After 6 hours of riding and around 1200m climbing (occasionally on foot) we finished what turned into an epic ride at around 4.30pm. We gathered back at the cars in the now pouring rain and agreed it had been a tough ride with something for everyone. The first few rides I went on with MB Swindon that weren’t at a trail centre, were typically cross country rides – start at 10am and finish maybe 4 hours later having pedaled and pushed and puffed and wheezed 30-40km around some mildly hilly part of Wiltshire or South Wales. This kind of ride can become a bit tedious in my opinion and its great to break up a long ride with fun obstacles to challenge and test your abilities or your nerve. This ride delivered in abundance.
Tom lead us around 40km of woodland and Cotswold countryside linking up as many sets of steps, bomb holes and sketchy and slippery descents that he could cram in to keep us all firmly on our toes. Every mile or so there was an obstacle that many rode, some went around and most riders had a laugh at – usually at the expense of someone else!
I am sure that no-one will disagree that the ride yesterday around Nailsworth had a bit of a random feel to it. This didn’t make it any less enjoyable – but after seeing Tom Stickland’s GPX for his previous ride, we couldn’t help but feel the wrong turns were just so he could hit a 40k target for the ride! Some poetic license is being used here of course as our diversions were only minor ones – apart from the larger ones where there appeared to be no particular path or trail. “we need to get to that wall over there” “the original way down will be impassable today”. Being totally fair the diversions were mainly because we were having so much fun, usually going down a hill of some sort that we missed a gate or hidden path – and a lot of woodland looks very much like the next piece of woodland!
The descents on this ride were great fun – we even pushed back up a few to ride them again, including one that looked like a stream bed but I think was just a drainage channel. We would normally steer clear of large slippery rocks and stones – but having just ridden down a long rocky descent the site of another section was too much to pass up.
It’s possible we rode down 7 or 8 sets of steps on this ride – I lost count. None were particularly dangerous as its just a matter of pointing the bike down and letting gravity and the suspension deal with the rest. Apart from the last set that only Tom, Graham and myself rode to (the rest of the group sensibly decided that they had had enough) – this set of greasy, wet wooden steps went around a corner and all three of us had a slippery moment trying to negotiate them. If this wasn’t enough Graham spotted a drop in to the same car park – “that looks like it might be fun”. The three of us pushed up the bank and had a look – it didn’t look like much fun from the top but we weren’t going to be beaten. Finding the line without catching a pedal was going to be tricky. After much discussion and a few false starts we all did it – the last obstacle of the day can go one way or another and after a hilariously out of control descent by Tom we decided that enough was enough – we had survived unscathed and it was time to head back.
After such a great summer I had almost forgotten what it was like to slide sideways down a muddy bank, find that my brakes don’t work on wet grass, or twitch a little as my front wheel gives on a muddy corner; but I am glad that I dragged myself out for this ride. My first instinct on Sunday morning was to roll over and go back to sleep, but I realised if I bailed on a ride in September because it was a bit wet, what on earth was I going to do for the next 6 months!
The conditions weren’t actually that bad and the weather was kind to us until the very end of the ride where Mother Nature tried to give us some not so subtle hints to clear off home and have some a shower!
I was discussing with a friend on Saturday night different forms of exercise and how I could probably work my body as much in a gym for an hour as I do committing most of a day to a mountain bike ride. I set out 3 years ago to get a bike and get fit – but getting fitter and burning calories has become a secondary benefit of this exercise.
Now I ride my bike for the scenery, fun, social and the memories.
Photos – mostly courtesy of Tom Stickland / MB Swindon – pictures of other people are available (here) but this is my blog :o)