After the last 12 months it really is a joy to be mountain biking. Road riding of one sort or another is on the up because of a variety of things: lifestyle trends, the Olympics, the sheer number of road cyclists and rain. Around this part of the world it is the latter two that are having the most impact. The more riders you see the easier it is to grasp the concept of riding on the road. Drivers are can be riders too so the more that they see us the more likely it is that they might go for the odd ride. But by far the biggest influence round here has been the rain. If anyone remembers the foot and mouth outbreak in the winter of 2000/2001 you’ll remember that mountain bikers desperate to ride opted for the road when there was no mountainbiking.
The last twelve months have been wet and we mountain bikers love a bit of mud. But when a bit becomes the norm and every day it is muddy and wet and the service bills on the bikes are increasing and all too frequent, the cost of mountain biking on the wallet and your enthusiasm becomes so great even the most anti roadie mountain bikers are opting for the reliable and low cost option of riding on the road. And long may that continue.
However, yesterday I went mountain biking: pure, dry, fast heaven! One of the great things about British weather is that it makes you appreciate just how great nice weather is. I wanted to clock up some South Downs Way miles and chose an interesting route out to The Way. The problem was that the interesting route was so “interesting” that I my plans changed and I clocked up the miles in the woods.
At first I thought that I was going to have the ride spoiled as I tried to enter Houghton Forest by the Madehurst Road. The bulldozer had been in and I lost the trail, it had been replaced by humungous tyre tracks. After following the bridle path for a while I found another route and then discovered that all the regular trails had been worked on and were passable. Well done to all of those that have done the work. I like the extra berms on the Denture descent but was a bit upset by the last one which used to be fraught with risk as the margin between speed, and getting it right, and hitting the tree was very narrow. Now it is so big that there is no chance of getting it wrong. This means that it is very, very fast. Maybe next time I should get some air off the preceding jump and hope that the berm saves me.
My Kinesis FF29 is almost 100% dialled (headset needs chaging) and I’m love the cornering with my Conti X-Kings. I was comfortable and warm with Endura MTR bib shorts, knee and arm warmers, Pearl Izumi base layer, Endura FS260 jersey and for the start of the ride a super light gilet. No baggies! Is that the roader coming through?