In order for ProjectSnail to have any hope of success I’ve got to put the work in on the bike and this has proved a bit of a challenge recently as for various reasons the long suffering couple of guys that I ride with have not been around to go out. So yesterday I headed out on my own. This in itself asks a few questions, motivation, the only voice will be mine, no social element (one of the things I enjoy most about riding), picking a route. I decided from a safety perspective not to head out onto into the Dales or Pennines as thought to myself if I do crash then it could be a long time before anyone found me if I was hurt. I headed instead to a trail centre figuring that someone will find me quicker there if the worst happens – having said that the weather meant that I only saw 1 other person so I’m not sure my logic held much scrutiny.
Now I’m not really a fan of trail centres although I can’t quite put my finger on why, is it that they are man made? carved into bits of the countryside that no one else wants to use and therefore not necessarily that beautiful compared to more natural routes? is it that they are often the mtb equivalent of the M25? or perhaps because of my slowness I spend half my time having to get out of the way of the quick boys and girls? is it jealousy as I watch others seemingly effortlessly gliding around while I puff, clatter and crash my way round? Perhaps it’s a mix of all of those things but I think above all it’s the fact that they point out my inadequacies in such a glaring way that there is no escape. However the flip side is that they are perfect places to practice as they pack in a lot in small area so I need to embrace them I reckon.
An extra challenge awaited me as I got out of the car – snow which was coming down at a fare lick. I decided what the heck might as well give it a go (be a good test for the Christmas present I bought myself, a new waterproof jacket) and if I got back to the car and was snowed in then there was a pub nearby.
I’m used to cycling on my own as I commute to work most of the time but I’ve not ridden a trail centre or off road on my own before. The quietness was of course amplified by the muffling effect of the snow and the delicious noise my tyres made slicing through it – a weird sound combination of crunch and squeeze. Of course snow means wet and rocks and northshore and wet don’t go well together especially when the snail is around. The snow and misty low visibility put an amazing sheen to the ride though as it felt almost Dr Zhivago like and I could imagine the call of the wolves amongst the trees which were eerie in their snow laden stillness.
There were however to loud sounds that I could hear, both of which were in my head – FEAR as I made a hash of so much of the riding and Ed shouting Chin Up Chin Up. What was interesting is that when I did go wrong I was often able to analyse why that was thanks to Ed’s teaching which I would not have been able to do before. I did however make a fool of myself quite a lot and got frustrated with my lack of ability and inability to conquer the mental side of the fear game. However I also did some things right. When I found my eyes drifting towards my front wheel I repeated the chip up mantra and forced myself to look up and ahead more, to look where I wanted to go, especially on corners. I tried to be more active on the bike where I could and I know I was doing this as the change in position means that muscles ache in a different way and yes while I crashed on the north shore and on the rocks I also managed to ride some rocks and some northshore. I was particularly pleased when I stayed on a full section of northshore and then carried on onto the narrow section and rode it (see photo above). I would never have attempted or done this before so step forward. Whilst my incompetence is still hugely in evidence I’m trying (Ed would probably say very trying) and I finished tired but happy. I had fun, I think it was a score draw and ProjectSnail inches forward.