3, that’s the magic number

Now where did I leave that camera?
Now where did I leave that camera?

My mini guiding business had its second outing today and for the second time I had 3 riders. Considering the time of the year, weather, mud etc and the fact that my little corner of Wiltshire is not exactly a MTB mecca, I am pleased and I think it bodes well for the brighter and drier months ahead.

We're on a byway to Hell
We’re on a byway to Hell

Actually, the smaller groups get me used to doing things right without an over-sized group to manage. Though I have led much larger groups before for MB Swindon, there is something a little more stressful about doing it when taking someone’s money. So extra care is being taken to get it right.

I’m having to give some thought to a refund policy due to some cancellations and I’m even thinking about a loyalty scheme!

This way and that way
This way and that way

We were treated to ‘no rain’ today and relatively mild conditions, which meant I set off in a tee shirt! It got cold once we stopped for a tea/cake break in Avebury hence the jacket in the pictures.

We've come a long long way together
We’ve come a long long way together

About 25km and 300m of elevation was just right for this beginners ride and it was great to see a rider returning for his second ride with me and pushing himself (and his bike at times) a little further on this outing.

Its behind you!
Its behind you!

I should remember to take more photos as most of these were taken around the Cherhill Monument and there were plenty of other places that would have made for some interesting shots.

As the weather gets better, I plan on putting some longer rides on in Wiltshire and I have some plans to to host a ride or two in Wales soon too.

Cherhill Monument, Wiltshire
Cherhill Monument, Wiltshire

Its feel great getting people motivated and cycling on the hills and I look forward to doing much more of this as the year goes on….

So now, not De La Soul as the title suggests, cos i couldn’t find a decent video, but Beastie Boys – 3 MCs and 1 DJ

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Does this mean I’m weird?

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The “selfie”, its not weird is it?

Everyone does it now, don’t they?

In fact I think its almost more weird to ask someone to take a photo of you. But its not just that, its our obsession with taking photos of our stuff!

  • Look at my clean bike!
  • Look at my dirty bike!
  • Look at my bike by this tree!
  • Look at me and my bike at the top of this climb!

I’ve blogged on this subject before so I wont go on, I just wanted to point out that today I spent about 20 mins and took about 400 photos of the same patch of water trying to steady my GoPro while it was swinging on a piece of string dangled off a bridge!

These were the results…

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It wasn’t really worth it was it? Still I got out and got muddy and took a selfie and a photo of a muddy bike…

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The end.

Hang on, let me explain…

I know I profess to be a mountain biker but you do see me on something different from time to time, so I thought I’d so a little post about me and my flirtations with the curly bars.

Firstly let me put this out there LOUD and CLEAR – I hate riding on the road!

It’s my least favourite place to ride and I just hope I am a more considerate driver than most of the drivers that seem to pass me on my local roads.  So why do I ride such a bike?

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So this is a cyclocross (or CX) or gravel bike, not a road bike. That means I can (and do) ride it in places that are not suitable for your average road bike.

Someone told me a road bike would be good for fitness and winter riding. I’m not sure I ever really believed that but I first got interested in something like this when I saw pictures of bikes being ridden on the Tour Divide. Ok they are not cyclocross bikes, they are adventure bikes, rigid 29ers and basically sturdy mile munching cart horses. I liked the idea of this and as I explored and Googled around the topic I started to come across what I considered to be cool looking bikes with drop / curly bars but in muddy and dusty places.  I was hooked!

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So now what?

Well I often get the cyclocross bike out when I want a quick blast and don’t want to get too dirty, so I take in a few quite roads, have an urban explore and hit some tracks.  Occasionally I go full off road and take it up the local hill, but mostly its road and gravel tracks.

I really honestly don’t enjoy the road bits. I’m not against the concept of road riding and I actually enjoy the speed and covering the distance – but I really hate being buzzed by inconsiderate motorists. Its pretty scary when a car passes within 2 feet of you at 40 miles an hour!  But its a means to an end sometimes.

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Connecting up some trail and gravel tracks with road is a necessity around where I live and is certainly easier on a cyclocross bike that a mountain bike.

But why the cyclocross bike? What’s so good about riding a cyclocross bike? Why not just ride your mountain bike?

  • For starters it gets me off the road a little quicker! Making light work of the road sections.
  • I don’t take a pack, travel light which is refreshing and simplifies my ride.
  • It makes you very aware of where your wheels are going – line choice becomes very important when your wheel is only an inch wide instead of 2-3 inches!
  • The bike is not forgiving off road so I think improves your bike handling skills
  • Variety is the spice of life isn’t it?

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Britain’s Favourite Walks

NW7
Snowdonia

You watched it. I watched it. We all watched it.

You didn’t?  What? This has to have been one of the best things on TV so far this year – maybe in a long time (for me).

“From one end of the country to the other, from the mountains to the sea – we’ve pretty much covered every bit of Britain that there is for hikers to explore.”
– Ore Oduba
It was a two-and-a-half-hour special on ITV and was a countdown of Britain’s favourite 100 walks – featuring all your favourite mountains and coastal paths.
Based on the results of the largest survey ever conducted into the UK’s hiking habits, the top 100 have been voted for by more than 8,000 walking enthusiasts. You can watch it on the ITV Hub here if you missed it –  https://www.itv.com/hub/britains-favourite-walks-top-100/2a5330a0001
“This could be your next big adventure – you’re going to be blown away.” – Julia Bradbury
All the walks (slash hikes) are available on the Ordnance Survey website and downloadable to subscribers.

https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getoutside/itvs-britains-100-favourite-walks/

Why am I talking about this? Well I’ve taken my bike to a few of these places as well as walked a few too. But this morning I’ve seen so many bike forums and Facebook pages flooded with requests like “Can you ride on Helvellyn?” and its great. Bikers, hikers and sofa sitters up and down the country probably broke the OS website last night looking up routes to explore.

But before you all head off to Glencoe, Stanage Edge, Snowdon, the Lake District etc just remember that not all walkers paths can be ridden both practically and legally. Snowdon has set times for mountain bikers – check before you go.

Check the OS map for bridleways and byways and not footpaths! Or hire a guide!

Walna Scar Road Shuttle Drop Off
Walna Scar Road

Ask me even!  Or check out some of the published guide books on mountain biking on the Lakes, Peaks or Snowdonia for instance or online lists on MBR for example.

http://www.mbr.co.uk/news/20-best-mountain-bike-trails-uk-322684

There’s a reason why us mountain bikers havent been to Malham Cove and Gordale Scar – its simple not possible by bike due to the sheer cliffs and the footpath only access.

Suiting up after our dip in Windermere
Lake Windermere

Make these locations absolutley part of your plans but PLEASE check before you go taking a bike.

“Inside” by Jamie Flanagan

Reeves & Swayze In 'Point Break'
“its that place where your lose yourself and find yourself”

I’ve asked a few friends and followers to submit some content as “guest” blogs and Jamie Flanagan is the first up.  I’ve met Jamie a few times on uplifts at Bike Park Wales, we share a love of 90s rock that many wont even have heard of and he likes to take pictures of car parks.

However, he is a downhill shredder, top bloke and I should ride more often with him.  Anyway, this is his blog not mine today so have a read below.  Over to you buddy…

This article has been written before and I’d think there are close parallels in surfing and climbing amongst others but they are what they are. So I’d like to talk to you about something that drives a lot of my riding – that feeling of being ‘inside’.

I was first there many years ago on a trail just up above Peaslake called Silent Treatment on my first real mountain bike with the guy who started MTB for me. I was back in the same place only a couple of years ago riding abroad down a never ending loam filled natural corkscrew rollercoaster on a single pivot sledge hammer of a bike. Lastly there is a wood in Shropshire that we rode in spring of last year that I will always remember.

In all the hours of over twenty years of riding, these are the stand out memories. The bikes come and go as do those with whom I ride, but there were a few common feelings to all of those runs above. Firstly there is silence – no noise from the outside world not even those of tires in dirt. Secondly, I don’t feel a thing whilst in this place – I’m not breathing hard, no aches or pain even at the end of a hard-charging day. Lastly, it all comes together as the bike and I seem to blend together with the track.

There are also circumstances that seem to bring on the feeling – sunshine helps for sure, companions can be key and conditions for some speed stand out for me. You don’t need a £7K bike or a foreign holiday however. Lastly, the knowledge of that run being inside only comes later after the day is done, sometimes long after.

I’ve no idea when I will be back here, but the possibility keeps me fascinated so I’ll keep trying to get back ‘in’. Maybe inside is a gift you have to earn but won’t necessarily receive. It can’t be bought, trained for, planned, booked or even anticipated. As a result, inside slips through my fingers like smoke.

This is me and you may very well be entirely different, but I’d be delighted if some of you know what I am trying to say. To those of you that do, I need add nothing. To those that don’t I am sorry to admit I can’t help either as I know no definite recipe. In many respects, none of the above really matters as long as you’re having fun. Each to their own, but for myself I’m fascinated and can’t stop chasing inside down thin lines of dirt in the woods.

https://www.instagram.com/thatwilddirtyflanimal/