Singletrack Magazine Issue 117: Last Word

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last word: That time I got mistaken for a bear.

Charlie the Bikemonger shares a little too much. Again. 

Back in the early days of singlespeeding, after bar ends, but before 10-speed (if you had gears, that was), I was minding my own business… well I was dealing with business, maybe not on my own.

Anyway, picture the scene… it was one of those super crisp and still winter days in a woodland where I had first started messing around off-road many years earlier. I was riding a converted Sunn hardtail (converted with a combination of a ‘Ging’ brand downhill chain device modified with a bit of a spatula from the kitchen to form a chain guide cage). I called this the ‘Spatulator’ and, lo and behold, it was a bit crap.

Due to a jawbone infection I had spent the previous week in bed, dosed to the gills with antibiotics and grade A painkillers. But that Sunday morning I felt half alive, the weather was excellent, and I had an opportunity to revisit my 1979 trails while the wife and kids were visiting the grandparents… and so I’m riding… HELL YES!

The old school small loops soon made several circular miles, and on one climb I started to feel the call of nature. Singlespeeding climbs can really do that. Just a small call, more of a polite, quiet word of nature. I figured it could wait till I got back to the trailhead and facilities. On the climb I started to weigh up when I last ‘got myself back to racing weight’, (hell, I’m trying really hard here to circumvent the phrase ‘have a poo’ in order to get this text in the magazine, oh look I just said it, never mind). 

Hold on… I’d just had one week in bed, hallucinating, with severe face pain, sweating buckets, fever, crying, passing out… I never really ate much food, but then I don’t recall any ‘leaving’.

And the climb went on, and the polite word of nature got bigger, louder, badder, and much more time-critical. I found myself in a Forestry Commission pine forest where a thousand tree trunks climb high into the canopy. The call of nature had now become a colossal shouty struggle in my Lycra; we were pretty evenly matched, but I feared the poo had the weight advantage. 

Back against a tree, Lycra down, and it was done. When I say ‘it’, think one week, drug diet, considerable size, leant against a tree and steaming in the cold, crisp winter air. [We’ve edited this considerably for your benefit, dear reader – Ed].

I heard a few voices and spotted a Sunday morning family walking through the trees. Are they heading my way? Oh poo, they bloody well were, crap. I quickly got on the bike, and got myself to a picnic bench around 200m away. I got there pretty quickly, though I say so myself. Whoever said it was rotating mass where you need to drop weight? The family paused on their walk for a moment, studied something on the ground, and then appeared in the picnic clearing. And, as they walked past me, the father, looking down at his young son, said: “No James, you don’t get bears in England.”

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