It dawned on me last weekend that the cross season was fast approaching and that I've badly neglected my cross bike over the summer whilst I've been out having fun on my singlespeed. So it was with some trepidation and a vague sense of guilt that I pulled my once much loved cross bike out of the shed to see what sort of state it was in.
A bit of a wash and some chain lube seemed to indicate that all was well with the exception of some pretty tired looking brake pads.
Having ridden mountain bikes since early spring, I wasn't quite sure I remembered what to do with a cross bike, so I commuted on it all week, taking the long, off road routes home from work (mostly in the dark) just to see if it all hung together.
The first memory that came flooding back was just how fast my cross bike was. Arriving at work with a big grin on my face after finally breaking that commuting time challenge I set myself at the start of the summer.
The next memory was that the brakes aren't quite as responsive as the disc brakes on my mountain bikes. Unfortunately I only remembered that as I was pelting down a rocky rooty descent, ever so slightly out of control. Luckily my arm warmers protected me from the worst of the bramble thorns of the bush I ended up in.
So after a week of commuter cross, I felt vaguely ready for today's mini cross race....a small, unofficial, friends only Skull and Cross Bikes race in some local woods. A short, pretty techy course with slippery roots, some rocky drops and some descents which I had to force myself to ride down against my better judgement (descents seem so much steeper on drop bars) and a beer short cut just in case the section through the nettles and brambles got too much.
It all flooded back after the first lap. Heart in throat as I'm hurtling down descents pulling on the brake levers with very little happening, running / stumbling up hills with my bike slung over my shoulder desperately trying to breathe as I'm slipping and sliding on the mud, cranking up the gears to hammer along the flat bits only to have to shift down in an instant to hit that hill, going through the start / finish hoping that this time the bell goes, but it doesn't, then finally crossing the finish line to be greeted by lots of other grinning, wheezing faces who're talking about how much that hill hurt or how sketchy that descent was or how that root just spat you off every lap.
So do I feel guilty for neglecting my cross bike since the spring? Not at all...I'm going to spend the next 4 months loving it and riding it and myself into the ground, suffering and grinning in equal measure.