as possible, and plough through the water, right through and over the hidden rocks and green slime covered boulders, and I clean it, wet through, heheheh....... When I get back to the others and come to stop, I notice a brake howl, look down, and there's fork oil all down the left fork leg,and on the rotor, again, despite the new seals! Well, I'm gutted, but all I can do is wipe it off, cover the rotor with heaps of mud, and tie a rag around the fork leg to stop the oil passing and dripping on the rotor again. Brakes soon start working good again, and we are off, back tracking a short way from the ford, sharp left, and again, we're onto this dry stone walled in s/t, this time, mostly a slight downhill. I'm at the back here, as I'd hung back to sort my brake/fork out and left the others to go on, but I soon catch up and take any safe opportunity to pass those who desire to take a more sedate pace, and then, I'm again flying the good flight, eating up the obstacles nicely, and really having a fair old bit of fun catching up to Alex. The trail levels out, onto farm track, round to the right, then left again back onto the old walled-way, a bit more slight descending, then the trail and walls decay somewhat. There are sudden piles of stream washed loose rocks, where the run offs from the hill to the side and front of us cross the trail. I see Alex fail to make one down, through the rocky water, and up the ledge move, slow down to let him get out, then go for it, and pass the move, and himself, cleanly. I'm pushing on in front now, and making every technical part, no dabs, no problems, and I'm psyching myself up for the approaching climb - the trail here gets steeper and steeper, as it winds in a leftward arc up to the crag ridge above. This section nearly killed me last time, and I was expecting it to be even worse this time, but I just kept out front, and kept on spinning that little gear. I'd take it slow and easy on the smooth sections, then as I approached any rocky outcroppings, I'd spin quick with the energy I'd saved, so as to have the momentum to make the moves - slow, pick line, faster, faster, un-weight the front, step on the pedal, chest almost upon the bars, back wheel hits, move weight backwards a touch, keep the traction happening, pedal hard but smooth again, tight twitch turning of the bars to keep the right line, the one that wiggles all over the bloody place trying to escape me (bastard, heheheh.....) - complete the move! Thrilled ',;~}~ The whole climb is like this, steep, but with enough smooth bits between the moves to be able to measure the pace, save the energy for those few explosive demanding moments. I'm halfway up the steepest part, and my back is hurting now from being bent so low over the bars, but I'm steadily pushing on, and still making the moves. I find the bike seems to be steering nice and precisely, the big heavy tyres are giving their all to keep the power transferred to the ground, their low pressure squishiness is helping to take the jar and bounce out of the moves, and I'm at the top, the last move! This move is a steep series of small natural limestone step/ledges, I know I can make it, but in my state of mind and body, I dumbly fail to figure out what to do. I pick my line, spin like mad, get half way, then the back loses traction for no more than 1/8th wheel revolution, but I'm stopped. I pushed over the rock and sat at the top, waiting for the group. I remembered that I should have changed up a gear and paid for some more momentum to make that one, but what the hell - I looked down the hill, and the others were all pushing their bikes already, bar 2 or 3, who'd climbed back on at the last smooth section before the top - I figured I'd done well enough. I sat and waited, and I was a bit pleased with myself, and not a small amount surprised - I'd not expected to do so well stamina wise, and certainly not technically, I mean, I suck at technical! ',;~} We sat and ate, the wind picked up, then it dropped, leaving us in surprisingly warm sunshine. We each adjusted our attire to suit, then proceeded left along a fairly level, but rather technical section that took us over well eroded, broken 'limestone pavement' interspersed with ledgey dirt s/t. I had a bit of fun playing on this, dabbed only once on an easy bit (heh...), then we were at the bottom of a short but steep climb, which turned out to be a hike-a-bike for all. Up past the walkers, smiles, laughter and pleasantries exchanged, and we are up on a wide expanse of sloping fell land. We all turn and look down to where we have just been, and the view is amazing - spread out before us are row after row of eroded limestone strips interspersed with couch grass and heather, and beyond, the large imposing bleakness of the dark and white hills and peaks, and the steep climb we made earlier. We continue on to the left up the bridleway towards the tops above Clapham, all pretty uneventful - I manage to catch a nice 2 1/2 foot or so drop off a grass and sand ledge on the trail, notice that there have been motos up here, ride over the muddy dips and whoops toward the final high point before the descent into Clapham. The wind suddenly picks up, the skies darken ominously, the rain comes, gently, then torrentially as we get nearer the cairn we are aiming for. We pick up our pace, shrug off the hail as it starts to bounce down, then at the top, put our w/proof shells on, and set up for the DH. Alex sends me first and requests I open the gates as I go. I tear off down the sandy s/t. I get a bit of air off a couple of steep drop-aways, more than I'd planned, and grinning, make the first gate. I open it as some of the others catch up. They take charge, and I'm off again down a really fun stretch of very rocky d/t. Heh - warnings are being shouted to those behind about the nature of these next sections, and a reminder that the shiny slick limestone is now soaked and mud covered. I take heed of my own inner caution, but the grip of the big tyres encourages me to go for it, push myself that bit more, and with confidence I haven't had on this sort of ground much before, I do, and I'm loving it!!!!!! Heheheheheh-whoooooooooooooOOOOOO! I'm launching off boulders, small drops, twisting and turning, no sign of slipping at all! The new and improved stiffness of the Bomber is telling now, as the wheel goes exactly where I want it to without hesitation, bouncing off loose boulders without twisting away in weakness, soaking it all up. More gates opened and ridden through, more fun rocky trail, more jumps and drops, and I'm at the top of a short but very steep section. This bit of trail is fairly wide, but entirely populated by loose, round, smooth lime boulders of all shapes and sizes, from cow-head to baby head to squirrel head, save a small strip down the right hand side. I wait for a couple of the guys to catch up. Bill and another go first, and I follow. Bill, as ever, is making good speed down the right hand side, the smoother part, and calling warnings back as to how slick it is. I soon catch him and the other guy (sorry other guy - forgot your name!), but I want more speed, want to push my personal boundaries forward some, am more than up for it, so I plough straight into the danger zone in the trails middle, at full pelt, and fly past them both. I'm fairly far back on the bike, and just pointing it where I want to be, it feels more like surfing than mountain biking! I'm off the brakes completely and still pedalling, and the bike and myself, we just seem to float over it all! Heheheheheh - I'm grinning and feeling quite deliriously ecstatic, and in no time at all, I'm at the bottom of the dip, then half way up the following short rise, and riding up the slick ledge moves with ease - no dabs! I'm dumb struck and glowing all through. We gather once again, then turn right down the trail to Clapham Tunnels, steep and foot polished, wet and rocky, flying downward, hopping the drainage culverts and into the sudden dark tunnels. Brakes on here, as the light at the end is all we can see. Out of the tunnels, and down into the village for a well earned pint of Copper Dragon and a bite to eat. The weather is miserable now, and we all are wet, so we decide to shorten the ride a little. We head back up through the tunnels. I make the move over the first culvert, dab on the second (bugger!). Get back on the bike, and tiredly crank my way up the hill. I neither pause, dab, nor spin out the rear wheel again, and soon, I'm at the top, and breathless. Short wait for some of the others, and we take the trail straight ahead that leads down to the bottom of the earlier large, steep hill climb. More slickness, and I can't see a thing - glasses on, steam and running water, glasses off, rain filled eyes. But hey, I'm out front again and loving it! I arrive at the bottom of the hill, where Alex and Bill soon join me. They have tales of sliding around a lot, and some very close calls. I didn't even realise it was slippy - damn these XC types and their skinny tyred ways, heheheheh..... We are soon on the walled s/t from earlier, going in the other direction back towards the cars. It's muddy now, and I have to stop a few times while those in front recover themselves from lost traction. I am let to pass, and the problem ceases for me - I have the Power of Grippingness strong beneath me. I ride another ford and clean it, more muddy s/t up the a trail junction, I stop and wipe the rain from my eyes. Suddenly, there is a rush of heat in my belly, everything in my field of vision becomes brighter and more colourful, I feel light headed.....?!?!?!?!?........... I'm bonking! Hell fire, that came from out of nowhere, and so suddenly! I grab the last of my food from the pack and wolf it down, swigs of water, 2 minutes, and I'm feeling better. Start climbing again up the walled trail, through the mud, pushing, tyred now but still going, up and over the root and rock ledges, making the moves, until the bike refuses to drop into granny gear at the base of the steepest section. Damn that sloppy, rattley mech! No worries, I just go with it - some moves I make, some I don't...... We are back at the cars in no time, and the rain has stopped. We have a laugh and a giggle about the day's events as we change into dryer clothes. Kath and her daughter arrive to scoop me and the bike up, the sun shines again. Bike and gear loaded, hugs and kisses exchanged, I make my farewells to the folks, say my thank-you's, and off we drive. I'm very tired now. Kath tells me she knows I've had a great time because of the huge stupid grin on my face. She tells me how happy she is for that, asks me when I'm joining these folks again for a ride, smiles, takes me home. Cheers!!!!!!!!! ',;~}~ Shaun aRe - 17/18 miles was the shortened ride. Hard, fun, full miles - can't wait to do it again ',;~}~ P.s. - I didn't do great by a lot of folks standards, and the moves were probably quite easy for many, but the improvement over my own norm is what surprised me, what enthused me so much. P.P. - Anyone know why TF the new seals on the Bombers would suddenly go again after just 2 or 3 weeks?!?!?!? Scratched stanchion?!?!? Cheers!