Not that it has been quiet for the Moles in general you understand. In the past few weeks we’ve had three local riders expressing interest in joining us for a ride or two. The pity is while there have been rides a-plenty, I haven’t been on them. I’ve had to leave it other Moles to make contact instead – thankfully our group ethos runs deep.
But why haven’t I been riding? Now there’s a thing.
I could be glib and say I was struck low by potentially a new strain of Covid from three nights with Mark, Gordon and I holed up in Gordon’s garage (yes really). We were servicing two Rock Shox Revelation forks. We have it down pat now, but I was also struck down by something viral or bacterial immediately after.
I’m joking about Covid, but it could have been…?!
The truth is I’ve been struggling all year with a dodgy neck and shoulder, as my riding stats clearly show. I could even trace things back to my Bike Park Wales incident last August.
Things had been getting progressively worse to the point that I was uncomfortable most of the time and being kept awake at night with neck pain, shoulder pain and nerve pain running down into my right forearm.
Tolstoy is famous for saying every family is unhappy in their own way. I find this is true also of patients.
Tempting as it is to suggest I am a medical enigma, thus far I have been resting the shoulder, taking strong painkillers, having a little light physio and am now waiting on the results of an MRI. The problem could be my neck affecting my shoulder, or my shoulder affecting my neck, or the withering of muscles from too long at the computer. Or all the above; or none!
The upshot has been no riding for about 2 months while having to hear about everyone doing lots of riding. I haven’t even wanted to type stuff for the site.
By Wednesday night, after a few positive days, I felt it worth trying the gravel bike on a ride with Lloyd, Mark and Tony on our river loop around Wisley, Pyrford and Ripley.
It was a fine evening, with dust in abundance that triggered a bout of hayfever when I got home. Although getting home in itself took a while.
Partly because I wasn’t riding too fast, partly because Lloyd wanted to demonstrate how NOT to plug a tubeless puncture (he might be a roadie after all) and partly because that suspect bacterial strain seems to have jumped all those weeks and picked on Tony. Oh and partly because we stopped at the pub on the way home.
Our river route is decidely non-technical – it really is a proper gravel loop. Across Bookham Common, out to Chatley Heath and the woods near Wisley (top tip in the evening chaps – do NOT loiter…), then we pick up the Wey Navigation at Pyrford Lock and follow it along to Papercourt and then Ripley village.
At this time of year it’s sandy for most of the route, linked together by stretches of tarmac. Our return is across the old Wisley airfield and back to Downside and Bookham for a loop of 24 miles or so. The only issue is in the winter you find a lot of mud and in the summer it bakes to a washboard clay by the canal.
Having resisted multiple pubs on this route we ended at the Bell in Fetcham for a pint. It would have been more but the wind was quite biting, I was knackered and Tony was so off-colour he couldn’t finish his pint before hypothermia threatened.
For me, lovely to be back on the bike but I paid for it the next day. I am not yet fixed (can’t even manage a press-up) but will try to keep turning the gravel wheels at least.