Up The Buttress

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(a fellow ‘rider’ tackles the cobbled climb)

Ride 400 metres up a street, how hard can that be? Very as it turned out when the street in question is insanely steep and cobbled.  Saturday saw me and Rob (@chasinsheepMTB) head over to Hebden Bridge for the Up The Buttress challenge, a timed hill climb up the steepest ‘road’ in the town.  Now anyone who has ridden over in that valley knows that it is steep sided and makes for challenging riding, whether that be on or off road but this street took things to a whole other level.  I don’t know how steep it is but people milling about the registration tent were saying it varied from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5.  We had no chance to think much about it as after paying our fee we were lining up ready to roll, I had no idea what I was facing as you could only see the start of it from where we were to set off and that looked like a wall.

There was much talk of tyres and tyre pressure and what was the ‘best’ style of bike to get up it.  There were all sorts, hardtails, full suspension, blinged out cross bikes, old clunkers and one dude having a crack while attempting to tow his daughter in a trailer !  All ages were present and it had a feel of a really inclusive event – young or old, good or bad just have a go which exactly as I like it and it should be and everyone no matter the ability was cheered, encouraged and cowbelled up the slope.  To add to the air of inclusiveness anyone who got to the top, no matter how you did it, got entered into a prize draw and there were some amazing prizes including a bike from Orange !

As I got ready to go Chipps from the Singletrack crew felt my tyres, “any good?” says I, “you’ll see” was his reply with a knowing look in his eye.  Oh dear.  I didn’t bother thinking about trying to charge into the bottom of the slope, I thought I’ll just roll to it in bottom gear and then spin away.  I’ve recently ridden up some very steep stuff so I thought I’d be OK but I’d not factored the slippery cobbles into my equation.  As the wall hit and I started to peddle I thought to myself, yep I can do this and inched up the steepest part of the hill but then just before a lip across the path all my wheels were spinning like something out of the road runner cartoon and I ground to a halt.  Jumped off and pushed for a bit then tried to get going again which was a lot harder than it should have been as just could not get any purchase.  Finally got moving and felt OK (well that I was not going to die anyway) and plodded slowly along until the inevitable spinning of wheels hit again and I ground to a halt again.  I seemed to be now standing on glass as I was actually struggling to stand still but I could not get the wheels to get any grip so resorted to pushing up the hill in a comedy slip / sliding about fashion.  As I neared the top the shouts of encouragement rained down but I could not have moved any faster if Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes had been behind me.

Crossing the line I realised that at least there were some others who had slipped about, Rob however had no problems right tyre choice and running at an insanely low pressure meant he didn’t slip once, that and he’s a great rider of course.  We encouraged a few riders up, got our breath back and then headed down the road to the pub for a few beers before going back to see the winners receive their fantastic prizes – a massive cobble a la Paris-Roubaix and see what our lucky numbers got us in the raffle.  Rob got a bottle of beer whereas I got a fantastic Timothy Taylor’s cycling jersey.  Sometimes it pays to be the snail.

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My Grand Depart

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A bit like Alice in Wonderland, I emerged blinking back into the world wondering if the surrealness and madcap antics of the Grand Depart had been real and reflecting back on one of the most incredible experiences.  When Yorkshire won the right to host the depart I was of course hugely excited but after going to the launch event I was worried that we would mess it up as that was a truly dreadful event.  Fortunately everyone involved clearly bucked their ideas up after that and put on a truly stunning Grand Depart.

Running the Yorkshire Festival in the build up was I think key to creating such a great atmosphere as it got all sorts of creative people and enterprises doing stuff linked to the tour who may otherwise never have got involved. The result was a huge range of art and cultural activities across the region, big and small, high art to utter madcap which helped the region raise a collective eyebrow and take an interest in what was coming over the horizon.  The Festival also, in my view, acted as a catalyst to all sorts of other events as communities got well and truly into the spirit of it all.  The result was that countless individual acts, which on their own would have been meaningless, became part of a huge patchwork quilt of yellow, green and polka dot covering the whole of the county.  A perfect example of this was the knitted yellow jersey put on the Black Prince statue in Leeds that had been knitted by 70, 80 and 90 year olds that you can read the lovely story of here.

Thursday night saw the team presentation.  I did not buy a ticket for this in the arena and was pretty miffed that the organisers had taken this approach instead of the normal free show so I decided to use the money that I would have spent on a ticket for a train fare to London on the Monday.  However there was no real need to go to the presentation as the teams did a presentation ride through the city centre, the huge crowds that lined the route giving a flavour of what to expect of the the next few days.  Some of the riders looked a bit bemused by it all but most were smiling, acknowledging the crowds and interacting, with Ion Izagirre high fiving my daughter as he road past.

I took the Friday and Monday off work, determined to soak up the atmosphere and take in as much as I could and of course to see each of the three stages taking place in the UK.  The sun had been shinning all week prior to the start but there were numerous glances at the forecasts as rain was expected on the weekend (which if it had materialised would have certainly changed the whole vibe of the event).  I mooched about on the Friday, took in the Yorkshire bike show and marvelling at the vast media empire that was swinging into action and loving all the different accents I was starting to hear around town.  It was fun catching up on tweets and glimpses of the teams riding around the area, included the lovely touch by Giant-Shimano who organised a tweet up ride in North Leeds.  It’s amazing how the nature of social media has changed the game enabling me to catch up on all that was going on while supping on a pint of Magic Spanner at a pop up bar in the old police cells.

Saturday I wanted to see the start in Leeds, but even though I knew a lot of people would be coming into town I was still taken aback by the sheer volume of people, the whole city centre was heaving and people were standing 5 deep from about 8.30 in the morning.  I was lucky in that an organisation that I know were based right on the bottom of the Headrow in a perfect spot and so I found myself hanging out of the second floor window ready for the start (see photo at the top).  The crackle of noise that swept down with the riders will live with me for a long time, the riders looked pretty startled I thought by the sheer volume of people and noise that greeted the roll out.

Sunday I’d decided to head out as early as possible on the first train to Mytholmroyd and walk up Cragg Vale (the longest continuous climb in England).  There was again a huge sea of people and another fantastic atmosphere as thousands of people walked and cycled up the hill chatting and smiling with the local residents who were getting set up outside their houses, parties getting started and kids selling drinks, home made buns and loom bands on the roadside.  This time I managed to see the breakaway and of course the peloton sweep through treating the long drag as if it was a flat road.

London beckoned on Monday and it was strange really as after the huge party across Yorkshire I arrived in the capital to no visible sign that the tour was going to be in town.  This time I headed out a little bit and was fortunate to see the two strong breakaway on their last legs before the peloton steam through at full tilt, the sprint trains getting organised.  Quite incredible to see the speed at which they were riding.

After each day I watched the stage on the tele and marvelled at how brilliant it all looked.  There is of course a reason that Yorkshire looked so amazingly green as we get a good chunk of rain up here but the rain held off until London, if fact the sun shone brilliantly across the weekend and Yorkshire came out to party.  My abiding memory was that I’ve never seen so many people with a smile on their face and enjoying themselves.  A truly memorable and magic weekend.

 

Morvelo City Cross 3 – Leeds – The Snail races again

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Trumpets, cowbells, cheers, beers, thrills, spills, music, laughter, beards, baldies, fat bikes, thin bikes, mountain bikes, cross bikes, single speeds, bananaman and a werewolf were all present as the third iteration of the Morvelo City Cross concept hit the mean streets of Leeds.  Never mind the Tour de France, Holbeck Urban Village surely hosted the most fun bike racing that Leeds will see this year, all thanks to Emma Osenton and her mighty crew of helpers and sponsors.

As regular readers of this blog and my projectsnail idea will know I’m no racer and have no ambitions to be but I made my debut at City Cross 2 and seeing as City Cross 3 was basically a roll down the hill from my house I thought it would have been rude not to have another go.  This is racing Jim but not as we know it and while there were some very keen bees riding, plenty were there for the fun and I found it a very inclusive, supportive and encouraging event.  Yes I’m way out of my comfort zone doing these events but there are times in your life when you need to do that and in doing so you will be richly rewarded, City Cross delivers on this for me big style.

As I rode down to the event I reflected on my hydration preparation the night before and as I peered through the fog of a hangover realised I might have been a tad too enthusiastic and the thought of a hard physical effort ahead made me feel, well a bit nauseous to be honest.  I was really intrigued however on how the course was going to be laid out as it was in a part of Leeds I know well owing to the cracking nearby pubs and I wondered how Emma was going to shoehorn a race circuit into the streets, alleys, ginnels, cobbles and courtyards that surround them.

Before I knew it I was going to find out as I lined up for the novice race start.  It had been mentioned by my garagebikes colleagues that I had looked terrified before City Cross 2, that was because I was so this time while very nervous I didn’t feel quite as scared – I’d ridden the warm up lap and was confident of getting round.  Whistle goes and we’re off swooping into the main arena, missing the traffic bollard (phew) to the sound of The Smiths (nice one Brant) and as I got into the swing of things I decided to put my race strategy into action.  This was to ride as hard as I could, smile when not grimacing, physically stop every lap for a beer break (yes beer is kindly supplied to riders who want it – and why wouldn’t you?) and to get to the end without being lapped by a fellow garage bikes rider.  There were a good chunk of us in the race all fiercely contesting the #raceyourmates race within a race category which gave a prize to the fastest lap from among your club / mates at any time during any race of the day.

Slow I may be and undoubtedly looked but I was burying myself and legs were screaming after a couple of laps but on the plus side I’d not vomited on the course.  I was wearing my Snail from South Wales shirt in the first race and Brant kindly gave me a shout out on the mic as I rode back into the main section, this happened throughout the day with kind encouragement from him such as ‘come on Ian the bloke in front only has one gear you can catch him’ and other helpful hints while all the time keeping the tunes spinning.

I totally loved the course, it was so weird to ride in this way around areas I know so well and to swoop into courtyards of the Midnight Bell and the Crosskeys with spectators lapping up beers and racing felt amazing.  My weapon of choice for the event was a Kinesis Pro6 kindly lent to me by Sarah (the not so silent partner of garagebikes) and even in my prosaic hands the bike felt fantastically agile and was a joy to ride the event on.  I may not have looked it but I felt like a proper rider out there, leaning into the corners, swooping and flowing, flying off the steps, flicking round the tight bends all the time inches away from the concrete edges.  It felt incredible, I was completely buzzing and it was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  As I approached the final bend my race objective was in sight, behind me though breathed Chewie, he took the berm whilst I attempted to hold the inside line but Chewie went by me over the top on the line and went on to take the garagebikes race your mates fastest lap time.

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After a short while recovering with a few beers I entered the last chance saloon race for all those knocked out of the earlier motos.  a mighty herd of us set out, this time with me resplendent in full orange garagebikes kit.  This race there were no beer stops so I just had to keep riding as hard as I could until I finished shattered, gasping for air but utterly exhilarated before then taking up the cowbells to cheer on the riders in the finals.  Special mention must go to all who supported the event, I personally recieved lots of shout outs (thanks to Timothy Pulleyn for doing this every lap) and of course my garagebikes mates who supported from the barriers and from within the race itself.  Of course the biggest thanks must go to Emma and all who made it happen.

I’ve tried to describe the race but Timothy Pulleyn (thebrokenline) filmed a lap from the handlebars so strap in and take a ride:

 

Here’s a fab video highlight of the event (however note the amateur nature of the riders failing to stop and enjoy their beer – shocking behaviour).

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proof that I did put some effort in

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I watch all the riders vanish into the distance

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On the charge (ramp)

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The garage bikes crew – top day out and a very handsome devil in model pose

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Remember I mentioned there were fatbikes and Werewolves

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Thanks to the following photographers for the photos on this post:

Joolze Dymond – flickr of garagebikes day out  and official photos from the event to purchase here

Stuart Petch – flickr of day here and website here

Jack Chevell – flickr of day here and website here 

 

The Year of the Snail

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Back at the start of the 2013 I was thinking about my riding and in particular how I wanted to get more out of it so that I could have more fun.  Much as I enjoyed riding, a brutal self analysis revealed that I lacked confidence, skill and to a large extent fitness so set out on my Project Snail journey trying to do something about that by getting some skills training from Ed Oxley and then just trying to ride my bike as much as I could, whether that was to and from work, grabbing an hour to do a loop somewhere or heading out further afield.  I don’t use a bike computer so I don’t know how far I’ve ridden or how often and I’m not really bothered about that but I reckon I’ve ridden around 250 days or so during 2013.

When I look back I’ve had some great times and experiences over the year riding with different people, entering a couple of events (Clif Cross and Morvelo City Cross), trying to slowly pick up the basics through some skills training, helping to put on some bike/art events, live tweeting for Morley Literature festival at the Ned Boulting / Rod Ellingworth talk, riding different bikes and buying a new road bike for starters.

The three sessions I had with Ed were amazing as he set about trying to turn me from someone who just sat on the bike, grabbed the brakes and hoped for the best to someone who had a semblance of an idea on what I was supposed to be doing (even if I couldn’t manage to do it).  There’s a long way to go before I become even vaguely competent but I’m going in the right direction and look forward to some more sessions with Ed in 2014.  You can read about my experiences with Ed here, here and here. The big issue for me though is still confidence, it’s been amazing to ride with so many fantastic people this year but as I watch them swoop, pop, hop, float and flow I realise that they view the terrain around them as a three dimensional playground that has been laid out for them to take full advantage of.  I however seem to see every rock, root and obstacle and mentally cower as my hands yet again look to grab loads of brake.  It’s frustrating in many ways but I’m not being negative, just realistic, it’s something I’ve got to work at and hopefully my skills and confidence levels will eventually start to rise.

The big thing this year for me as well as dipping a toe into some coaching was riding out with different people, discovering my local area thanks to the Garage Bikes crew in a way that has opened up a whole new world for me.  The shop and other rides have been huge highlights for me.  Other riders have also invited the Snail along for a ride which has really helped me broaden my range of riding.  Everyone that I have met and ridden with this year has, without fail, has been nothing other than pure gold, helping and encouraging me, passing on tips and knowledge and just being great people.  There are too many to name individually but if you read this many many thanks it’s been hugely appreciated.  I look forward to riding with you again in 2014 if you’ll have me along and maybe meeting some new people along the way.

I’ve looked to sum up my year of riding in all it’s various guises via the gallery below but my overall fav picture is the one at the top that was taken of me by Ed on a session I had with him.  I look at that and think blimey I actually look like I have a clue, chin is up, I’m looking ahead, elbows out, weight back a bit but in control, heels not too bad, look fairly relaxed and I’m rolling down a rocky trail.  I need to keep that picture in my head !   The other interesting thing is that I’m riding one of Ed’s bikes, the On One Codeine that he’s been testing out, a proper 29er trail bike.  I’m looking to buy my first ‘proper’ bike in the first quarter of 2014 but the choice is simply staggering – what wheel size, how much suspension, what about bar width etc etc.  No idea what I’ll end up with (and if you have any suggestions please let me know) but looking at that photo I look OK on a 29er I reckon.

So projectsnail is one year old but I’m not stopping, I’ll keep plodding slowly on looking to have as much fun as I can.  I’ll never be the best rider but I can and do have loads of fun which for me is what it’s all about.  After my last session with Ed he sent the following tweet which made me smile.  Roll on 2014, see you on the trail / road :-)

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10 Things Every Mountain Biker Should Do

 

I’m not one for lists really or come to think of it New Year’s resolutions, I just tend to bumble along trying to be a good person and enjoying myself along the way.  For those who read this blog (what do you mean you don’t read it) you’ll know that I love to be out on my bike but quite frankly I’m rubbish and lack just about everything needed to be a competent mountain biker.  I’m slowly (very slowly) improving with the help of lots of people this year but the thing is no matter how rubbish I am I just hugely enjoy being on my bike bumbling around trying my best and laughing at my incompetence.  Bikes are after all a toy and I’m just a big kid playing about, even if it does form my main form of transport into work.  Thing is I get pretty annoyed with most bike magazines and videos as I wonder who they are aiming at, certainly not me, and they often seem to encourage / promote a macho bullshit culture that is a total anathema to me and pretty much everyone I’ve come into contact with who rides.  I clicked the link to the above video with some trepidation thinking to myself, here we go another load of people flying off all sorts doing the sort of riding that I’ll never be able to get near to.  Yes there’s a bit of that in the film but it’s not about that it’s really about things that, no matter what your ability level you might be able to do and if you did would undoubtedly look back with a smile on your face.  I’m not going to stick this list up anywhere as my list is simpler – enjoy myself – but I did enjoy the ten things in it.  Cheers to @kristoffrides for bringing the video to my attention.

 

Racing Snail – Morvelo City Cross @ Piece Hall

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It’s not often you get a chance to take part in something genuinely historic but that’s what happened when I made my racing début at the Morvelo City Cross event at Piece Hall in Halifax on Saturday.  I’d been along to watch the first event of this kind which was in a slightly less salubrious venue – an old rubbish dump.  Somehow however, Morvelo and Emma Osenton had managed to stage a coup in getting permission for the second event to be staged in the Grade 1 Listed Georgian architectural wonder, Piece Hall which is shortly due to be closed for renovation work thus allowing a window for it to be overrun for one day only by a load of cyclists.   The 18th century building surrounds a huge sloping cobbled and grassed courtyard, the slope meaning that the building is two storeys at the top end but three storeys at the bottom.  The slope, cobbles and grass meant that those with a warped / clever mind could turn this space into an urban cyclocross event aka City Cross. which as I approached it on Saturday in the rain I realised with a growing feeling of terror I was about to race; my first ever race on a bike of any kind.  I did enter – and complete – the Cliff Cross event earlier in the year but this was more of an event than a race and it was a very different beast to what awaited me at Piece Hall.

As I wheeled my borrowed bike (thanks Hannah) into the venue to register there was a real assault on the senses, a veritable blizzard of tape marking out the course; cowbells and cheering; riders whizzing, grimacing and sliding around; the smell of beer, great street food and wet mud all to the accompaniment of an indie rock soundtrack that filled the courtyard being spun by resident DJ and bike designer Brant Richards.  It was some scene.

Quite how I’d manage to find myself getting a race number pinned onto by back I wasn’t really sure.  For those who’ve visited this blog before I’ve been on a bit of journey this year, my project snail journey, where I’ve been trying to tackle/face my lack of confidence and skills through some training with Ed Oxley, riding with different people and seeing what happens.  I’d got it in my mind that maybe having a go at a race would be an interesting and challenging experience and this City Cross event seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.  I wasn’t thinking that though as I watched the skilled riders in the event before me compete, I was very very apprehensive.  I was glad that I knew a few other people riding and there were plenty of the GarageBikes crew in attendance.  Shop owner and all round good guy Al Shaw who was racing with me provided wise words of encouragement along the lines of “you’re just riding round in circles with a number on your back, go at your own pace and enjoy yourself”.  One question going round in my head looking at the course was how the heck do you know where you are supposed to go, I’d not had a chance to ride round it or really look at it in any detail so I knew in a few minutes I’d just have to hit it and hope.  I was reassured by those who know that you just follow the tape !  So I wheeled my bike onto the start line which was down a cobbled side street outside of the venue.

As I glanced around me the word novice (I was racing in the second novice heat) did not spring to mind as I knew a few of the riders and novice is not what they are, they may not do much cyclocross but there were some kick ass MTBers alongside me.  My kids had kindly stencilled The Snail From Wales on my back which had seemed like a good idea the night before but I now realised I was identifiable and opening myself up to public ridicule and humiliation.  My mind was a whir of questions, am I in the right gear, am I going to crash straight away and if not how many times, would I be able to get round the course, will I be able to calm down, how am I going to ride over wet, muddy off camber cobbles, how much beer should I drink while riding etc etc.  Beep the whistle blew and we were off……

I got away cleanly, clipped in pedalled and surged (well moved vaguely steadily forward) up the slope, cameras flashing before sweeping right through the gates and into the arena which felt like going into the lions den.  I hadn’t really considered people watching before but there I was riding into an area with spectators watching, I could here cheering and cowbells clanking and music blaring as we turned left and headed uphill on cobbles before hitting the sandpit, which proved much harder to ride through than I’d have thought.  Once through it was onto the vortex, a large spiral that you made your way into the middle of through ever decreasing circles before a tight turn and then working your way back out.  Each circle you were traversing the slope up and down, primarily off camber.  I didn’t actually mind the uphill bits but the downhill bits put the fear of god into me I just thought there is no way I’m going to get off these cobbles without crashing but somehow I got out of the vortex.  Uphill again briefly before a sharp right hand turn, downhill under a scaffolding bridge then onto the mud, a couple of 180 degree turns and I’m still upright and then I’m faced with 6 or 7 steps.  I unclip, grab bike and haul myself up to find myself on the stage behind the DJ with a smoke machine billowing in my face.  I was totally unclear about what to do so I pushed the bike across the stage then saw the way off, a steep ramp (made a note in my head that next lap get back on the bike as soon as I get on the stage to make riding down the ramp easier) which I looked at and gulped.  I have a fear of pointing downhill steepily but I thought I’ve just got to go for it, stay of the brakes and see what happens.  Down the slope, still on the bike and a sharp muddy turn, off a kerb onto the cobbles again for a short sharp sprint toward the bridge which I was determined to get over up up up and over gasping for breath now down the other side, no mishaps phew and back onto the cobbles, turn right downhill to be assaulted by a crafty marksman with a water pistol, overshooting a bit turn right again and then BEER.  The novice race has a beer stop where, should you wish to accept, the lovely people of Dark Star Brewery Company hand you a cheeky beverage.  Feeling cocky at this stage I grab one and try to drink it while riding, decided after spilling a bit that that approach was a waste of good beer and that I would stop next lap (which I then did each lap generally shouting beer please as I came round the corner to which the reply was “Your wish is our command”).  Back onto the mud for a few more tight turns before off onto the cobbles for a short sharp climb up toward the sandpit.  One lap completed! 4 and half minutes of mind bending pain and exhilaration.

I knew I was well at the back by this point but really didn’t care, I had started to relax as much as I could and I just gave it my best shot.  What was great was the encouragement from the crowd, where I had been fearing ridicule all I got was support.  People who knew me shouted my name at different points of the course, others who didn’t shouted out “go on Snail”, “keep riding fella”, “good effort” “keep going” etc and I was genuinely touched by this so a huge thank you to all who watched and supported, this, the music and the beer fuelled me round.  I had no idea how long or how many laps or to be honest what on earth was going on I just kept pedalling, tried to stay upright and finish.  Eventually a marshal waved his hands as I crossed the line indicating the race was over, I simply slumped onto the bars feeling quite emotional, buried my head and gulped and gulped oxygen into my lungs.  I’d been a long long way out of my comfort zone but felt hugely proud of what I’d done and once I’d come down to earth realised I had hugely enjoyed myself.  After shovelling food from No Fishy Business down my neck I went to check the results and to my utter astonishment found I’d not finished last but came 17th out of 20.

I was then informed that as I’d not qualified for the final I could race again in an hours time with all the other people who’d not made it in a last ditch knockout.  In for a penny in for a pound.  This race was a bit different as those of us from the novices who decided to have a go found ourselves in with those from the seniors and vets who had not made it.  Lining up on that start line as darkness fell and the rain poured and looking round I just though blimey not sure I belong here.  Credit though to all the riders, they all seemed great people.  Off we went again for another dose of pain and beer.  This time I did crash but picked myself up, kept going, finished and I did pick up the lantern rouge.

I felt hugely privileged to have taken part in this event.  Slow I may be but I was bloody proud of myself and I don’t often say that.

Picture Credits

Most of the photos of me are taken on my phone by @oldstuntmonkey as I shoved my phone into his hand before the off saying see if you can get some shots.  Others have kindly been donated by Chris Crabtree (@meadowedge), Craig Walmsley (@P9ADV), Tim Royle (@whitenosugartv), Eleanor Clark (@eleanorsioux), Jon Moore (@_Jon_Moore_), Survey Partners (@surveypartners), Morvelo (@Morvelo) and of course Emma Osenton (waterrat77) without who none of this madness would have happened.

Muddy Morley Mechanical

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Mud mud glorious mud.  If you want to ride off road in Britain then you’d better get used to riding in it and not just riding in it but learning to embrace it and revel in it.  This has been a bit of a change in mindset for me as while I’ve ridden in it plenty of times I can’t think I’ve often thought “yeah mud this will be a brilliant ride out” and having not ridden anywhere else in the world I sometimes wonder if this damp rock of ours floating about in the Atlantic must be unique in it’s ability to produce the vast quantities of the slippery oozing gloopy mud.  I’d not been out on any bike for about 10 days before heading out on the garagebikes shop ride Sunday due to a mixture of a little bit of winter blues having come back from Palma and a sore shoulder that was preventing me from turning my neck to look behind me (a pretty essential movement for a cyclist).

As soon as we hit the first bit of off road I could feel myself sliding, it’s a disconcerting feeling knowing you are not in control and trying to work out how you manage that movement, I tried really hard throughout the ride to try to relax, keep my chin up look ahead,  I started to really enjoy myself and felt good while I was riding, I realised that my fitness is slowly improving and I reckon that riding in the winter should improve that even more as it’s hard work trying to push through mud.  I managed to climb ok, my lines were better and I even found myself descending with a smidge more confidence.  There were 12 of us out and all seemed to be in a good mood, enjoying themselves and encouraging others, laughing as we tried to ride up a slippery bank.  I realised over the ride to try not to fear the movement, by relaxing and concentrating on opening up my body position the bike can move and I can make subtle almost unthinking movements to compensate and keep upright.  On the last climb I was still feeling good when bang I managed to rip off the hanger so was left with no gears.  Al strapped by gears up out of the way onto my seatpost and I walked and freewheeled back to Garagebikes where fresh coffee and cake was waiting.

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I’m going to get some better mud tyres fitted to help when the bike is repaired and try to embrace the mud (next step will of course be to try and love wet roots and rocks!).  There is an alternative approach of course which was taken by one of the guys – simply buy a fat bike

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