Local trails and leading rides

Wow! Has it really been 2 months since I posted to my blog?  I need to pull my finger out!

MTB Saddles

Last weekend I lead another ride for MB Swindon. The recent ride to Blaenavon has been one of my favourite trips in a while but this one was kinda cool as it incorporated some new sections of local trail. I wrote up a “ride report” but with a bit of a difference as I wanted to explain a little of what it feels like to plan and lead a ride.

I called the ride Calne-Tiki

It was about 9.30am, and I was early as usual waiting at the Divine Cafe for the rest to arrive. I only live a 5 minute pedal away but I get a little anxious the morning of ride that I have “designed” for the club and today was no exception. I wasn’t feeling particularly fit having not properly ridden the bike for about 3 weeks and was shaking off a little cold.

Calne-Tiki was going to introduce the visitors to new bits of trail, bridleways and a new descent that even I hadn’t ridden (it was part of the plan for the last few weeks, but I had only walked it).  30km of riding with around 450m of climbing was going to push my slightly out of sorts body today, and the added pressure of leading a dozen or so eager riders was going to make it an interesting ride.

The area around Calne doesn’t have a lot of elevation but it does have some interesting bits, and the challenge as with any ride is creating an interesting way to link them together. I have lead half a dozen or so rides around Cherhill for MB Swindon and my routine for planning is typically the same each time.


It starts with one or two sections of single track or a descent I want to incorporate and then choosing a suitable start point or a mid ride stop.  Over the next few days or weeks I will spend a few hours on www.bikehike.co.uk working out how to link them together, adding some more familiar bits in and riding a recce or two to make sure that any new linking sections are permissible and the familiar ones passable. After changing the route half a dozen times, I will eventually make a
final decision and create a map for myself but keep some diversions and alternatives up my sleeve for closer to the time.

Rain or any other sudden change in seasonal weather can see a firm bridleway turn into a bog or nice piece single track overgrown with 5 foot high nettles. Timing is everything, and the lapsed time between volunteering for and actually leading the ride can force changes, even at the last minute. Some changes in the weather can improve conditions and therefore create new opportunities for the ride.

The week before sees me spending a little more time on BikeHike and Garmin Connect finalising the route and checking timing and distance. With riders travelling perhaps an hour or so and getting up early on a Sunday morning to ride somewhere new and hopefully exciting, I feel a certain amount of responsibility to make sure everyone has a good time
and is catered for.

A good route in my opinion is one that provides a rider with the chance to test as much of their mountain bike skills as they can and if possible I will make sure there is a bit of everything on the ride. Singletrack, a leg burning climb and some fun descents make for a good ride and providing there are some stories to tell and most people are smiling I am happy.

Throughout the ride I am both trying to enjoy myself and keep an eye on the rest of the group. Keeping everyone together and briefing them on upcoming hazards is a critical role for the ride leader and can become stressful if you let it.

Calne-Tiki was a success. All the ingredients were there: some climbs, a number of fun and challenging descents, a little bit of singletrack and just the right amount of mud and puddles – we even had some mild October weather and sunshine, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

I have to thank the 11 that turned up and made the ride enjoyable and the success that it was. The thanks and positive feedback at the end of a ride makes it worthwhile and instantly gets me thinking about new routes and checking the calendar for available slots.

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