Mountain Biking Beginnings

So I have a new hobby – Mountain biking – It started as a bit of a joke when Stephen said:

I’ll get a Motorbike, If you get a Mountain Bike…

I obviously agreed, thinking a motorbike is way more expensive than a mountain bike and while he may have some savings, it would be a while before he got a motorbike.

How wrong I was…

Not long after, Steve became the proud owner of a Kawasaki Versys 650 (a very fine motorcycle that I have owned for the last 11 years) He must have planned it and like a handsome fool, I walked right into his trap! Now by the power of the pact, I had to get a mountain bike.

It’s not the end of the world and the light peer pressure was just what I needed to get me off my increasingly lardy butt and get one. I used to love riding my bicycle and going to Crane Park with Eddy and Mike to do tiny dirt jumps and race around. We thought we were so cool, just about managing to do a wheelie for about 1m before falling off or riding off a small drop into the river after psyching ourselves up for 20 mins. Now Aimi and I have moved to the Peaks, to an area with loads of outdoor trails, it made sense to get into it again.

So I satisfied the pact. I choked up a chunk of my hard saved cash for a second hand, old by modern standards, but still capable, Boardman Team XL Mountain Bike. It was the best I could afford and realistically, any better and I’d be spending VASTLY more for something I didn’t yet have the skill to use or appreciate. 

Matt & Matt @ Cannock

More often than not, decisions are made emotionally and then justified with reasons. The pact is a weak tea reason, really I wanted to tool around like a kid again and get that sense of freedom, travel and excitement. Since I’ve been down in Banbury, Milton Keynes, London and Bedford, AKA “The Flat Lands”, I’ve hardly been outdoor climbing anymore. I go indoor climbing and it keeps me moving and reasonably capable, but it’s just not as good as outdoor climbing for all the reasons above. I miss the adventure and unknown and effort that goes into a good day out climbing. Unfortunately you really need someone of equal or higher capability to climb with if you want to progress which is tricky when you don’t have the compelling social structure of a university climbing club to regularly provide willing belay victims bitches buddies.

Mountain biking is something I can do on my own, right out the front door. With the added benefit that it will help me lose a bit of weight, I’m not going to complain! I would very much like to get back into rock climbing because I love it, but I can see mountain biking picking up the cardio aspect of my fitness where climbing only builds strength and control. 

Lastly, but not leastlyis that a word?, Aimi has bought herself a mountain bike so we get to do it together! She got a significantly better deal than I did on a young model Calibre Bossnut that is in much better condition than my bike. It also came with some tasty, and not cheap, extras like Hope Tech brakes and a dropper seat post.

So with an adequate bike and raging teen optimism, I’ve been blasting around the local area, discovering all the truly terrifying trails on offer. Since heading down a track and nearly literally going off the edge of a small cliff, I’ve bravely decided to walk a lot of them first to gauge the difficulty. I’ve plot them on a map using a GPS recorder and have come up with a grading system of the following:

  1. Access
  2. Interesting
  3. Technical
  4. Hard
  5. Pro

In the future, I hope to be able to colour code them and add notes about the different routes. They are all built by enterprising bikers on ambiguous land in the hills and not very well documented. If I get really ambitious, I may even put them up on a map on this website, but don’t hold your breath, that’s a way off yet.

Aimi and I have also been cycling a route that I only rate as Access, but it’s a nice workout. While it’s not a technically hard route, it’s by no means an easy ride. By doing it with reasonable regularity and only over a short space of time, our fitness has increased so we are able to make the long hill climb at the start without stopping, which is nice progress. 

Stephen also invited me out with Stacey, James and Becca to Llandegla forest for a weekend biking. It was INTENSE for someone so new to the sport. Looking back on it a couple months later, I’m not sure how I managed it without either passing out from exhaustion or injuring myself. 2 full days biking is a lot right now. At present I can reasonably manage 3 hours trail centre riding, which is pretty non-stop. Matt and I (there are far too many Matts in my friendship circle) recently did a lap of Cannock Chase which is 24km, took 3 hours 20 mins and absolutely drained us both. But I want to go again in a few days time, so it cant have been that bad!

The pact was made as a bit of a joke, but once the inertia of inaction was overcome, mountain biking has very quickly become a new favourite thing to do. 

Stephen on a bridge…. not much more to say really….