|Rockhopper 29 Sport, Tatsfield. Photo: Andy Smith.|
After that I kept to the left hand side of the road, went down Hesiers Hill with my brakes depressed and generally kept an eye out for anything untoward. It's amazing how dangerous cycling really is; and how important it is to keep alert at all times, something, I'll admit, I never really bothered about. But that's me all over, drifting through life without any real cares about anything, hoping instead (and believing) that all is well with the world and what could possibly happen? Well, a lot can happen and when you're riding along on two wheels, it's extremely important to remain vigilant. I'll admit it cramped my style a little bit. I like a chat and a bit of messing around and when I had the old Scrap on the road I tended to ride it as if I was on a North London housing estate, humping it up pavements, taking wide, sweeping turns...but let's not go there.
Except we did go there. We decided to ride to the Tatsfield Village, scene of my downfall, and as we approached I shuddered as I remembered. I thought it best not to indulge in the infamous sweeping turn, especially on my new Rockhopper Sport 29, a brand spanking new mountain bike, far more sturdy than the old Crosstrail and, let's be frank, far more my cup of tea.
The Rockhopper Sport 29
The new Rockhopper – a straight exchange for the Crosstrail – has 27 gears, just the sort of range I need. It has wide bars and chunky tyres and the Specialized name emblazoned on the frame in a flaming, twirling red. The wide bars are good. Hell, the whole bike is good. It made easy work of Beddlestead Lane and I felt far more comfortable than I did on the Crosstrail.
I picked up the new bike last Saturday from Evans in Gatwick. I'd spent the entire day in and around the airport, having taken the train there fairly early in the morning. I dropped off the Crosstrail, chose a replacement bike – the Rockhopper – and then ambled back along the A23 to the Costa Coffee in the South Terminal's arrivals area. I bought a copy of last Saturday's Guardian, a cup of tea and a chocolate chip cookie and revelled in the joy of the moment: an airport, a coffee shop, a newspaper and, of course, a cup of tea and a cookie. But like most things, it was short-lived – and there was no flying involved. Cookies go and come, but earth abides, I thought, remembering George R. Stewart's book.
When the cookie was spent and the tea cup empty I checked out the magazines at WH Smith and read an article about Slade's bassist, Jim Lea. He joined Slade before it was called Slade and was a bassist through and through, having played the violin from a very young age. I've always harboured bass guitarist ambitions, mainly because I played the violin while at school and figured the four strings of the bass guitar (EADG) would be relatively easy for me to pick up. But like a lot of things, I'll never get around to it.
Soon it was time to walk back to Evans, pick up the Rockhopper, ride it back to the airport, jump on a train and ride home from the station. Rain stopped any riding on Sunday and today was the first time on the new bike. When I met Andy at the green he thought I'd put some transfers on the old Crosstrail, but I explained all as we headed towards Tatsfield Village, the slow way.
Splitting beavers and boarded up pubs...
Earlier this month, Andy told me how Beaver Water World had been evicted from its premises in Tatsfield. This week, we discovered that the Old Ship was 'to let'. I was amazed to discover that one of the pub's former leaseholders was a Mrs Gandalf. What would happen to the pub? Would new tenants (or lessees) take it over? Will it be transformed into a Morrison's or a Tesco Express? Let's hope not.
We ate our biscuits and drank our tea and discussed Gordon Brown and pensions and working into our old age in a DIY store or a supermarket. "We'll need places like Tesco Express," said Andy, as I rinsed out my cup and disposed of the teabags in the waste bin.
We rode home the slow way along Beddlestead Lane, determined to avoid the thick fog at Botley Hill that would no doubt force us off road along the 269. Fine, but it meant riding up Hesiers Hill. Fortunately, the Rockhopper's 27 gears served me well and soon I reached the top where Andy was waiting. My left knee pains slightly on uphill runs, so I'm afraid I was a little slow, but I didn't dismount, and that's crucial. We weaved our way around the narrow country lanes towards Warlingham, retracing our route past St. Leonard's Church, and then picked up the Limpsfield Road to the green where we parted company. I headed towards Sanderstead, Andy towards Caterham.
As I rode down Church Way I had a go at 'no hands', but then thought better of it. I also thought twice about taking the left and right turn from Elmfield into Southcote and then Ellenbridge at speed. Instead I rode at a gentle pace and arrived home in one piece.