The plan for last weeks ride was to start from Hope. Climb up the roman road to Hope Cross and rattle down the Beast. Struggle up Hagg Farm then head down Lockerbrook downhill to the cafe. Have a coffee and a flapjack at Fairholmes then climb back up to Hagg Farm and do the return journey to Hope. It would be about 15 miles, 2,000ft of climbing and should take a couple of hours. All in some pretty ‘English’ weather.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy riding a mountain bicycle as much as the next person who also enjoys riding a mountain bicycle. However, even though I don’t like to admit it, I am a fair weather rider. I still make the effort to get out in the wind, rain and mud but I just complain about it. Last weeks ride in the glorious Peak District was great fun but it did test my limited motivation levels and forced me to try get past a few things before I could enjoy the ride.
Hurdles to enjoyment…
1. Early morning starts entail a certain level of motivation. Especially when you get up to dark winter skies. You have to get out of the bed, stand up, then create a measurable distance between yourself and the bed to quantify the completion of the awakening process. No half measures. As Geoffrey Boycott once said, you cant go riding only half out of the bed. The best technique is to get yourself as far away from that bed as possible. Another technique is to get all of your kit ready the night before, take warm comfortable clothes for the journey to the trails and have a good breakfast with plenty of caffeine.
2. Once your up and ready to go and you’re at the start of the ride you have to face the next motivational hurdle. The slightly inclement weather. Mother nature pulls an earthly discourtesy out of her nature purse and slaps you round the face with some sideways wind and rain, and you’re expected to just take it. It makes your face cold, your legs get a bit wet and you sometimes have to ask riding buddies the same question three times but you still cant hear them quite as well as you would hope due to the wind. It’s tough. Once we reached saturation point we started to slowly become a sodden sponge of contentment and settle into the weather conditions. Also, once you’ve splashed through a few puddles and climbed a few hills you soon get used to it, it’s never as bad as it first seemed and you actually start to enjoy it. Ride it out!
3. The last hurdle on this short lived race to enjoyment is the human shaped scorn buckets that belittle our glorious sport and pass judgement on our lifestyle choice. Most winter rides involve muddy puddles. Muddy puddles lead to muddy clothes. Muddy clothes are an excuse for strangers to comment on your appearance. “I’d hate to have to wash your clothes”, “Aren’t you a bit old to be splashing about in puddles?”. An excuse to give judegmental stares. As mountain cyclists you need to learn to embrace levels of public indecency akin to soiling yourself.
The glory beyond the hurdles…
It’s not all doom and gloom on winter rides. Once you’ve done a bad ass bunny hop tail-whip over the hurdles of life you’ve got fun times ahead.
1. Winter rides sometimes offer up fantastic and unexpected views. Even during a full day of grimness, the weather gods sometimes fart a bit of solar rays through their cloudy trousers to reveal a breathtaking stench of sunshine. The break in the clouds brings a blast of sun, highlights the contours of the hills and makes you appreciate your surroundings. You appreciate the sun even more in the winter as it’s normally unexpected.
On this ride, the sun came out just at the point in the ride when we were debating adding an extra loop onto the ride. We decided to go for it and head up White Tor. We were rewarded with pretty tasty eyeball treats.
2. One of the most fun things you can do on a mountain bike is push your limits and get away with. When you try to rail a corner faster than usual, you lose traction but somehow manage to turn the slip and slide in a smooth freestyle jazz solo. Nothing better. This happens a lot on slippery winter rides. Sometimes you dont quite pull it off and you end up in the bushes, but you do learn how to ride more dynamically and react quicker to the terrain. Finding flow in the winter is a tricky task but is all the sweeter than in the summer.
3. Finally, pulling up the cafe after a grim ride makes the tea and cake taste all the sweeter.
Until you realise you done a 20 mile ride with two cafe stops. You’ve pretty much complained the whole way but you’re acting like you’re Leonardo Da Vinci. The tea tastes pretty bitter after that self character assassination.