Dr. Hutch: The god of mud…

I bought a mountain bike a few years ago, during a very long, cold winter. There was snow on the ground for many weeks, all the way into February and March, and a friend suggested that a mountain bike would be an altogether safer and more sensible option than skidding about on a road bike.

It worked a treat. The moment it arrived, the sun came out, the snow melted, and I could get back to my road bike. I decided to keep MTBing as an occasional change of scene.

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I haven’t found many mountains round here, and I haven’t come across much in the way of adrenaline-pumping single track, but I have found mud, in quantities measureless to man. It’s like sitting astride a mud-seeking missile. This has become something of an issue.

Mud, mud, laborious mud
I can understand how mud sticks to your tyres. What I can’t understand is how subsequent mud would rather stick to the mud that’s already turning your wheels into life-belts rather than the mud it’s already sitting on.

There are byways around here where the mud sticks to your tyres so fast and so thickly that the sudden increase in height makes your ears pop. When the wheels finally become so clogged that they stop going round, your feet are so far from the floor that you fall over. Into the mud.

The result of this is that I don’t actually ride the bike all that much. I’ve probably done no more than three or four hours in the three years I’ve owned it. It’s not having a wasted life, though, because, like a primitive tribe trying to curry favour with an indifferent God, I offer it gifts.

Every ride, however short and abortive, has resulted in the purchase of at least one new pair of tyres – all in the attempt to find some that don’t turn into enormous loamy bagels in the space of four revolutions. I’ve bought it a pressure washer, for obvious reasons.

I’ve bought it spare wheels, so that I can swap more easily between a set of tyres that are entirely useless in mud and another set that are even worse. I’ve bought a broom, so I can sweep the mud out of the garage and into the garden. I’ve now harvested so much mud from the surrounding bridleways and tracks that my garden is several feet above those of the surrounding houses.

Faffing and fettling
I started running the tyres tubelessly – which means you can run them at super-low pressures, which is supposed to help with the mud. Not that I’ve tried it yet. I’ve reached a critical event-horizon where my mountain bike fettling is no longer contingent on any intention of riding it.

I outwardly justified this bit of faffing on the basis that if road tyres ever actually go tubeless, I’ll be prepared. In truth, as I become increasingly superstitious, I think I hope what I was doing was condemning road tubeless to the same purgatory as the shaft-driven bike, and the L-shaped crank. (I’m only sorry I didn’t get to electronic gears a bit sooner, but don’t worry fellow luddites, I’ve learned how to bleed hydraulic brakes.)

Most recently I brought the bike bar-ends, and a new saddle. I haven’t ridden it for months, but by now it is sitting in my garage like a site of pilgrimage, so I feel I need to offer up something every so often. Whether my superstition is about trying to stop the mud crawling into the garage of its own accord just to be near it, or to keep the snow away, I can’t even remember any more.

I’m pretty sure this means it’s no longer a superstition, but an embryonic religion. I may need assistance with providing suitable sacrifices.

Bad things that happen to good cyclists

The New Year’s Resolutions
If you made any New Year resolutions, by now you’ll either be regretting them, abandoning them, or rephrasing them so they’ve got a little wiggle room. For example, why eschew chocolate when you can eschew only chocolate that’s not organic?

There is always some way to redefine your terms. If your resolution was time-limited, say refraining from alcohol during January, well, rather than the troublesome problem of how you redefine ‘alcohol’, you can look at ‘January’.

I’ve adopted the Hutcharian calendar, which has the 27-day month of Hutchuary, falling between the 4-day month of January and the 28-day month of February. (What? The lunar cycles? Do you want help or not?)

Observe that no one who is old makes a New Year’s resolution. The resolution is a trick played upon the young (and middle aged) as a socialist ruse to spread the share of misery out across the generations. The old are mean and crabby, so they want everyone to suffer.

Simply decide you’re not a socialist, and abandon your resolution as a conscientious objection. ‘Man is born free, but he is everywhere making dumb-ass New Year’s resolutions!’ shall be your rallying cry.

If you’re old, and have made a New Year’s resolution, you have to face up to the possibility that maybe you just like making yourself miserable.

Finally, remember that more people die annually from the guilt of breaching a resolution than do so from obesity. Though, for obvious reasons, it’s sometime a little difficult to separate the figures.

Acts of Cycling Stupidity

In the supermarket the week before Christmas, a total stranger of the most corpulent proportions poked her uninvited nose into my trolley. ‘Ooh,’ she wheezed, ‘you do like your fruit and veg, don’t you?’

‘Why, yes. That’s just one of the reasons I can make it from one side of this supermarket to the other without having to stop for a rest, and why I haven’t had to bring my family with me to help support the weight of all the world’s biscuits, which you appear to be taking home for Christmas. And madam, if you’re planning to claim they’re all presents, I shall have to inform you that I don’t believe you.’

That, at any rate is what I wanted to say. But this time I didn’t. And people say I never display any Christmas charity.

This article was first published in the January 3 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.