I had an epic ride today. Not because it was long, or particularly tough but because I braved unknown territory on my own. I was let down by some friends for a ride and was faced with a dilemma. ‘Run and road ride or mountain bike all on my tod?’ Well I braved the latter and left before dawn this morning for an unknown area of the Mendips - map in hand.
The ride started brilliantly and the slippery climb to the top left me warm and toasty in my rather optimistic baselayer-and-jersey get up. The views from the top were sensational, with clear wintry skies reaching toBristol to the North and over to Somerset to the South. I felt brave and free.
Taking another look at the map I decided to head to Cheddar, where I knew there were some really interesting and tricky trails: Unchartered territory (by me, anyway). I boldly pedalled onwards, unphased by the over-inquisitive herd of brutish looking cows and confidently bounding over rocks and battling against the whipping wind.
The trouble started when I came across a style. ‘A style?’, thought I. ‘What funny things they have on bridleways in Somerset’. You know what’s coming. Not only was it a footpath I was on – and apparently had been for some time – but it was path in the centre of a network of footpaths which got rockier, slippery-er and more wheel-adverse as they drew nearer the gorge. I was trapped. Every few minutes of riding I had to carry my bike over a gate or style, looking around warily for grumpy walkers. I tried to descend some steps only to be thrown into the nearest gorse bush (to the amusement of the holidaying Exmoor ponies). I was sick to the rear mech with kissing gates and footpath signs by the time I scrabbled down a fit-only-for-goats path onto the main road. Thank god. Serious sense of humour loss. Bloody map. Call myself an adventure racer?
So with tremendous navigational care I found my way back on top of the Mendips and had some safer open-moor efforts up and down the hills. I eventually stumbled back to my car after nearly four hours, frozen solid, still with the remnants of irritation niggling me but with a sense of achievement at having done it on my own. Windswept and tired I went home for lunch and to plan my next solo-adventure.