Updated: Oct 31, 2021
More commonly known as The Lads.
This is one of my asides from the main subject of My 11 Year Plan, mainly because, not a huge amount happens on a daily/weekly basis in relation to the plan, it is only 2 months old after all.
The ISA is growing slowly, other than that it is normal jogging and life carries on (thankfully)
If you are wondering what I am on about and have only found this page by pure accident, firstly were you Googling "where to buy a pair of Pink Crocs"?
Secondly, why were you doing that?
Doesn't matter I'll forgive you, just this once.
You can read about why I need 'My 11 Year Plan' here;
and then what it actually is here;
and how I plan to finance it here;
amongst some other musings and random ramblings, including this one.
I have had an interest in bikes since I could walk.
I can clearly remember the day I first rode down the shallow hill I grew up on (felt bloody steep to me at the time, I was around 4 years old) .
I was on a little red and white bike that had stabilisers, but with some clever 'leaning' I had bent them up and out of the way so I was riding properly, on just the two wheels, like a big boy!
Since then I have loved everything two wheeled.
I had the Raleigh Boxer, then the Grifter, racers, random bikes, many BMX's, which really cemented my love of bikes.
I couldn't wait to get a BMX when the craze took off in the early 1980's, I got a Super Burner as my first one and I loved it!
We would watch the Pro's do all these fancy tricks on the TV (The Cherry Picker, Aerials on the Quarter Pipe, Frame Whips) and then we would feel pretty cool if we could bunny-hop the kerb and do an endo, without coming off and losing some skin, or teeth.
I would strip my bikes down, swap parts with mates and spray the frame and forks with rattle cans we got from the local car parts store.
A box dumbbell spanner, some Allen keys and tub of grease were our toolbox.
We would dribble over freestyle frames, lay-back seat posts, SR stems, two finger brake levers and one piece cranks. Show me a set of Skyway Tuff II Wheels and I was totally gaga.
I went everywhere on my bike, to the shops, out with mates, to school.
I could not imagine leaving the house without my bike, it seemed alien to me.
We even used to go to the local scrappy and pick up some knackered old motorbikes and get them running again.
I remember a little Yamaha YZ80 that was doing the rounds, crazy little thing, seemed wicked fast at the time.
We broke the throttle grip, so wrapped the cable around the bars and just pulled on it, riding one handed across the local fields. We didn't care, as long as we were on two wheels of some kind, we were happy.
In 1989 I joined the Army and was sent off around the world doing bits and pieces and for many years I didn't own a bike, cars became the thing for a while I guess, more out of convenience over passion.
Not long after I left the Army I had a hankering for a bike again.
I felt I was too grown up for a BMX, hate everything about Roadies and MAMIL's (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) so I went to Halfords (don't judge me!) for a Mountain Bike.
Oh, reader I knew so little back then.
I bought a Carrera Impetus... Google Image it, it is something out of Hell itself.
Grip Shift gears, bar ends, the worlds longest stem, reflectors in the spokes and centre pull brakes... but at the time I loved it and thought it was the dogs danglies.
I used to take it to the local woods and thump around the trails, no knee pads, no helmet.
I was a Riding God again, (I really wasn't)
Life moved on, I got married, I got fat, yes, readers who know me, even more so than I am now! Its winter, leave me alone I am bulking for warmth.
Mountain biking started to take off in a big way, and the commercially available bikes had moved on, we now had hydraulic disc brakes and suspension, cue 'hearts in eyes emoji' for me!
I bought a GT Aggressor XC3 hardtail (front fork suspension only) it was quite basic and I quickly outgrew it, so sold it and bought a Cube Ltd Team hardtail.
A step up in spec' and geometry.
I was still only riding local trails and certainly there weren't any of the bike parks we have now, but I was hooked again.
I lost that bike off the roof of my car on the M27 coming back from the New Forest. It went under the wheels of a Range Rover Sport and was destroyed.
I have better roof carriers now!
My next bike was a Specialized Camber Expert, full suss' (suspension front and rear), now we are talking.
Around this time Bike Park Wales had opened, I went once and I was hooked! I went every weekend I could get booked on.
I have one small admission, and I will be ripped something rotten for this.
When I bought the Camber I also bought a road bike that day... I know, I know.
It was for a specific purpose. Honest.
In May 2013 me and five others rode from London to Paris in three days. London Eye to the Eiffel Tower, somewhere in the region of 220 miles, unaided (apart from the ferry taking us across the channel of course), just the six of us, no back up vehicles and carrying everything we needed on the bikes. I kept a record of it, I may post it here one day.
It was one of the hardest things I have done on a bike and I am proud of it.
I never rode that bike again and sold it as soon as I was back from France.
I am not a MAMIL, trust me reader, nobody wants to see that!.
Bike technology seems to change as fast as mobile phone technology these days and the Camber was soon holding me back on the trails I was riding.
Bike Park Wales had built a custom NS Snabb E1 and I wanted it! Fox 36's, Dropper post 27.5" wheels, ooof, your author was in love.
I am sat looking at it right now, it is over 5 years old and I really should upgrade it.
See this section as to why I haven't yet and probably won't for a while:
Behind it (upside down because it has a puncture and I don't want to ruin the tyre) is my Transition TR450 Down Hill bike (Big Rig).
I bought this from a friend and it is heavy and cumbersome, but it has huge suspension travel and is slack as anything so it smooths the trails out something wicked.
OK, I need to stop, because I can, and I will prattle on for hours and hours about bikes.
Right, The Pink Crocs. The whole point of this post. Where do I start?
In 2017 I entered 'Ard Rock, a nightmare endurance race in Yorkshire (never again!), so in preparation I took every chance I could to ride numerous bike parks, Bike Park Wales (BPW), Antur Stiniog, FlyUp 417 and Black Mountain Cycle Centre (BMCC) to get experience of different trails and in a bid to get my fitness up.
These are specific built trail centres with uplift facilities, they take you and your bike to the top of the hill, by Land Rover/minibus/tractor and trailers.
You ride back down and repeat. It's awesome.
Not so great for the long distance pedalling I was going to have to do at 'Ard Rock, but good for the timed downhill sections.
I was let down by a mate who was supposed to ride BMCC with me on this one particular day, but I decided I was going anyway, I didn't mind riding alone back then, AC/DC in the headphones and I was good to go.
I was setting my bike up in the carpark when this group of lads arrived and were doing the same, mostly on Big Rigs, one of them was popping wheelies up and down the carpark and I decided there and then I needed to avoid them. (sorry, don't hate me!)
It is common to meet riders at bike parks who we call 'all the gear, no idea' riders (I didn't think this group was that, I was more intimidated by them).
Their bikes and gear is always immaculate and they tend to not be seen at the likes of Dyfi and Revo.
Lots of disposable income who buy highly expensive bikes (the likes of Santa Cruz), they think spending £££££ makes them a mountain biker.
They are the type that talk about settings of the suspension or the new gear they have put on the bike and how it cost £££££.
I remember one guy at FlyUp 417 (slightly easier trails, suitable for all grades of riders, still an amazing park and service, just not as extreme as Dyfi)
He was bragging that he had set his forks up the same as Rachel Atherton, whom by looking at him is at least 10 stone lighter than he was, pointless.
They will bang on about stuff like this and about how their helmet was carbon fibre and the same as Danny Harts' or that they had the latest Hope brakes, etc.
They rarely talk about the trail made them feel or how they nearly fell off at a certain point and they rarely smile after a ride.
They spend their time on the easier trails and sitting on their saddles as they ride (huge no no on the bumpy stuff), we avoid them like the plague.
I am not knocking anyone who gets out riding, trust me reader on that front, I like to see anyone giving it a go, seeing a young kid or anyone head down their first trail is amazing and I am all for it.
It is an ageless and genderless sport and there are so many trail centres that cater for all levels. Bike Park Wales being one.
I just don't like those that do it for bragging rights, and they do exist. Thankfully this group are rarely, if ever, at places like Dyfi because it would scare the crap out of them and they may chip their paintwork on the £12k Santa Cruz that hasn't ever really been that dirty...
The uplift at BMCC is an open trailer behind a tractor and I ended up on the first uplift with the group I mentioned earlier, that was Ok I could ride a different trail to them once we got to the top and try to get out of sync on the uplifts. I honestly thought they would leave me for dead on the trails anyway.
However, listening to them chat on the way up, I knew they were different.
This was their first time at BMCC and they were laughing and joking about possibly dying and about how nervous they were of certain trails, not one of them mentioned their gear, it was all about the trails and the riding.
Hang on, maybe I had made too swift a judgement dear reader.
I joined in the chat as it was my first time at BMCC as well and I was nervous too.
Mountain Bikers are a friendly bunch and it is easy to join in a chat, especially when there are seven of you wearing bulky body armour crammed into the back of a Land Rover as can be the case at other parks.
At the top, where the trails start, I ended up mixed in with them (they will say that I wormed my way in to their group, but we know the truth don't we reader?) and throughout the day managed to get some footage of them on my GoPro, I left one of them a business card and said 'drop me an email and I will send the footage'.
He sent an email, I sent the footage and said that I would be up for a ride out with them again as I had really enjoyed the day.
OK, it was me that wormed my way in to the group, don't judge me, I wanted someone to ride with and they seemed, ok...'ish.
They called themselves the Pink Croc Syndicate, yes dear reader I should have run away, very fast at the discovery of that, I know.
The name stems from when they first went to Fort William and one of them was wearing pink crocs and it stuck.
Eventually I was allowed to join and even went on one of their stag do's to Ibiza in the early days of getting to know them.
We are around 12 strong with the odd straggler here and there who joins in on ride outs etc.
In 2019 we went back to Fort William and scared the crap out of ourselves on the World Cup track (it is insane and awesome), watched Red Bull Hardline live (they are insane, the guys who ride that track) and been on many nights out.
I had met the right bunch of lads. They had same attitude to riding as me and were a bloody good laugh. Four and half years later, four of them are the closest friends I have ever had.
I moved to Shrewsbury partly due to them (they live here, not to get away from them...)
The local trails around Shrewsbury are awesome and we are close to Antur, Revolution Bike Park and the new Atherton park called Dyfi Bike Park, which is outstanding and firmly our favourite at the moment.
2021 has not been our best year for riding (in fact it has been shocking), but, it has been a weird year all round in fairness.
Yet we still make time for each other, nights out, hikes etc. It isn't just about the bikes.
They don't know it yet, but I am going to nag the crap out of them next year about riding more!
One has just become a dad for the first time and we are yet to meet the future little ripper, so we clubbed together and sent the new family a baby hamper.
We booked to ride at Dyfi in August and the new dad had still not ridden there yet (it is a fairly new park).
Of course he couldn't come this day as his son was a few weeks old (and he is under the thumb.), so I had an idea.
I had been given a house warming present of a toy blow up doll (not fully functional, honest dear reader), I went on to Facebook and found a pic of the lad who couldn't come with us, it was perfect, he even had his bottom lip stuck out like a sulking school boy who had dropped his ice cream.
I printed it out.
I stuck it to the face of the blow up doll. I took the doll with us to Dyfi
We made a video of 'him' being there and sent it to him.
He loved it.
He has now ridden Dyfi with us, and is in as love with it, as we are.
I have taken his face off the doll now, although it was in the boot of my car for a fair while, can you imagine if I had been stopped for something and the Police felt the need to search my car. That would have taken some explaining!
There was a time, not long after I met the Pink Crocs (I was still living in Oxford at this point) when I was having a rough time at work and feeling quite low in general.
We had arranged to ride at Antur and had an amazing day.
Well, one of us, the new dad actually, kept getting snake bite punctures, so it wasn't ideal for him, Antur is a tyre killer, pure slate and rock trails, vicious.
I was sat at the back of the minibus towards the end of the day, listening to the lads chat about the day and just suddenly felt like I belonged and I was so happy, I actually shed a tear, no joke (your author is a soppy sod, dear reader).
I sent them a message to thank them for an awesome day when I got home and it was reciprocated.
That day alone made me realise that life is for living and I quit that toxic job within a few weeks of that day.
Now we have a WhatsApp group where we usually just abuse each others life choices, one of them buys gay bikes, (like gravel bikes, ffs), one buys really shit cars and I tend to have a terrible love life..., standard fair for a bloody great bunch of lads. They lift me in ways they do not realise and are unlikely ever to fully understand, I love riding with them and spending time with them.
We are a mixed age group, the whole group spans from early 20's to mid 50's and it doesn't matter, mainly because all men are little boys when they are together anyway, it is true reader, and you know it, so do we and we don't care.
I made the right choice moving to Shrewsbury to be close to them and whilst I am far from the best rider in the group, it doesn't matter, we have fun and we encourage each other and certainly laugh when we fall off... well, they laugh when I fall off.
I am a Pink Croc and I am proud of that...