Locked and loaded!

There comes a point in every endeavour where its ‘now or never’. The moment where you have to just switch off and relax because come what may, you need to let fate do its bidding. And fate has a funny way of just messing with you some days!

I am well versed in the art of packing waaaaay too much for a race or riding with a pocket full of food I don’t eat or bidons I don’t drink, its the boy scout code right, be prepared? I just get carried away, like why take one chain link when you could lose it in the sand while trying to fix that snapped chain…so take two!

Check check check, there is such a thing as too much faffing but not enough can also be a killer, know when enough is enough!

Its ridiculous, I constantly need to tell myself ‘its ok man, chill out, trust your equipment/experience/body/whatever’ to stop me looking like I’m heading to war for a ride. I always over dress, I rarely go hungry (maybe a bit of a lie as I’m a human tape worm) and I tend to never face catastrophic bike failures, bar that one time I needed a new back wheel, wait maybe two times I….argh you get my point, its never as bad as my brain seems to think it will be.

But mountain biking has an amazing way of showing you up. You could be the leanest meanest most pro rider ever, one snapped link could spiral out of control to a panic bodge fix, a snapped mech hanger and a decimated wheel, honestly I’ve seen all three happen to the same rider in the same race before, when mtb gremlins hit, they hit HARD!

And as if to prove this point, yesterday I was feeling fully smug. The bike was rocking, the legs felt great, the sun was shining and we’d just finished a loop of magical Swiss singletrack goodness before final bike polishing and prep could begin. Whats this I see? A bust spoke? Nope, its a nipple, just a bust nipple, well thank heavens for that I thought, just pop up to the tech guys and grab a new one, erm nah!

Some days no amount of prep is going to save you, mountain biking has a habit of reminding you about that!

First we try the race tech support ‘sorry we don’t have any’ , ‘er excuse me? What you mean like you don’t have exactly the same kind? Thats cool I just need any…’ ‘No I mean we have none, nada, nothing’, my brain was not ready to compute.

‘Aargh SHIT!’ was pretty much all I could come up with, nipples? No wait ‘nipple’ singular? One nipple, literally the smallest component on the bike that bears actual relevance is going to be the achilles heal of my race? In the words of John Mac ‘you’ve have got to be kidding me!!’

We are at defcon 9, I visit every store that looks like they know what a bicycle even is. The panic is rising, I’m now ready to commit to buying a new wheel (in Swiss francs, that will be cheap right?), no wait I know, I will go rogue, I will steal a nipple off an ebike and await karma’s sweet slap during tomorrows stage. Dammit I hate bicycles!!! This is horrible.

Even for marathon racing, pack only the essentials, keep it lean and keep it mean, experience will help you trim down the bulging pockets and wasted weight additions

After three hours of trying to solve this tech death conundrum I’m broken, this is it, I’m going to have to ride the wobbly as wheel into the ground, I’ve even texted my most trusted mate and MTB guru in SA to seek guidance, maybe he can recommend a bush fix involving soldering with hairclips in a plug socket or something…nope, he’s got nothing, just a helpful ‘well it probably won’t break, just don’t ride like a clown [smiley]’ cheers for that.

Randomly I ask a stranger ‘er say bud you wouldn’t happen to have spare nipples would you’ (his girlfriend smirks in the background) ‘YES I do!’ he declares (he’s messing with me he must be, he’s gonna lift up his shirt to reveal some hideous growth he calls Nick the Nip) wait whats he holding? Triumphantly my saviour stomps over with a handful of perfect Stans spokes, nippled up and ready to go, literally perfectly matching my wheel, I’m dumbfounded, amazing.

Voodoo doll? Yeah sure why not, somtimes I have a few things in my pocket that will never make sense but make me smile!

After many many thank you’s and soooo many promises of beer I am free, free to be a mountain biker about to do a race again, no longer some unprepared nitwit trying to work out what the German words for ‘give me your bicycle’ are, game on!

So in summary friends, don’t be too prepared but always be prepared, have faith in yourself and more importantly faith in strangers, lets just hope this puppy holds though!