Noting better than a bit of spontaneity – Coops deciding to post notification of a Thursday social some 18 hours prior. This must have been about the time Rachel mentioned that she would need a hand to move the new sofas and start spring cleaning! The meet up was at Union Mills by the new flood plains of the Industrial estate. Simon, Neil S, Richard, myself and GRB’s finest Cam, all pitched up. The route, as always, was variable. We set off after Neil had a small hiatus, adopting his namesakes thumb malfunctionality. Simon assured us the conditions were dry and off down the Railway line we went, Coops resplendent on single speed –

As we regrouped at the first gate there were mumblings of “call this a social ride” as was the pace so hotly set by Cam and Coops.

On up Ballacotch, of which most of the top track is now lower down, languishing on the lower tarmac track. Regrouped again and on into Chibbanagh. Here we discovered Simons understanding of the Manx weather that he had missed over the Christmas, the washed out fire roads turned in mush and gloop as we headed under the trees – I had the ignominious embarrassment of doing a 180 as my summer tyres were not up to full track heat yet. Richard was amused, but only gave me 6 out of 10 as I did not manage the dismount and landing very elegantly. Neil received a phone call, he eagerly answered it thinking it might be a job enquiry, so he stopped and got his pencil from behind his ear ready to suck and proclaim down the phone to poor some unsuspecting pensioner, however another episode of Cowboy Builders was averted as it was Fred, who had landed up at Chib car park and was coming straight up to join us at the crossroads! As we waited Neil was very animated about the male line finally being secured as after six attempts he finally had a male grandson, his lineage was safe to terrorise well into the future!

After Fred joined us we set of squelching and drifting through the remainder of the plantation. Onto the tarmac with the aim of going passed the gun club down to St Marks X roads. Cam set the pace (once a roadie always gay, as Sinbad would say), but it was not Cams athletic speed that kept him so far ahead, it was his new super bright and eye burning rear Cats Eye light. We had to keep our distance to avoid retina scorching!

After a good ol’ jolly road spin via Tosaby we mounted the much washed out Glass House track and up passed the aerials into Archy. A nice gentle lap around to the top of 7 gates then down to the Railway line. As Simon took a coast guard call we gathered to wait and ruminated on how mild it was, a line we have probably all used throughout this unseasonably mild winter (so far!!!). The spin down 7 Gates was fun, with gate relay we all got a good chance to step on the gas. Again, a few wash outs and gullies, Neil enjoying a moment with one, not to mention the fallen tree for further enjoyment.

Onto the Railway line aiming for home….until we chanced across another fallen tree – a very robust and well tentacle filled tree. There was no obvious beaten track around it, so its felling must have been fairly recent. I tried a route, on foot, by the alligator ridden swamps on one side to no avail and Fred navigated a route, with bike, under the tree in the river drain, on the other side, it was like the escape scene from Shawshank Redemption, through the sewers. The trick was to put the bike in the water and use it as a guide as you yourself remained out of the dank stagnant water and tracked your way, limbo like under the tree along the bank, but avoiding the water. However, Cam, who must not have seen the early intrepid explorers, placed his bike in the water and though he could sit on his bike and free wheel his way through. I followed next and having made my commitment down into this dark, smelly, toxic space I had to carry on with my momentum to reach the other side, as had I stopped I would have descended into the drink. Perhaps my survival instinct was a tad hasty, but with my Black Friday sales skills I managed to cut of Cams, already futile progress, into a standstill, leaving him now knee deep in the river, and sinking. After much hilarity and photo opportunities taken I did extend a hand of aid to help full him and his bike out of the quagmire!

Eventually we proceeded still bantering on the hilarity of the event – but as we got to a set of gates, with Cam leading and me following, his code of holding the gates was ignored as he sped thorough leaving the gate to rebound into me! Clearly I was off the Christmas card list and will no longer be tour bed buddies with Cam.

The final straw was when we got to Marown playing fields, Cam turned as if to go up to wards Simon and Rachel’s’, we carried on east along the railway. We then realised that poor Cam had though there would be tea and cake back at Chez Cooper….oh how the bottom lip went when he found out this was only a wind up!!!!

Well the ride out concluded without further ado, except for the fact that Richards was regretting selling his house in Union Mills and moving to Port Soderick….as the thought of the extra miles and hills were staring his bottom lip to quiver too…

Lovely evening for a ride out. Here’s to many more.

Hamish Loaghtan