No, we haven’t lost the plot, that title is right. On Boxing Day 2016 the valley where we’re based was hit by devastating floods. This weekend will be 6 months since they hit, and businesses and families up and down the valley are still recovering. As part of the drive to boost the recovery of the area, and as a general spirit raiser, this weekend sees Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd celebrate their ‘Alternative Christmas’. So, in support of all those whose Christmas was washed away, we’re bringing you our 12 Days of Christmas Big Reads again.
It’s New Year’s Eve. The end of another year. A time to reflect and plan. In Day 6 of our 12 Days of Christmas, we bring you a look at the ride diary of Steve Makin. First published in issue 60.
Everyday Centurion – One hundred rides of an ordinary man
Words and photos by Steve Makin
An armchair story epic with a twist. Rather than writing a lot of words about a single riding experience, Steve Makin took the ‘little and often’ approach. His resulting ride diary is a strangely absorbing and moreish tale of a regular guy just out there doing the type of riding that we all do. Some diary entries are funny, some are stupid, some are plain boring and some are quietly profound. Reading the whole job lot gives you a fascinating insight into the everyday life of a cycling addict.
1. Beware car doors
Along the river trail. Wet, muddy, rainy, dark and fun, apart from almost getting car-doored within the first mile. Random song in my head. Home, bath, cooking and cold beer
2. Pink Skies
Trails still wet but noticeably drying out now after the floods. Across the motorway. The growling is already there, another hour and it’ll be at full volume. Dogs and their owners start looming out of the gloom. Why is the sky pink? I amused myself for the next few seconds with some fancy sexual ideas on why the sky is pink. Riding on your own in the dark creates a strange isolated world where such things can exist.
3. Magpies in the gloom
Lots of magpies around. Couldn’t for the life of me remember the rhyme. Trails drier again than this morning, we’ll have a drought at this rate. Why, oh why is the seatpost slipping down on my custom built £3000 bike?
4. Burning conscience
Woke up at 2am with the sudden realisation that I’d dropped an almighty bollock at work. So I reset the alarm for 6am. Also sent myself an email. The alarm went off and after a fitful night I immediately fell back into a deep sleep coma. Awake again at 7am. Rushing to get to work. Went the shortest route. My legs were burning as much as my conscience and my embarrassment. I got there in time, sorted it out. I noticed my saddle was a good four inches lower than it should have been. That’ll explain the burning thighs then.
5. Pretty Vacant
I got out the door with enough daylight left to give me some much-needed UV. Drying mud, hard work. Didn’t see a single soul for the first hour. ‘This is Religion’ pumping away in my head. Started a mental list of all the songs John Lydon had ever written. I stopped for a breather. Only a handful of seconds but enough to release the white noise in my ears.
6. Clear skies
Cold, cold morning. Clear purple sky. Moon in heaven. Shame I’m on my way to work.
7. Not Clear Skies
Fog came down. Temperature dropped. Heart sank. Rode home.
8. 23mm tyres are fast
Managed to pull a calf muscle walking down stairs this morning, so that put paid to any ideas of an off road ride. Plan B: road ride. 24 miles later and the sunlight has worked its magic. No more pain in calf. Head empty.
9. Bats and Dalmatians
Cold wet sleet. So easy to turn right and head and home. But I was as cold as I was going to get and enjoying the spinning of my legs. So left turn and onto the mud. My headlight was picking out the bats flying to my right but didn’t pick out the Dalmatian that came looming from the left. Almost ran him over.
Wet, wet ride. Drivetrain grinding itself into rust. Brake pads screaming. Park bike in kitchen. Wait for entirely reasonable “How do you expect me to cook around that?” comment. Scrape off waterproofs. Empty boots of muddy water. Put helmet on top of boiler. Wince up the stairs. Start bath. Undress. Get into bath and wait for chillblains in legs. 20 minutes later, put coffee on stove and spy unopened packet of toffee muffins.
11. No Snow
Metcheck, you failed me once again. I hate you. I hate the bivviers for going without me and teasing me with fabulous pictures. Rode the long way to work, didn’t see a soul.
Metcheck I take it all back. Not hopeful of anything other than a short ride. I got to the turning point and I could see the snow rolling in over the hills. Left turn and almost instantly into a real bona fide whiteout. In Cheshire. At sea level. I had to stop once I got to the river. Laughing at the absurdity of this. I couldn’t see where the trail was and the river wasn’t. I reached the bridge and decided to stop and sit it out. Yes, that’s ‘sit it out’ in Cheshire. You’ve every right to disbelieve me, but it was truly astonishing.
13. Ridiculous to the sublime
After last night’s blizzard I awoke with eager anticipation of crisp virgin snow trails. I was not disappointed. A few fox tracks and the clearest sky ever; deep royal blue, complete with shooting stars and planets. I disturbed a starling roost, a few thousand of them, enough to make me stop and stare. Passing by a red Mondeo with the engine running and all steamed up. I instantly had a flashback to the hanging man but was pleased to see it was a couple of (very) early morning doggers!
14. Shortest ride ever
Heavy snowfall on top of freezing rain. 200 yards: right turn, bang! Off. Right knee and elbow. 700 yards: slight incline to the left, bang! Off. Left knee and elbow. One mile: dog walker, bang! Down. Took a while to get up, trying to conceal my laughter. 100 yards: straight line, frozen puddle, front wheel fine, back wheel popped through the ice and slid out, right knee and hip. Time to play the card. Slowly pedaled home. Slipped on the pavement, inside, wet, sore and laughing.
15. CS Woods
First ride for over a week now. The trails mostly rideable but wherever the trail was in shadow there was a menacing sheet of glassy ice. I managed to mince along the edge of most of them, only taking one tumble. My mind was occupied by the thought that I was riding to somewhere with a purpose in mind rather than just riding for the pleasure of riding, I was meeting some friends who I hadn’t seen for over a year, and we were meeting in a pub, for beer and food. It’s as flat as a witch’s tit around here but the tight twisty-ness makes up for that, and wide bars add to the fun.
16. Eight inches of snow.
The predicted snow came, a full 8in of it. I’d fitted the flat pedals to the 69er the night before, dropped the seat an inch and taken the tyres down to 25PSI. Riding in virgin snow is one of life’s little pleasures usually, but this was just hard work. A five-mile ride that normally takes 20 minutes took a hour and a half. Four cars needed help. Cars duly pushed to the road side and abandoned. Feeling smug as I rode away.
17. Trying to get home
More snow falling. Almost a blizzard now and I’m starting to get disorientated. Decided to head for the trees to try and get some shelter. I’m less that three miles from home on the outskirts of a major suburban city and I’m getting lost! I see a walker coming towards me and my bearings are restored, minor panic over and I’m away again. Everywhere is monochrome.
18. Two whole weeks
The snow has gone. It’s still cold. I rode a bike. I didn’t get broken.
19. Losing fatness
Riding in the dark is fun again. I even went the long way as it was so nice. Too fast for my fatness.
20. A good year is needed this year
Actually two rides but both so short that I can only count them as one. It’s yet another start to getting some fitness back before the summer and long days in the saddle. Lots of plans forming, lots of stuff to do. It’s gonna be a good year this year.
21. Faux Belgian
I need to ride for mine and my family’s sanity. Lots of stuff going on that’s conspired to turn up the white noise in my head to 11. Uncomfortable seating posture, tight legs, cold hands already. Not enjoying this. It’s noon and I need lights. 25 minutes later and I’m starting to relax. Noise levels already down to seven. Carry on along the lanes and start to relax into my past, these are the lanes where I first started my cycling club days as a 13 year old, I know them so well. Fred Minshull pops into my mind. One ride in particular where this renowned hard man drifted back from the bunch to offer some wind resistance to a struggling slip of a lad (me). He startled me into action by telling me how he knew the wind and rain was on its way because of the way the sky looked, pointing out the dark clouds ahead, the rain falling to the north, and how we were going to have a tough few miles getting home. It was of course a ruse to take my mind off the pain and before long I was on the back. Probably the longest conversation I ever had with him. One that I remember as I’m struggling for momentum. Noise was now back at its usual level of 2/10.
22. Ice Cream headache
Cold tonight, bitterly cold
23. Watery light
This morning’s ride was done for pleasure. Pure and simple. I was actually feeling something like a cyclist again, legs spinning freely and with a small amount of souplesse. I didn’t even notice that it had started raining until I heard the buzzing from the overhead powerlines. Even then I wasn’t bothered.
24. Bikes take you places V2
Half an imperial century, 90% off road. Sunshine. Seaside. Curlews and buzzards.
25. Mud, sweat and almost tears
A visit to The Valley today saw six of us setting off into the fog. Before we even hit the off road section I knew I’d brought the wrong bike; a cross-country race bike with steep angles and dust tyres. Whoops. Anyway, it was no matter and didn’t spoil the day. Even a near miss with a wall couldn’t take the smile off my face.
26. Culture clash
Heavy legs and restless sleep caused me to rethink today’s metric century ride. I had an urge to ride and so I ventured out this afternoon for a casual stroll on the bike. The snow-prepped Trek 69er was refitted with spuds. Tyres pumped up and lights fitted. Casual clothes and iPod. Off down the Trans Pennine Trail. Three hours later and I was home. Not at all sweaty for once. Bath, cup of tea, bag of crisps. Done.
An hour of emptyheadedness. Wind in my face.
28. One week of sobriety
Woke up clear headed. Trails drying out now. Sky starting to lighten up. 45 mins of singlespeed spinning.
The sun came out. The trails were even drier after a day’s worth of wind. I stopped for ten minutes to watch a Kingfisher fishing in the dying light. This is the first one I’ve seen at this stream for over two years now. Being half blinded but feeling the warmth on my face was a pleasure I’ve not had for a good while now. Tempted to go on further but mindful of a big ride planned for tomorrow.
First milestone of the year ticked off today: a metric century of off-road riding. Sun – ooh that’s nice. Snow – ha ha that’s funny. Wind – please stop. Snow – hmm. Snow – that’s not funny now. Sun and snow – huh? More snow – weakening now. Warm sun – last ten miles now. Wind – into the wind for the last five miles, final kick. And relax.
Pootled along local trails. Head full of Yo La Tengo, seamlessly in tune with the trail. Long soft instrumentals through the woods, sharp spiky bursts for the climbs, mellow harmonies for the sunny trail. Kitchen smells of mud.
32 and 33. Pointless
Rode to work and back. Stunning sky this evening.
34. Tunnels and Bridges
A longish ride with a 50/50 split of off and on road, upping the saddle time now in preparation for the summer races. The iPod makes life easier. A bell on the bars helps in the politeness stakes. new Windstopper jacket works just great in these low temperatures.
Rain, cold, mud. Mudguards. Traffic jams. Happy.
Pushing pedals today. Not much pleasure to be had. Damaged roads, new lambs, buzzards, kestrels, horses, cows. All looked as fed up as me. A waste of a day’s holiday.
37. Muddy happy daft
Embrace the mud. Enjoy the trail. Energize the day. Exhaust the demons. Don’t forget to wash your gloves.
38. A red bike
A new bike appeared in the house last night. 40 miles of cold, wet and aching. My chest is showing signs of infection (again). I enjoyed it but have no desire to do it again.
39. End of the month century
That’s three metric centuries for February. Imperial for March required. An ugly ride. Constant nagging headwind. It’s not getting any easier. It’s just getting harder and is starting to knock my enthusiasm back.
40. Cocteau Twins
Bluebeard. I couldn’t get the tune out of my head all ride. Foggy, sunny, foggy, muddy. Are there some signs of spring happening?
41. The evening sun
The long way in the fading sunlight. So pleasant to feel the warm rays on your face. Spin, spin spin. Each pedal stroke making me stronger.
42. Frosty under tyre
Cunchy trails rocked. Weak sun peeping over the trees. Goosanders courting.
43. Squishy under tyre
The mud has come back. Rode through the woods but didn’t hang about as I took the underpants hanging from the trees as a warning! All through the ride all I could think about was tonight’s curry and tomorrow’s ride.
44. Change of plan
The planned road ride turned into a mud festival. Down to the sea grinding through trails filled with Weetabix. I got to Spike Island and the rain came. I turned around and headed back. 50 miles of notalotofpleasure done.
-7°C. No dawdling. Trails in great condition.
46. Kingfisher, fox and a jay
Heading west into the sun. Turned at Warrington and headed back east. Clear skies meant darkness soon came. Three hours’ worth, legs pooped. Pizza and tea.
To work. Futility.
To home. Utility
49. Imperial century – tick
A big ride planned and done. Almost bailed out a few times but stuck with it. The first proper century I’ve ridden for at least five years. More to come.
Thirty miles with pub stop. With a newbie rider. Uphill, downhill, trying to make some sense.
I knew Mike was back riding. I knew sooner or later I’d bump into him. I knew it would be tonight. It was.
52. Early sunshine
Early start. Warm enough for summer gloves and sleeves. Still sweating despite an easy pace. Assos top and baggy bottoms on a ‘cross bike, black socks for those who might take an interest in such things.
Headed out into the headwind. A fast ten miles making my arse ache. Then back with the wind trying to beat the darkness.
54. Mr Positive
Slightly hungover from last night’s red wine but nothing that won’t shift after a few head-clearing spit and snots. Over the canal and look down to see two dudes on ‘cross bikes. Then three more lads on MTBs pass by me. Up the river and there’s a girl on a mountain bike. A couple of older guys on work bikes. A guy on a fixie complete with uniform of rolled up jeans and white T-shirt, big grin as he passes me. Over the next 10 miles I pass at least another dozen folks on bikes.
55. You’re only happy when you’re dancing
The trails are bone dry now. Even that bit under the trees that never dries out. Rufus Wainwright in the headphones. Birds singing their hearts out.
56. New bike day
Full suspension. First time in six years. It’s strange. And good. And it’s gonna hurt.
57. New bike ride No 2
Suspension tweaked. Tyres pumped up. Seat post secured, Bars tipped just right. Away we go… Oh, it’s raining.
Dry ride. Trying to sort the shock pressure out.
59. And wet
Wet ride. Shock pressure sorted.
60. Stag ride
Coed Y Brenin for first time since last year’s fall and injuries. Nemesis descent conquered. Riding downhill far too fast for my skills. I’d forgotten what adrenalin tastes like until today. Manmade trail centres can be a good thing. Sometimes following trail markers is fun. Today was both a good thing and lots of fun.
61. Slightly hungover
Slow start to the day, unusually no fried breakfast to kick start the recovery process, lots of coffee did the trick though, another ride at CyB, this time with a few more folks, mash up trails, trying to link the best descents and miss the dragging climbs, more speed, more thrills, more fun than a man my age has a right to!
Stood in the forest with camera in hand, my mind went back ten years to that time in Downieville when I was stood in a similar position waiting with camera in hand and I heard a bear growl, back to Wales and this time I could hear a woodpecker, er, pecking, kind of sums up the trail centre vibe.
62. April Fool
In the rain, again. Oh it’s April 1st. Of course.
63. No one around?
Rain, hail and wind. Re-arrange those three words to make things better. Wind, rain and hail. Hail, Rain and wind. Didn’t really matter as I was as wet an otter’s ear already. I just got on with it. 20 miles in exchange for disc pads and a new drivetrain.
Road ride to be ‘efficient’. Turned out to be anything but. Strong headwind, rain, muddy broken lanes. Dangerous drivers all over the place. Must be a bank holiday.
Mystery blowout on the front while cranking over for a turn that focused the mind just a bit. Not many random thoughts after that.
66. Into the valley
First big group ride of the year today. Too big a group so we voluntarily split so as to keep things moving. Trails were wet, muddy, slippy and testing. Made me realise just how rubbish I really am in these conditions. Legs were just ok. No ‘zip’ but I didn’t drop to the granny gear and I cleaned all the climbs. Something must be happening down there.
67. Fast forward to Thursday
Singlespeed. 55 miles. Seat too high (by a quarter of an inch). Right knee pain. Feeling stupid.
12 easy miles. Knee pain.
A ride in the some beautiful countryside. Little traffic. Some good hills. Lots of happy people. Support vehicles make for a grand day out.
70. Ride Fail
Tried to go with the group again. On the first hill and I knew my knee would fail. Turn back, shower, jump in support vehicle.
71. Cold commute
Gentle pedaling. Short route. Cold head. No knee pain.
72. Warm evening sun
I had to ride tonight. The previous two days of resting while the sun shone was trying to say the least. Consciously soft pedaling. Now dosing up on souplesse.
73. Frozen Dew
Early morning commute. Wondering what the day will bring. It brought yet more sunshine.
74. Towpath pounding
Canal. All of the towpath was dry; bone dry and dusty. Single scullers out in force enjoying the sunlight. Not many fishermen to get annoyed. Lots of joggers and cyclists.
Woke up with a start. Set off riding to work. Then realised I have nowt to rush for, so slowed down and enjoyed CS Woods.
76. Skipping work
Along the canal and then down the empty lanes. It was warm enough for just Lycra so stopped and dropped my baggies and went (almost) commando. Liberating and satisfying looking down and seeing a pair of not-so-fat-anymore legs (although the whiteness was a bit off-putting).
77. A grand day out
Rode to Delamere. Rode at Delamere. Rode from Delamere. I saw a rough legged buzzard.
78. Yorkshire Hills
Five person chain gang, hanging off the back, gritting my teeth, but still having a good time. Yorkshire hills are bigger that Cheshire hills and that ain’t no lie.
79. Sore legs
80. Sore legs still
81. The smell of soil
Must be national ‘Plough Your Field Day’ today. Farmers turning over the top soil to reveal the rich dark and damp soil that seagulls love for the worms. Buff trails in the forest meant a couple of hours exploring before turning back for home to be disappointed that the expected wind on my back had died down. Never got warm all day.
82. A short commute
Along the river and straight to work, sunshine warmth breaking through.
83. Cheeky Singletrack
Around the back to pick up the cheeky singletrack. The trail is in such good condition that it begs you to go fast. So I did. As fast as I could. Even the dog shit had dried out.
84. Annual Bamford weekend
28 miles of the Peak District’s finest trails in the sun with friends – and a skill compensator. The driest trails for a decade.
85. Short and sweet
Straight to work for an early meeting. Nowt to report.
87. Clean Bike
Sitting on my arse all day appears to caused my sore knee to flare up. Riding was a painful soft pedaling exercise.
88. Wet Tarmac
Road bike (again) to work, too late to do anything else thanks to an errant teenage son.
89. The Wrong Wind
Howling wind straight in my face eventually evaporated my desire to ride longer.
12 minutes at 19 mph.
91. Things had better change
Dodging the rain (not very well). Keeping a sharp eye out for that inspiration that I know is lurking out there. Didn’t see it.
92. Sea air
20 miles along the Mawddach trail. Sea breeze. Cream tea. Inspiration found.
93. Dyfi Enduro
Despite our best efforts we didn’t manage DFL. A whole heap of fun. Trundling along, enjoying the scenery, enjoying the descents, realising that a good, well set up full suspension bike makes a huge difference to how well I can descend. Once or twice there was the threat of a sense of humour failure but it never happened; testament to strong wills.
94. Concrete bike
My right knee still swollen from Sunday and sore to boot. The real pain is at the top of my calf muscle. Feels like something deep inside is stretched out. Recent rides have been fine but the days after have been painful. The doubts are setting in, I’m not sacrificing another summer for the upcoming 24hr race. A race for which I am utterly under-prepared. We’ll see.
95. Riding home
Wind assisted short ride. Annoyed that the sun is out but I need to rest my knee.
Got the 69er out from the cellar in homage to the 96th ride. Was aiming to get up early and hit the ‘River Run’ but rain stopped play and I went back to bed. Got up and rode straight to work.
97. Feeling poorly
Some strange malaise came over me during the ride so I headed home. The chance to align some numbers lost forever.
Over a week now since I last rode a bike. Resting my borked knee. Today I rode into work and then home from work. My knee is sore. My head is up my arse.
99. Sunshine and lollipops
A lazy start meant local trails. And the nemesis bike. The bike that did the damage. The bike that I love to hate. Dusty trails. The smell of freshly cut grass. Few people around. Fantastic sunshine. Two and a half hours of just riding along minding my own business. Bliss.
100. Singletrack splendour
Three hours of lovely trails around my favourite forest. Showing a new friend around. The trails were in just about the best condition ever. Dappled sunlight streaming through. Dust kicking up. Temperature just about perfect. A splendid way to finish this project.
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