Fat Lad and a Fond Farewell

Keith, pootle crew lynch pin, Bad Brains club regular and all round damn nice guy was to leave us heading for the wrong side of the Pennines. In his honour we decided that the Tuesday Pootle would be the ride of his choice and for the apres dirt fun there was a vast multitude of cakes and other sweets. When we got a phonecall from him with a last minute mechanical it meant his last pootle was not to be. Fast forward two days to Thursday and with his wrecked mech hanger replaced he was here for the club ride.

A beyond comprehension nightmare of a day behind me, I was joy personified to be home preparing for the trails and away from the live action Dilbert joke of a job. The advantage of my high blood pressure manifested itself as super organisation and I paced the house ready very early. After I’d wasted enough time on t’interweb I set off to Pete’s taking it really steady, lazily stamping away at the cranks tarmac rolling beneath the knobblies. I ambled into Pete’s driveway and made myself comfy on his doorstep as he rushed round getting ready.

Quarter of an hour before the start time I wander over to the Cross Keys. Already there were loads out but two had already radioed in to announce their lateness. Taking this as an opportunity I grabbed Keith and Picky for a head start and we were off. We fired down to the field for the first taste of off road; as we hit the dusty corn field path a moto-crosser gunned the throttle and sped away to the horizon. I mentioned something unmentionable about Motocross access issues and we mounted up again quickly. Regretting not bringing a machete with me we struggled through the overgrowth by the stream and soon blitzed the short climb once in the clear. The familiar parp noise of a two stroke pulled up beside me, the rider removed his goggles and started chatting to me. The neurons and associated pathways slowly got their act together and I finally recognised the rider as one of our regulars brother. I bumped gums for a short while longer and I rounded up my fellow head starters not wanting to lose any distance we had already gained.

We quickly passed by the cricket club and at the church I pussied the steps AGAIN. Keith and Picky, not being big girls blouses, didn’t. I pushed the guys on and we made it to the top of the next climb strong. At the summit I refused the opportunity of a breather determined not to break the pace and we cranked on to the drop. We shot through the dips of the woods out onto the tarmac ascent to the Babes In the Woods crossroads, middle ringing the climb all the way. Keith asked if we were to stop for the guys to catch up. “No, Pete’s pulling their legs off tonight so they’ll soon catch us up!” I managed to reply between deep breaths.

Over the old waste ground new stiles had been erected slowly down our lead as a mildly irritating consequence. As we got to the no-mans land like area of two parallel strips of barb wire the rest of the club guys caught up. “F*ck me Al, you’ve been going some to get here I didn’t think we were going to catch you..” Pete pronounced as he lifted his bike over the first fence to me. Between Picky, Keith and I we relayed all the bikes over the fences as the riders made their way through the narrow stiles. As our reward the riders that made it through fecked off; leaving a few off us at the back. Cheers you bastards. Arriving at the ruins the group split in two; one heading down the rock chute and the rest (myself included) hit the swoops to the stream crossing. All regrouped we headed to Birkby Brow woods.

Amazingly I was still feeling really good and once more I middle ringed up “better-climb-than-descent”. At the top with everyone present the group rocketed on taking no prisoners with the pace. Pete led the front runners up into the singletrack climb while with the others I was happy to take the main path to the road. At the gate I fumbled in vain to get my lamp working with its newly installed bulb. Eventually all lit up I set off from the pack to attack nab lane as they gathered themselves up. I was starting to hurt now and as the front mech dropped me to the granny ring I twiddled up the hill as best as I could.

No resting at the summit we pushed on, the group flowing over the trails to the light industrial park nearby. In one of the few brief stops of the night I have to dismount and stretch out as much as I could cramp taking hold. Our resident 24hr solo champion, James, really helped me out. Loading me up on orange Torq, giving me sound advice and a positive attitude to keep it going.

Feeling better, we all mounted up for Knife edge, I played sweeper making sure everyone made it across the road and into the off camber playground safely. Riding ahead leaving Chip, Jonny and James to have a clearer run at the section there were plenty of riders who had already floundered at the roots halfway through. I waited at the turning to make sure we had all the guys with us and then sailed through without a dab in the final section. I surrendered the opportunity for a breather to start on the delight. Everybody was soon pedalling snapping at my heels before I could make decent headway. I powered up the drag pushing all that I could out of my tired legs keeping the rings spinning grimace firmly attached to my face. Gap closed between me and the group in a very short time I handed round the special hill medicine and the jelly babies.

An empty hip flask later and we were storming across the moor, I rode along with Jonny discussing whiskies as we went. The t-junction was clear for a change and I used my well earned momentum to power past the group soaking up the cheers and jeers along the way. Brownhills lay before us and playing sweeper I stupidly turned off the flood beam to engage the brighter spot lamp. At the summit I tried to turn the flood back on but it was not to be. Wizzing through the back alleys and ginnels of Gildersome on the 20w we were soon onto the final tarmac stretch for home.

When the end is in sight it becomes a Darwinian affair as everyone powers away to the pub. I’ve nothing left in my limbs now and rolling the descent back I have to keep pedalling in a low gear to keep the cramp at bay. It’s been the ride of my life but I’m glad it’s over now. I quickly change to a t-shirt at Pete’s nearby house and wander over for a well deserved pint.

The club rides keep growing and with twenty-ish faces looking back at me I stood up to wish Keith the best of luck and give him the t-shirt and photo the pootle crew had pitched in to get him. With a warm “Cheers” we all wished him good luck for the future.

We’ll miss you Keith, who else is going to crash so often that they make even the Fat Lad look good?

Fat Lad

One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Posted August 29, 2006 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Three cheers for Keith! Hip hip ooof! Hip Hip ooof! Hip hip ooof!

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