Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Old School

When I started mountain biking I'd mostly go out with friends and just ride local trails. Nothing technical, nothing quick. Nothing that even came close to "training". We got muddy, wet and tired and ate Snickers bars, Haribo and jelly babies.

Somehow that concept morphed into solo road rides, energy bars and gels and a constant watch on the powermeter. They say you can't go back - but clearly, they are wrong.

A few days ago the stars aligned and Darren and I both had a spare morning. It's been so wet recently that most of our local routes are underwater - so Darren suggested a trip up to the Ridgeway. This has been in use since prehistoric times and follows a line of hills just North of where we live. Along the way there are several ancient monuments and our planned route would take us by the Uffington White Horse and Wayland's Smithy. You can't beat a bit of Bronze Age followed by a bit of Neolithic. Two of my favourite periods. Certainly in my top 10. The Ridgeway is wide and open, rutted in places but generally ridable at all times of year.

The Ridgeway has a couple of redeeming features. Firstly, it's pretty high and exposed. There are very few trees up there, which means that any wind and sun can dry the ground. Secondly, they've now banned 4x4s and motorbikes during Autumn and and Winter. Our ride up to it was a test of sloppy ground handling skills, combined with tyre selection skills. I certainly won the second (Mud X vs Racing Ralph) which gave me a slight advantage in the handling. However, once on the top the tyres were less relevant - the track was the closest I've seen to "not underwater" for a while.

Trail goes up, trail goes down. Undulating is the perfect word here, not just because it's fun to say. There were a few slidy sections of chalk and the odd puddle but nothing that led us to walk. We stopped and admired the view, we ate jelly beans (and Torq bars - old habits die hard) and chugged along past the white horse and the smithy. Both were hidden from us, as they require a diversion from the main track to get to them. Believe me though, they were there.

Near the end of our Ridgeway section Darren knew a section of woodland that would give us some variety. I posed for some staged pictures - I think my vacant distant stare is coming along nicely - before we did the last little off-road section.

I almost ride the correct line for the picture
So, 35km off-road done in two and a half hours. Time to hit the road - tarmac all the way home. With a tailwind and a touch of two-up time trialling we doubled our speed. Fifteen minutes later we were in Lambourn, and three minutes after that we were tucking into coffee and bread pudding.

Although Darren felt the need to call his stylist about the mug he'd been given.

That simply left an hour spin along the road to our respective homes. I hosed myself off, I hosed my bike off and did what any casual, social mountain biker would do.

Recovery tights.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Put me back on my bike

It's started. 2013 planning.

After the single minded focus on one event this year (the Haute Route, Alps version) I decided that I'd mix things up more and do lots of different rides. Looking back, having such a narrow range was mentally difficult. I struggled on occasion to motivate myself as the prospect of another lonely five hour training ride using the same routes I've used for many years really, really didn't appeal. It was a shame that my usual training buddies were doing other things - adventure racing, working too hard, being ill...
Mixing up events made sense - some more mountain biking, some more social rides, some more idiocy. I could still do a tough multi-day stage event - say, the Haute Route Pyrenees (HRP), but as one of a list of goals. The other items on the list would have more variety and keep things fresh.

Of course, there was another way to keep motivated for training. Another way to ensure I'd have training buddies for a big, major goal.

Get them to enter too.

People, it looks like we've got the band back together. Specifically, the BADAJAPADLEJOG band. Darren, Jon, Phill and Dave are all joining me for the highs, lows and mediocrities of the HRP. We've even added to the band as Dave's partner, Sarah, is also coming along.

Include the Dulwich crew from this year - David, John, Christoph, and maybe some others - and I won't be short of people to wheel suck.

What this should mean is more group training rides. Motivation will be better, routes will be more varied, chat will be with real humans rather than imaginary ones. I won't need to talk to the roadkill either.

Other events
In the spirit of mixing things up:

  • I really want to do 24/12 next year. Mountain bike races are much more fun that road riding. Maybe a 12 hour solo again?
  • An "easy" mountain bike holiday to somewhere that's about the people and destination rather than being a physical stretch. Costa Rica? Ecuador? Cuba? Mongolia?
  • Something on the cross bike
  • The odd sportive - I've already entered the Cheshire Cat.
  • Some social mountain bike rides, with pubs.

I think that's enough to be going on with.