After spending a long week working in London, I generally need a day (or at least a morning) of recuperation on my sofa watching football. Once this necessary step is complete, I’m open to suggestions. This time, it was to spend Sunday afternoon mountain biking around Barden Fell in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. The weather in the morning was sunny and reasonably warm for February.
By the time I got to our start point in Skipton, I was running a little late (hadn’t been on the bike for a while and needed a new inner tube and camelbak). So once we set off we had about a 5 mile start on road before hitting the muddy stuff. It wasn’t too bad a warm up (i.e. it wasn’t a solid 5 miles on road up a steep hill), although the weather had rapidly changed from brilliant sunshine to cloudy and very light rain.
Once off road the real work started. A punishing climb into the clouds was a quick reminder of why the only way to get fit for biking is by spending hours in the saddle. At this point I was reminded how annoying it is to see someone powering ahead of you up the hill, seemingly oblivious to any incline. It’s not fair.
The terrain varied from wet, rock-strewn paths to boggy marshland. But it was delightful. The visibility (as you can probably see from the photos) was not exactly perfect, and there were numerous spectacular falls and endos into the mud. I’ve never come across mud that looked so solid but was so amazingly soft. I suppose almost year-round rain has that effect on the peaty ground.
One of the guys had just bought a brand new Marin Wolf Ridge full suspension bike and was certainly demonstrating that these things are built for speed. Even with clear visibility I’d have struggled to seen him up ahead…
The thing with biking on terrain like this, on a wet day, in the cold, on the moors, blasting down a hill, is that all the worries and stresses of normal life disappear for that time. All your brain thinks about is avoiding that dreaded rut ahead, pushing a little bit harder, grinding up that hill. For escapism, you can’t do much better than that. And it’s a shared experience, so the guys you’re with are experiencing the same thing.
So to all those city folk who’ve gone out and got drunk, spent the early hours dancing around their handbags in a smoke filled nightclub, spend the next day vomiting into the toilet and say they’ve had a great weekend… You wish!