So it’s not been a great summer of riding for me, mostly due to a back problem which has necessitated lots of physio and exercises to try and get me moving pain free. I seem to be slowly on the way to recovery and have been gradually easing back into riding to work but today saw the first venture off road to see how it would stand up. Of course I knew that conditions might be a tad tricky under foot with the amount of rain we’ve been having but it would have been nice if the alarm had woken me to reveal a crisp bright autumn day instead a drizzly pea souper. However we set off driving in the dark and began pedaling into Nidderdale at first light – I say light but as you can see from the photo above there was not much light knocking about, dark, dank and Wuthering Heights like.
Now one of the issues for me about bikes is the need to have some rudimentary mechanical skills to keep them in good working order and clean and this is especially true for me as I use one bike for both commuting and mountain biking and I just swap the tyres out depending on what I’m riding. The problem is that the bike gets some hammer and my cleaning and mechanical skills leave something to be desired so despite me doing some preparation the day before, as evidenced in the photo below, the front mech has not worked for about a year and I’m starting to develop chain slip.
The result of this lack of skill (and my inherent laziness of course) was that as soon as we hit the first incline that required the granny ring it became unrideable due to the chain slip which was much worse that I thought. So there is a big lesson for me here that I need to take more care of my bike, I need to learn more skills and really understand how all the parts work so that I can ensure that the bike is ready to roll every ride, no annoying little squeaks or rattles so that even if the Snail is riding the bike will not let me down. I can of course also save up some pennies and get some more bikes.
Once I was off the steep stuff I encountered some more tough conditions that created more chain slip and that was MUD ! Now if you ride in Yorkshire you are going to encounter mud but I can’t recall hitting anything quite as deep and squelchy as the stuff we attempted to negotiate today, sometimes successfully and others not although I did not lose my shoe in the gloop unlike my riding buddy.
Despite all the mud we did also find some lovely single track through the woods as well. The rain and general dampness had the muffling effect similar to snow, there was nothing you could hear apart from your breath, the squelch of the tyres and of course various squeaks and rattles from my bike !
One thing that is great about early morning riding in poor weather is that you will generally have the whole place to yourself and we didn’t see any bikes and I think were only passed by one car on the roads linking the various tracks. This peacefulness makes the rain forgettable for me but also turns the landscape into something that is quite eerie but which I find very beautiful in it’s dankness.
As well as the mechanical lessons that need to be learnt the other thing that you learn in riding in these conditions is improved bike handling skills, I’m not sure I mastered them as I slipped and slithered my way around the hillside and I did get deposited into the heather on occasion but I’m sure that I improved a bit out there today.
The final run back to the car had us grinning from ear to ear reminding ourselves that it is always good to venture out, even if you know it’s going to squelch.
Only down side to the ride was that I managed to leave my gloves on the roof of the car so a new pair of faithfuls are required !