The Law of Diminishing Returns. It's a theory. It states that the more you have of something, the less you enjoy it. If you have one Mars Bar, you enjoy it. If you have 20 Mars Bars, you don't enjoy the twentieth.
Which is why it's so important to ride bikes when conditions are so good.
Tuesday 7th May came at the end of an unseasonably dry spell. A good three weeks or so had passed with very little in the way of precipitation so Longleat's trails were at their absolute finest – dry and dusty. You HAVE to ride when trails are like that – we get so few good days round here that it's just plain wrong not to ride bikes round the forest. Which is why I was a little surprised to find only nine riders gather in the church carpark on such a glorious evening. Only a couple of years ago we had upwards of 30 in attendance on similar evenings.
The night's group consisted of some of the regular old-guard, a few relatively-new faces and a couple of guests. You can usually count on a few riders dropping out on a ride, but Paul "Satnav" Gunstone surprised us all by not even making it out of the carpark. It emerged he'd rather find his missing Garmin than ride, so, assuming he had absent-mindedly left it on the roof of his car before he set off, he drove back home retracing his steps and keeping an eagle eye out. Turns out later it was in the boot of his car all along. This man is in charge of millions of YOUR pounds, people.
So we were down to eight.
Before the ride I'd dusted off my ageing 5inch-full-susser. It doesn't come out to play very often (in fact its previous outing was a weekend away to the Lake District in October last year...) and consequently I had to re-calibrate my skillz on the ride out from Frome. For a while I thought I'd made a mistake: the lolloping, flexing, bouncing thing beneath me felt very alien. But by the time were in Shepherd's Wood and enjoying the singletrack, I was (apparently) getting my shred on.
At Rushpool Farm we paused briefly while Geraint returned from a little (but sadly fruitless) Trail Foraging Expedition in Dertford Wood. At this point Chris "Cave Man" Snell decided the arm injury he'd picked up at the weekend was too troubling and opted to return to the cars.
So we were down to seven.
The double-track descent down to the road from there - Breach Lane - is a fast and stoney one and hugely enjoyable on a bouncy bike. Watery-eyed, our seven-of-nine arrived grinning at the bottom. Even our special guest for the night - Tim Flooks - managed a "Yee-haa!" on the way down, and an "Again! Again! Again!" at its end. Greg, aboard his carbon hard-tail singlespeed, negotiated the concrete 3foot drop-off with style and aplomb. By the time we'd ridden the road to the bottom of the Allotment, Tim decided he'd tested his forks enough for the evening and elected to turn for home.
So we were down to six.
A convoluted but again dry and dusty route led us from there to the beginning of Oodles. At this point Steve discovered he was missing a cleat-bolt and his cleat was coming loose. Bizarrely, Robin had a spare about his person. Who carries spare cleat-bolts??! Anyway. Steve's night was saved and we carried on, after taking the opportunity to take-on some Haribo. Clearly high on sugar, it was decided we should make motorbike noises while riding the next section (Oodles). So we did. Greg had brought no lights so by the time we'd finished Doodles he was eyeing the gloaming with unease, and wisely elected to return to the cars before it got too dark.
So we were down to five.
Some superb trails in excellent condition greeted us at Cannimore and we made full use of as many as we could for as long as we could. Etch-A-Sketch was bone-dry and it's shoulder-dropping, track-standing twistiness proved hugely enjoyable. Even Steve, who had required some cajoling and peer-pressure to participate in this section, emerged happy at the other end.
Geraint punctured en-route to the top of the Allotment, and, in the shadow of a fibreglass gorilla, we soon had a replacement tube fitted and we were on our way again. As ever, the Allotment in the dark is a fabulous place to be on a mountainbike, and the five of us whooped our way down the recently-swept MCC, climbed through East17, and drifted through The Meadow's covering of dry leaves before arriving back at the road. We retraced our steps past Rushpool Farm and crossed the ford back to the (other) road. Here we split. Robin and I headed for Frome via Friggle Street and Wallbridge.
So they were down to three.
As Robin and I left, Steve required some more cajoling to go to the pub, so it's quite possible only two riders made it back for a beer. Well done to Geraint and Richard if you managed to fly the BCC flag back at the Horse & Groom.
About 23.5 miles for me, and probably Geraint. A bit less for Robin. About 17 miles for Richard and Steve, less for Greg, less for Tim and and less for Chris. And 'nought' for Paul.
That was a great ride in great conditions. I hope the other seven enjoyed it as much as I did.
But only two or three riders in the carpark after nine set out? That's quite a diminished return.