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 🙂