Rapid cure

The expression ‘going downhill fast’  is usually meant as a negative, whether it’s applied to health, wealth, career, relationships, poll ratings, even the weather. Once again, the bike is the perfect instrument for turning convention on its head. As a child, I loved freewheeling down a long hill, my eyes streaming, the wind roaring in my ears. Thirty years later, I still do. In fact, it’s even more fun now: the bike’s a lot faster and (sadly) I’m a lot heavier. And now, as then, the speed, noise and whiff of danger fill me with a primitive, savage joy.

Today, I took the Madone for its first ‘proper’ downhill run, just to see what it could do. My chosen test-track was Duddleswell Road, which runs down the southern ramparts of the Ashdown Forest. It’s neither the longest nor steepest hill around here – it’s just over two miles end to end, with a total drop of about four hundred feet – but with no sharp bends, you can just let the bike run without touching the brakes. By the time you reach the bottom, the phrase ‘terminal velocity’ has taken on a new and vivid significance.

Needless to say, the Madone was magnificent: oil-smooth, greyhound-fast, Top Gun on two wheels. Being English, I’m not naturally inclined towards whooping-and-hollering, but I must confess  I did let out a yell or two. A lot of other things are going downhill fast around here at the moment. But all the time I can do it literally, I know I’ll be OK.

GOING DOWNHILL FAST

Swing right, zip up,

Flick a finger

To pick a bigger gear.

Get low, nose to the bars,

And go.

Ten seconds, I’m supersonic,

Madone at Mach One,

Unwinding a silver thread of speed

From the rope of road

And the roaring air. 

This is no blind

Descent into madness

But a wild, joyous dive

That ends in clear space

And a quiet mind.

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