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.
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