I don't often write about individual rides, but this one requires some attention. And the centre of this attention is my friend, and fellow mountain bike rider, EnglishJim.
As a very short pre-amble, it's important that you know that EJ is a huge DoItYourselfer. He does ALL of his own bike repairs...and almost never conventional, and sometimes successful. His current bike is a very aged Giant (I am not sure of the exact age but I swear there are hieroglyphics on it). The frame of this bike is broken, clear through the seat tube, and self repaired by EJ with a bolt from the diving board of his back yard pool. I am completely serious here, the bolt runs up inside the seat tube somehow, and this repair has held for over a year now. This bolt only adds an additional 5 pounds or so to this already 50 pound bike. His front derailleur is a homemade mishmash of broken hangers, and excess cable tightly woven into a thick loop, like the lasso of a tiny tin-man cowboy. I have no idea how it works, some mysteries are not for mortals to comprehend. I have seen his back wheel explode on the trail with various metal pieces flying forth into the bush, to somehow be repaired enough to limp out the ride. He is currently building a brand new, custom framed titanium 29er, with full XTR grouppo, to be completed when the frame is delivered mid-March (actually this will be the second time this bike is built in the last 4 months...the last one was stolen; which is an entirely separate but very worthy story on its own). At that time, the Giant that I'm sure once may have carried Jesus into Jerusalem, can be laid quietly to rest. Jim is one of the most intelligent people I know, and one of my most loyal friends (I have to say this nice stuff so I can hopefully get away with expressing how his actions on this day bordered on goofdom).
The ride begins with a Saturday morning ride at Dundas Conservation Area. In attendance were myself, EnglishJim (of course), NewfieSteve, and StuMTB. If you don't often ride Dundas you may think all of the trails are the signed, groomed, double track that is usually used by hikers, horses, and cross country skiers. However, if you know the trails, there is a significant amount of challenging single track. It's these trails that we usually ride, and it is where we were riding on this particular day.
We were riding up a rooty, rocky, piece of single track that runs along the top of the wall of the escarpment, sometimes close enough to the edge to make the stomach queasy, as the height of these cliff faces can be enough to finish the breath of a human body falling over the edge. As we pulled into where the single track intersects a loop of double track, NewfieSteve, StuMTB, and I pull over to wait on EnglishJim, expecting him to come spinning up behind us any second. After several minutes wait, we realise that something must have gone wrong, and we head back up the single track to retrace our route. Several hundred metres in we find EnglishJim pulled off to the edge of the single track attempting to repair a flat rear tire. However, EJ was pulled over, bike inverted, not even one metre from the edge of the cliff.
Me; "Hey Jim, why don't you pull over to the other side of the trail?" (the 'non-cliff' side)
EJ; "Whatever." (OK, then)
Eventually, with NewfieSteve's help, EJ, gets his tire repaired, and is preparing to get the repaired item back on the bike. Stu, Steve, and me are discussing world politics, global business, and eastern Hinduism spirituality when the next thing we hear is, "BLOODY HELL!!" (insert silly English accent here).
EJ; "I just dropped the skewer nut!!"
Me; "So pick it up."
EJ; "It went over the edge!"
EJ; "Yeah, it just went 'sproing!', and flew over the edge!!"
Well it is at least 20 feet deep on this cliff face. As the four of us peer over the edge, to the floor of dark, mossy rocks amidst a partial covering of matted frozen leaves, there is no chance we can see that little black marble sized skewer nut from where we are.
So StuMTB, and NewfieSteve, managed to find relatively safe (or at least less than death defyingly dangerous) spots to climb down the cliff face in their mountain bike gear. And under EnglishJim's expert guidance from the top of the cliff, they managed to spend 10 - 15 minutes of exceptional ride time looking for, and not finding, Jim's departed nut. So after all this time of me doing nothing, I decided I had better pitch in. Now I have mentioned that I am a 200 pounder, and I am from Saskatchewan; we don't have cliffs there. So as I eased myself over the edge of this 30 foot wall, trying to avoid looking down to the sharp rocks below, and trying to avoid wetting myself every time a mountain bike boot slipped from its foothold. I made it down without incident, (or a wet spot), and sauntered over to where the boys were looking. Within 90 seconds of searching I lifted a frozen mat of leaves to discover Jim's prodigal nut staring up at me. I gingerly grabbed it, deposited it into a pocket of my baggies, and announced the discovery. One of the boys made mention of my native hunting skills, but I was too worried thinking about getting back up the 40 foot high rock face. However, I took a deep breath...steeled myself, and worked my way up. I made it up to where my head was about a foot from the top of the wall, and realised the only available foot hold was just inches above where I could get my foot to. So I stupidly looked down to the bone crushing rocks 50 feet below, and noticed that I now had a non age related wet spot. Anyways, I let go my right hand grabbed my left knee and force lifted my knee until my foot got onto the foot hold, then quickly scrambled up and over the top. Then faking the calmness of a Walenda and covering said wet spot, I sauntered over to EnglishJim, who had now, very smartly, moved his bike over to the safe side of the trail, handed him his nut, and he restored his bike to its natural semi-rideable state.
Now, you would think this is where the story should end...however it do not. After the long wait of repairing Jim's bike, StuMTB had to get home to attend to family business, and keep his marriage healthy. So Jim, Steve, and myself continued on. Then after a short but steep double track downhill, and a road crossing Steve and I pull over to again notice that Mr.Jim is not with us. Back up the trail again, to find him. And find him we did...pulling his rear derailleur out of his spokes.
Me...looking around and not seeing a rock, root, or any obstacle within a 45 mile radius, "Jim, what the hell did you break your hangar on??"
EJ, "I don't bloody know...just 'spriong!' and there it was, in my spokes!"
Anyway, he replaced his hangar, and we took the straightest, quickest, most direct route back to the parking lot and the truck...all the while, EJ's back wheel making strange cricket noises.
This story ends, but the saga of EJ continues...more to be told another day.