I was catching up with an old friend in the pub last week – you know the kind – went to school together, comfortable enough to take a shit in their house and can call each other any name under the sun without offending each other.
Anyway, warmed by the faint glow resonating from the hearth in The Tanners, we gently sipped away at our Thistly Cross pints and discussed a multitude of events, news, bikes and other aspects while The Smiths softly echoed out from the classic jukebox speakers.
The Tanners is a perfect pub to do whatever the hell you want in – in fact I got pissed with the actor Hugh Bonneville in there one night and had a fleeting but memorable drink with Naomi Campbell’s former PA. With this eclectic mix of celebritism, a jukebox filled with all time classics and a roaring fire, it’s no wonder that we like to discuss grand plans for building dirt jumps while others discuss Brexit, rampant consumerism and Trotsky. Heck, I’ve even watched people solve just how Ari Vatnen missed that strainer on the Manx by using Advanced Boolean.
Anyway, we order some pork scratchings from the shaggy haired barmen and chat with a verve that we don’t get from our work “You see, Dirt jumping is in our blood. Basically it’s a place where we go, talk absolute shit, ride bikes – often shit bikes – and really don’t worry about a thing. I mean, when Nicky first met you, you were halfway up a tree taking a dump out of it”
I laugh, then sheepishly scan the room to see who heard. Thankfully the guy next to me is buried in a copy of the New Statesmen.
“The sounds of the trails – the slapping of spade against lip, the brushing of hardened packs or the sloppy, wet crunch of creating drainage – they themselves have a therapeutic tone to them. The vision and creativity of planning out your line, building huts, start ramps. Trails, which I still prefer to call them, have an evolutionary undertone to them.” This is more like a conversation that belongs in here.
As we get into our dirt bag come intellectual stride we hatch a plan. We’re going to slow down. I say I’d happily sack Descent World off if I could ride trails every summer evening, eating some of Guses meat. That raises a few eyebrows.
I correct myself and mention loudly that I’m just about to move into my first home with my girlfriend. The on lookers are no longer mortified, but just filled with compassion for this obviously crazy woman. I can’t win.
We stop. Perhaps the dulcet tones of the bearded chap in the corner, possibly on a date and decked in tweed, championing an anti capitalism life with considerable vigour has weaved its way into our thought process. We’d gone off on a tangent. I need a slash and a pint.
As I arrive back to my wooden chair with some cheese and onion crisps, and two more pints that take us one step closer to Cider Island, we pick up where we left off. We discuss that we need a strimmer, we need to reinvigorate our old riding crew to join us back up at the trails. I can’t ride trails any more but boy oh boy would I happily man the BBQ, fix the lips and ensure that anyone who over hears the musics thinks they are on a musical enlightenment course. They might also think they’ve came across an open prison if they listen to the language we tend to use.
Another friend joins us, with a freshly settled pint of the black stuff accompanying him. A log stokes up the fire and it crackles gently. We continue, the thrill of the ride when we go to the Golfy, the excitement of watching Danny Hart’s riding; these are all amazing things. We discuss the current trend for broadening the appeal of mountain biking. We ask where hard tails have gone. Is mountain biking becoming plagued by consumerism over the riding? We don’t know. We probably don’t care, but we chat about it anyway.
Our phones have been off for two hours, our minds are fizzing, synapses snapping and we have a plan. We are more than blessed to have a friend who has land. Land where our trails are surrounded by roaming Tamworths, zero pest or insecticides and the only sounds that break the silence are the rumble of a Valtra, some Charolais heifers or a free wheel spinning at altitude.
Yes, if we want these things, if we want to shape our own trails, build a place where the world shrinks yet somehow enlarges the mind we need to get off our arses and do it ourselves.
This is why we need the dirt jumps – a place where anything goes and we can bathe in our own lunacy. We can ride. We can build. We can chill. And yes, if we really want to, we can shit out of trees.
Filled with a strange sense of “cooler than you” arrogance, we raise a glass, down our thistly’s and head for the door. I take a quick glance round the pub to see a man wearing a Breitling watch and a Jaguar key next to his shandy chuckling away.
I smile inside, having just made a huge generalization, knowing he hasn’t got a thing on how cool the feeling of riding trails is, before my friend gently taps me on the shoulder “Mate. Your flys down”.