Its true, I did. On a towpath. It was a terrible ordeal. It shot out of a side-lying shrub straight through my spinning, slicing spokes. I watched its half-mangled feathered frame thrash far away into the darkened underbrush and I could do nothing but laboriously slide away, the guilt weighing heavy on every half-arsed stroke of the pedals.
Many of us bicycle bozos have been in this forlorn situation and such was the conversation as we supped and glugged at our pints of bitter on Friday evening. It was that-time-of-year again. The life-bringing spring sun is loitering longer and longer everyday and with it comes raised spirits amongst all. Especially those with a fondness for two-wheeled self propulsion! Last Friday was a special day for our gang, the inaugural spring/summer “grassupthemiddlecc” fish and chips pub night ride…
The evening was warm but gusty as we all gathered at Sale town hall. The turnout was strong, the largest group yet with many new faces never before seen on the prestigious fish and chips pub night ride… I had ridden down from the city centre with Will. Arriving a little early we popped into the (still dreadful) Slug and Lettuce for a sneaky half. If only someone would actually find a slug on their lettuce and shut the place down… Still, the half of bitter was more than welcome. Cheers Will!
We shot off down the canal at a brisk pace, everyone of our minds focused on the fried feast that awaited. Upon entering the chippy in a large group that was bound to fluster an inexperienced fryer we were met with an authoritative bark of “HOW MANY WANT FISH?!” To which most of us raised our hand. Paul had said to me earlier that this place ran like a well oiled machine and by God, he was correct. The meals were plated (Styrofoam trayed) and wrapped at lightening speed which meant we were soon cruising to our alfresco dining location, a collection of concrete slabs in the car park of an abandoned country pub/thai restaurant(?).
Grub wolfed we shot off down the Trans Pennine Trail. The air was warm and the sunlight was egg yolk yellow, spearing through the trees like laser beams. Wafts of freshly cut grass, smoking fires and warm dry earth hit us at intervals as we plunged greedily into the evenings bountiful supply of springtime joys.
A pub was reached and the light dwindled as we polished off our pints. I changed into my winter tights which took me ages and involved brief partial nakedness due to the ridiculous engineering of race-bred cycling attire. As we departed rear lights were activated and I found myself hypnotically following a cheery chain of bouncing red lights, shimmering in the gloaming as we sped up the road.
We took a second refreshment stop at the Barn Owl Inn, where the more than hospitable landlord offered us a gigantic plate of chips accompanied by a gravy galleon. Despite all of us still being suitably stuffed from the previous chip gorging the second course was briskly polished off.
By now it was time for home and we took to the now completely inky TPT at a pace that in the blackness felt like light-speed. Steve G dishearteningly informed me it was actually about 10 miles an hour. There’s something intoxicating about rolling over rough ground on two wheels in the dark. Your eyes are fixated on the headlamps beam of brilliant light and your ears are tuned on the humming of the tires and alert to the occasional sudden pops of stones being propelled sideways by the rubber. Its provokes an enhancing of the senses like a drug-less high.
I finally arrived home and proceeded to bore my non cycling partner half to death with tales of the evening. She eventually escaped so I ate some leftover curry and watched some shit TV before the dog and I drifted off into a blissful deep sleep on the settee. The Grassupthemiddle fish and chips pub night ride, long may it continue.
Words & pictures – Charlie Hitchen.