Sunday, 31 January 2010

Comedy Al, an obituary for a riding buddy and neighbor.

On Friday the 29th January 2010, we lost a riding buddy. Al Thompson, one of the nicest gentlemen ever to ride a bike and our neighbor sadly passed away. Al was 54 and was probably one of the fittest guys we have ever met.

Al came to mountain biking late in life, after a career spent running for Bolton Harriers. Unfortunately the toll on his knees prevented him continuing his running, and he looked to join us, the Wrenbury Regular riders. His first few were just local jaunts over the moors where we lived. It was immediately apparent that on the road he left us all for dead, but off road, he needed to, shall we say,  develop his technique.

The first real ride he did with us was the Great Hill Ride on a scorching hot June day back in 2005, A long old day by any stretch. It was on this ride that we gave him his nickname. Comedy Al. Nothing to do with his sense of humor, but more to do with his erratic riding style, which involved a great deal of falling off. At one point on the ride at the bottom of a long technical descent, we all watched his progress down. “here’s Al!! OH… he’s down…” pause “ah, he’s back up……… OH Down again!!!” and so this continued until he made it to the bottom, black and blue and bleeding profusely. Typical Al though, laughing the wounds off as “just scratches”. We finished that ride in the Black Dag at Belmont, where he joined us for a few pints before heading home. On the road back, his old competitive streak came in and he soared away at the front, not limited by his inexperience off road, he pounded the tarmac. We could almost hear him chuckling to himself as he left us for dead. He had a great time on that ride and from then he was to become a regular with us.

Unfortunately, a few more spill’s (he was rapidly becoming famous for them now) culminated in one bad one which curtailed his ride with us. Ascending Rivington Pike, he came a cropper on a wide corner. The resulting injuries, amongst others involved a bit of dental work to put right. We like to name certain trails we ride locally, and ever since, that corner has been known as Comedy Corner.

Al joined us on our first Wales Weekend back in 2006, kindly supplying two tents, car with bike transport and himself driving. He took proper care of us all that weekend, and joined in the drinking, riding, and banter with gusto. It was one of the best Lads weekend’s we have had as a group, and our memories of Al making us coffee in the mornings and then breakfast will always be with us.

Al’s attention to detail and fastidiousness, were however called into question on two occasions on that weekend. He was transporting some of us in Janet’s car. At a rest stop on the A55 for bacon butties, it was spotted that his tax disk was 3 months out of date. Alan’s status as a highways agency employee provided us the perfect opportunity to point out the transgression, followed by much ribbing. He was mortified, to say the least. About 4 days after we got back, there was a knock on my door. It was Janet. The poor girl had been made to come round with written proof that she had indeed renewed the car tax some two months previous. Typical Alan. The second time was the transporting of 4 mountain bikes. Al had rigged up 4 roof transporters fixed to the roof rack. When questioned as to their stability, Al vehemently stated that they were rock solid, and how dare we question it. It was approx 1 mile form our destination that one bike fell off. Going around a corner, Craig, sat in the back looking out of the window, was confronted by a bike banging against the side of the car, only the Velcro still attached to the wheels holding the bike on the car. Al was mortified, but it didn’t stop him being on the receiving end of some “sport”.

Since then, he has been out with us not as much as he hoped, a broken ankle which he sustained riding his bike when he got into an argument with a horse (Al lost) did not help. However, of late, he was just starting to get back into his riding and also, joining us for our weekly beers  after the rides.

His death has hit us all like a ton of bricks to be honest and we are all devastated. Our little group of mountain bikers will always remember the good time we had with Alan, and at our yearly weekends away, we will always raise a glass to you, Comedy Al, a good friend, neighbor and mountain biker.

Some pics from happier times.....

1 comment:

Toss said...

Very well put Dave & very similar to the note I gave to Janet tonight. I am sure he'll be with us in spirit when we are out on the moors. Never forgotten. T