Sunday, 21 January 2007

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.


Tuesday, 16 January 2007

When, oh when are we going to get a proper winter?! Wind, rain, more wind, more rain.... no cold days, no blue skies, no clouds of breath on frosty mornings and no crisply frozen cheeky singletrack that's otherwise tell-tale muddy and off limits at this time of year. Grrrr. I am placing my bets on March...


Sunday, 14 January 2007


Bit of a change - as I was in need of a rest rather than a race and two broken friends needed an airing, we went over to Thetford to help out at round 2 of the Winter Series. Much fun had all round - we felt our heckling showed a marked improvement as the day wore on and was remarkably well tolerated by those doing the real work. Thetford races are always fantastic - the course looked brilliant, and the women's two hour category had a fantastic 25 riders! Next round is February 11th, and much as I enjoyed encouraging, coaxing and baiting riders with jaffa cakes, I can;t wait to be back out and racing there again...


Saturday, 13 January 2007

Some days you just have it

This is my first winter of ‘training’ for, as my boyfriend puts it, push-bike riding. He’s not a mountain biker. His idea of cycling is to the pub on his sit-up-and-beg Dawes which has a wonky pedal, ripped leather seat and 3 sturmey archer gears of which only 2 work properly.
Our relationships with cycling couldn’t be more different. He looks pityingly down on me as I struggle up the stairs to our flat with frozen feet and numb hands and then makes me strip in the hallway whether the neighbours are in or not, so I don’t get mud on the kitchen floor. He yells at me when I get bits of leaf and mud in the boot of his car. (It’s bigger than mine so gets borrowed rather a lot). He groans when I creep out of bed early on weekend mornings to get a good ride in before the day really starts and gets cross when I’m too tired for conversation (or anything else) on the evenings when I’ve done an hour of spinning before work and a run straight afterwards. He scowls when the washing machine clunks across the floor and floods the utility room through over work from muddy kit. He shakes his head in disbelief when I explain I want to move so we have a spare room to keep my bikes in.
But he never tells me to shut up when I describe that incredible ride feeling I have when it all goes to plan. This morning I got back from swift 45 mile a road ride with my local club. I was at the front from the start, trailing the boys up the hills, working hard into the headwind on the flat and eventually feeling my quads screaming tired under my (rather optimistic) ¾ tights as I pushed home - with a smile on the outside and a ‘yessssssss’ on the inside. That feeling he understands well from years of running 10ks and marathons and fighting for the front and not always getting it but when you do… what a feeling.
This morning, stood in sweaty lycra and a helmet fresh from the ride, I drivvled on for minutes about this hill climb and that descent or that corner and the various heart rates at each stage. No scowls, he just looked and smiled and said “keep it up”. As the pressure of work, jobs, responsibility and studies creep into my subconscious like little New Year worry-gremlins, I’ll keep hold of that. I know that cycling keeps me sane and the hours at spinning classes and the soul-destroying winter riding will pay off.


Friday, 12 January 2007

Lots of fixie miles this week. Making the most of a nice quiet new chain and ring on some excessively long commutes. A good bit of playing out on favourite trails too - wide bars higher than the saddle, boingy forks, effective mud tyres and a handful of gears equals superb fun. just what the doctor ordered after a little too much grey tedium.


Monday, 8 January 2007


SPAM. Sounds as much fun as it isn't - should have known better, really, but some lessons you never learn. Within 100m of the start there I am pedalling in my tiddliest gear up a flat but somehow steep and dragging waterlogged field, brain all confused because whilst I know this is '06, my legs are telling me it's '96, that I've slipped into a ten-year timewarp and been zapped straight back to my first few years of mountain biking, when I rode all the time in these conditions because I simply didn't know any better. Funny how as we become more accomplished riders we start to let equipment dictate the pace. Winter filth is for road bikes, or the crosser at a push. Dusty summer's evenings (remember them?) call for singlespeeds and a cool beer on the beach at the end. Commuting is fixed wheel territory - all that grime wreaks havoc with precious, costly Campag - and The North requires a new bike to be built up for pretty much every trip as the gears get rescued from the shed for another irregular airing. Sad, really, that sometimes I look at all the bikes in the corner and spend so long trying to work out which one I want to ride that by the time I've made my mind up the sun's long gone and the day's over. That innocence, of being able to ride a bike, just one, all the time and for everything...