bike

It costs how much!? I could buy a car for that!

It costs how much!? I could buy a car for that!

The recent “it costs how much?” bunfight over Fox Suspension’s new Live Valve has got me thinking about the costs of mountain biking. How much do you need to spend to have fun?

Seriously, how much?

Pivot Cycles have just released a mountain bike that, at full retail, costs over $11,000.

I’m going to let that sink in for a moment…

$11,000 for a push bike

…yes, for a push bike. Now, there have been very expensive bikes before. My roadie chums will probably be able to point to half a dozen or so such “super machines” whose costs cause you to boggle. Equally, there have been articles about for a while about “the most incredible superbike” but they’re usually made by Porsche or Givenchy or another company that has no heritage in bikes. They’re not designed to be ridden, they’re designed to be photographed and have articles written about them.

The Pivot is different. Pivot have been in mountain biking for a long time, they have a reputation and caché within the community. This bike has, undoubtedly, been designed to be ridden. Apparently, it rides quite well too. It does, though, cost more than my car.

So, the question then becomes:

Do I need to buy a bike that costs a small fortune to go riding?

Do I heck!

Me and my stumpy: best of friends

Me and my stumpy: best of friends

You really don’t. I always dread the question “was it expensive?” because that depends entirely on your definition of expensive. Was my work bike expensive? Well, if you think that a few hundred quid is a lot of money, then yes it was expensive. On the other hand, if I need a bike where the suspension, brakes, gears and everything else work, day in and day out and will handle pretty much whatever I throw at them then it was a bargain. Even more so when I factor in that it’s within its comfort zone long after I’m out of mine.

But, if I weren’t doing this for a living, I probably wouldn’t need it.

It’s worth noting that the previous bike I rode for a decade cost a quarter of the retail price of this one. I was happy and quick enough on it. Yes, things got a bit hairy when I took it into big mountains, but most of the time, it was a lot of fun. I’m still riding the same local trails I rode on that hardtail, and still enjoying them.

Happy man, dirty bike

Happy man, dirty bike

Let’s go back in time

My first mountain bike, the one that bit me with the bug back in the nineties cost about £200. It had 18 whole gears and rim brakes that didn’t work in the rain. It had a threaded headset that needed constant tightening with a spanner I didn’t own. It had tiny wheels and tyres with virtually no traction. And it had no suspension. It was great, and I had a great time riding it. I rode it for years and years until it finally wore out. At no point did I feel that I needed a “better” bike to have fun.

By modern standards, it was rubbish. But that didn’t stop me having an absolute blast on it.

When I returned to riding, I lived in Glasgow. Technology had advanced hugely and changed things. My next bike cost £600. Which I thought was an astronomical sum of money. It was, compared to my old Raleigh, incredible. It enabled me to tackle rougher terrain with a suspension fork. It stopped in the wet (a big deal in the West of Scotland) because of disc brakes. It was great. I had a cracking time pushing my boundaries and the limits of what fear would let me ride.

And then it got stolen.

Back to the future, the costs of innovation

That brings me to the bike I mentioned earlier, the one that’s still in the shed, the one on which I’ve been for adventures all over the country. The one on which I set some Strava PRs that my shiny full bouncer can’t match. The one that I commuted on for years. The one I’m still very fond of.

Snow day

Snow day

It’s also the one that, after years of abuse, I put out to pasture a few years back.

Spending a bunch of money will get you an amazing bike. It’ll get you a bike that is lightning quick, or unruffled in any situation. It’ll get you one with awesome wheels or buttery-soft suspension. It’ll get you a bike that people will keep stopping you to talk about. There is much to be said for the advantages of most of those things.

Is it necessary to get out and ride? Nah.

In fact, sometimes, it’s counter-productive. Recently, the rear shock on my Stumpy exploded (literally, the oil that makes it work squirted out over my feet and the bike) while I was on my way to meet a client. Yes, I could render it so I could do the ride and get home, but fixing it properly was beyond my ken. So, off it went by courier to a service centre where people who know about the inner workings of these things set about making it work again.

Workstand

Workstand

At that point I was hankering after the cheap simplicity of my old hardtail.

Andy, answer the question! What do I actually need?

What you really need is a bike with wheels that go round, gears that make it easier/harder to turn the peals and brakes that stop the wheels going round. The next step is a suspension fork to make things a little more comfortable, but that’s what you really need to get out and ride.

That’s it. Yes, full suspension makes life easier and more comfortable, a dropper seatpost will change the way you ride, a carbon frame will make the bike much lighter and a wider range of gears will help you get up hills. But you can have a lot of fun riding your bike without spending a fortune.

Come out with me and explore and I’ll show you how.

Posted by BackPedalling Andy in kit, Thoughts, 0 comments
Why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to riding

Why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to riding

I spend a lot (my friends might say too much) time thinking about, plotting and planning routes for rides. I want maximum killer, minimum filler from my riding. I want the highest density of quality riding because enjoyment is really important to me.

Not everyone thinks that way

Recently, I went out for a ride with a new group. I do this from time to time. It’s nice to meet new people, to experience different ways of riding and different dynamics. Cynically, it reduces the chances of work stymying my social riding if I have more options to choose from. The real reason, is that I’m on the lookout for quality new trails. I’ve lived here for well over a decade now, but there must be trails I don’t know about, bridleways I’d dismissed that are amazing and ways of linking up the good bits that I hadn’t thought of.

Riding quality trails is what gets me out of the door.

It didn’t quite turn out like that.

We rode for just over 40km. About 20 of that was entirely new to me. I encountered not one yard of new singletrack. That’s right: zero. Three hours’ riding and did not ride a single bit of new trail that I have a burning desire to ride again. There were a lot of what I’d call “transition trails” that is bits of riding you do in order to get to the good bits.

I found that odd. I found it downright baffling, I wondered what they were getting out of their three hours’ riding.

Quality does not equal suffering

Mountain biking at any serious level requires a certain amount of physical fitness. Fitness comes from time in the saddle and miles under the wheels. The more of it you do, the fitter you get and the easier it all gets. This is sometimes called “training”.

There is a ride logging app called Strava. Strava was designed with our road cousins in mind, therefore you can find out your “suffer score” for any given ride. This suggests that suffering is a good thing. I know people who go out for training rides where they get their heads down and grind out the miles on farm tracks and roads in the name of training.

Maybe that’s what was happening?

I’ve never understood that. Since my last race in 2012, I haven’t been on a single “training ride”. Not once have I gone for a ride where the point was to exercise in order to get fitter. I’ve never felt the need.

I’m a firm believer that riding should be enjoyed rather than endured. With limited time on the bike, my focus is on having fun and riding trails I enjoy.

Yes, I’ve done long rides. I’ve come home from rides absolutely toasted, with nothing in the tank. But the point was that I’d enjoyed the riding (even if, in some cases it was firmly type 2 fun). I was knackered because we’d done a bunch of quality trails, or because we’d been pushing ourselves on those trails.

I’m not sold on the need to ride dull trails in order to get fit. Why not ride fun ones?

The importance of quality riding

Even as a professional mountain bike leader, my time in the saddle is limited. Therefore, I want the maximum bang for my buck when I go out. I want to pack as much enjoyment into that 2-3 hours I’ve got before I need to be home.

What do I mean by quality riding? Well, it basically boils down to two things:

Is it kinaesthetically engaging?

Is it aesthetically engaging?

Mountain biking differs from road cycling in that it’s not…ummm… on tarmac. This opens up the opportunity for a kinaesthetic experience, one where you are moving around on the bike, reacting to the terrain under your wheels. I want to be riding bends and corners, I want to be riding over humps and hollows, I want to be encountering roots, I want opportunities for my wheels to get of the ground, I want to be able to do this at speed.

That’s what I mean by kinaesthetic: riding that engages my body.

Mountain biking also offers the chance to go places with jaw-dropping scenery. Whether it’s high mountains, or bluebell woods. Whether it’s clear chalk streams or circling birds of prey. Even if it’s seeing deer and hares in the fields, I want a feast for the eyes.

In an ideal world, I want both at the same time.

All the time. I want to come home with the burning desire to tell someone all about the amazing time I’ve had on my bike. With a desire to do it again. Right now.

If I spend a few hours doing that, I can guarantee I’ll come home having had a proper workout for the whole body. If I keep doing it, I’ll get fit. But I’ll want to keep doing it.

Investing in finding quality trails: the real hard work

In that ideal world I’ll be riding quality trails right from my door. Even more ideally, it’ll be engaging singletrack (paths about a bike’s width across).

But that’s not realistic.

So, I want to plan a route that has the highest density of the fun stuff. That’s where the hard work begins. I’ve talked in the past about my trailfinding adventures. I’ve talked at length about the time spent with maps on the floor, or in front of a screen sniffing out quality riding. I’ve also talked at length about the rides where I went for miles in order to see whether one bit of trail was worth riding. I might also have mentioned the emotional rollercoaster of that bit of trail being brilliant or un-rideable and of having to go back to the drawing board as a vital link in the chain is broken.

Secretly, I love it. But it is hard work, and it doesn’t always pay off in the short term. It’s very much a case of delayed gratification. The results are worth it in the long term as I’ve built up a mental and physical map of all the great trails and paths and how to stitch them together into good rides.

Maybe this is too much work for people who just want to get out and ride? Maybe they just don’t think to look in the trees over there, or down that bridleway? Maybe they don’t know that, just around the corner there is quality riding. Maybe that’s what’s happening here?

Why is this quality important?

Life is too short for boring riding.

That’s why. I ride to enjoy myself and I’m not enjoying myself if I’m bored. Simple really. I put the time and effort into finding quality riding today, so that I can enjoy my riding in perpetuity (or something like it).

That’s why I put so much time and effort into the details of route planning for BackPedalling: because I want everyone to get a taste of great riding. For the Explore rides, it’s about sniffing out top-class singletrack in the South Downs. It’s about finding those snippets of great trails hidden away in the woods and lanes.

I’m a firm believer that there is no excuse for a boring ride: so, I put as much thought into the Discover rides as the explore ones. After all, if you don’t enjoy your first experience, why would you ever do it again? Just because they are technical doesn’t mean they have to be dull, so I seek out tracks and trails that roll well, flatter the rider and provide brilliant views.

So, go out there an find some quality trails. I promise it’s worth it.

If you want to know where to start looking join us on a Discovery ride.

If you’re more interested in finding new trails then join us for an Explore ride.

Maybe you would prefer something designed especially for your needs instead?

Posted by BackPedalling Andy in Thoughts, 0 comments
Yoga for Cycling: 3rd February 2018

Yoga for Cycling: 3rd February 2018

Do not be fooled by the curly handlebars: this yoga session is perfect for mountain bikers. 

I’ve worked with Lorna for over a decade and I can personally vouch for the positive impact of yoga on my posture, physique and recovery from injury. I definitely recommend this as a way of checking out whether yoga can do the same for you.

The number of occasions where I’ve turned up for a ride and heard everyone muttering and grumbling about low-level injuries and bits that don’t work is beyond counting. It really doesn’t have to be that way.

Go on, give it a go. You might like it.

Posted by BackPedalling Andy in Uncategorised, 0 comments
You’re doing it wrong!

You’re doing it wrong!

It seems that everyone on the internet is telling everyone else that they are doing it wrong. Step back from that feeling and love the fact they’re doing it at all

I was out for a walk at the weekend. The weather was nice, my bike was in the stand waiting for a component delivery so I decided to embrace a slower way to experience the countryside.

Near my house there is a bridleway that is popular with all kinds of users: walkers, dog walkers, families, cyclists and equestrians. At the weekend this lane can be fairly slow going with all the people on it. It can become boggy through the winter but it’s definitely the best way to get from our house to the countryside. Which is why I was there.

As I approached it I saw a chap and his son out for a bike ride. For a potentially muddy uphill lane, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an ill-equipped pair. Son was on a BMX that didn’t really fit and had small block urban tyres. Son was also off and pushing before he even got to the mud because it was too much hard work to get the pedals to turn without spinning the tyres. If anything, dad had made an even odder choice: what appeared to be a flat-bar carbon road bike (from a popular Italian brand in their signature blue). This was complemented by skinny-skinny tyres and, most bizarre of all, only a single gear. What on earth was he thinking?

It seemed that what he was thinking was that attempting to unclip from your pedals whilst looking over your shoulder will lead to you landing unceremoniously in the bushes.

You’re doing it wrong

This is the point where I caught them up.

Dad trying not to fall in the undergrowth. Son pushing his bike whilst trying to catch up. Son complaining that it would be quicker to walk. Dad trying to persuade him that it wouldn’t be if he pedalled faster.

It would be easy for me to adopt the superior attitude of the experienced mountain biker and sneer at the roadie being hoisted on his own petard.

Except that both of them appeared to be having fun.

 

These are not the gents I am talking about

These are not the gents I am talking about

They were both out in the countryside “enjoying” each other’s company. It didn’t really matter that their bikes were utterly unsuitable for what they were doing: they were spending time together, in the open air, getting some exercise. They even seemed to be enjoying their argument.

So I left them to it and went for my walk.

Watching them struggle and flail in the mud got me thinking though. It’s very easy to look at someone else and say they are doing it wrong.

The other way!

That way. I think

That way. I think

I think a lot about my local trails. Too much, perhaps. I think about how best to stitch the best bits together to make the best rides. Partly for clients but also to maximise my own enjoyment out on the bike. It’s a thing I do.

I often see people out riding those trails the “wrong” way. There’s a very strong part of me that wants to stop and ask them if they’ve considered riding the other way: it’s much more fun. And then you can link it to that trail, which brings you out…

Another, luckily stronger, part of me reminds me that it’s their ride and they can do whatever they want. After all people would probably look at some of the bits I love riding and think I was bonkers. So I smile, say hello and wish them the best of luck with their ride.

It just shows that I need to think less about some things, sometimes.

Live and let ride

Part of my job is to help people enjoy their riding more, to give them confidence. Not to tell them they are wrong: just highlight ways they could get more out of it. One of the ways I do this is to start to unpick long-held beliefs about the right way to go about things. Another is to suggest that their bike may not be set up quite right.

It can be a difficult transition. I know that when I have flaws in my technique questioned I’m pretty resistant. It can be hard to let go of things that I’ve been doing for years and embrace a new way of doing things. Eventually, though I can see that the new ways work better than the old ones, but it can take a long time before it becomes normal.

When it does take root, it can make an enormous improvement to confidence and enjoyment. It can make a huge difference to how easy some things feel. But it takes time and energy to make it stick.

Another part of my job is knowing when this advice will be positively received, and knowing when just shutting up and riding will allow a client to have more fun.

Damascene revelations

increasingly, I am coming to the conclusion that people being out riding at all is more important than them doing it right.

It still pains me to see people suffering with their saddles too low, or sitting down as they ride through obstacles, or riding a bike that’s too small/big for them. I can, now, let it lie and just rejoice in them having fun on two wheels. 

I can watch them having fun and just accept it. Not fixate on how they are doing it wrong.

So, my lesson for this week is simple: just get out and ride. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it right or wrong if you’re enjoying it.

In fact, if you’re enjoying it, you’re probably doing it right. Doing it better can make it more enjoyable, but only when you’re ready for it.

And finally

Son was right though: it was quicker to walk. It took them about fifteen minutes to catch me up.

QE Park mud covered
Posted by BackPedalling Andy in Thoughts, Uncategorised, 0 comments
New year, new biking: introducing Rusty Rides

New year, new biking: introducing Rusty Rides

So, the New year has arrived and you’ve decided it’s time for a new you. There is an alternative to the gym that gets you outside and having fun.
Maybe you got a new mountain bike for Christmas, you fancy riding it somewhere nice but have no idea where to start.

Now is the season of resolutions. Whether you want to raise your pulse or a smile, we’ve got you covered.

Whatever your reason for deciding to get on a bike in January, Backpedalling’s rusty rides are for you. It’s all about having fun riding your bike so that you want to do it again.

We’ll be out for an hour or so at a relaxed pace, taking in a mixture of trails and quiet roads. The ups are fairly gentle but will get your pulse going. The downs will have you freewheeling and grinning.

Not only that but we’ll finish at a café so you can sit down, chat and refuel if you fancy. If there’s a more enjoyable way of getting a little exercise, I haven’t found it yet.

To find out when we’re riding click below:

RUSTY RIDE times  

Posted by BackPedalling Andy in Uncategorised, 0 comments
Road trip like the good old days

Road trip like the good old days

When is a road trip not a road trip?

Is it still a road trip when you do it by rail?

Virgin bike rack

Virgin bike rack

I have no idea.

However, the fact remains that I’m on my way home from a road/rail trip to Scotland. Diaries aligned, opportunities arose and I managed to blag three days of bike-based fun north of the border.

A highly compressed timeframe

In the “good old days” when no-one had any responsibilities this would have been the excuse for riding dawn to dusk (which isn’t very long in Edinburgh in November) in search of trails, “one last run” in the gloaming before heading home for a massive pile of food and some beers sharing tails of close shaves and massively-exaggerated gnarliness.

Now, people all have commitments to work and, more importantly, small people so riding time is compressed. So it was that I set out with Ross for a ride that as to last no longer than the window of opportunity afforded by in-law babysitting. Oh, and the car had gone to a hen-do so we were riding from the door.

Initial plans to hit the Pentlands were rapidly scotched by the time taken to ride there. Instead we planned to hit some “probably-maybe” spots that we’d scoped within the city. We’d ride over along the disused railway, a couple of parks and the Water of Leith. We had no idea what we were going to find but we were going to ride for about three and a half hours.

In some ways it was like the rides I used to do when I was back at school: get out in the evening, hit a few bits of trail and then head home for a late tea (or late for tea).

It was a great crack. For much of the journey we threaded our way through the city as though it wasn’t there. The autumn leaves and the sensation of having snuck out for a ride made for a feeling of escape. After about five minutes I had no idea where I was. It was great. Eventually we arrived at our chosen spot and set about trying to find something worth riding in the old golf course (bless Scotland’s enlightened access laws). A few bits and pieces were dispatched with a degree of “well, it’s alright” before I spotted a likely looking bit of path and dropped in.

Braid Hills panorama

Braid Hills panorama

You win some, you lose some

After the initial roll-in I was faced with a choice between the high line which was quite churned & off-camber and the low line a slightly incised path. I chose the low road. I’ve made better choices. The path ran into a gorse funnel that quickly became narrower than my bike and I ground to a prickly halt. Ross bombed past, laughing at me.

Around the corner I heard the scrape of a back tyre locking up and more giggling.

So I lifted the bike up and dropped in again. When I got to the corner I saw the issue. A sudden left-hand corner on a narrow trail with a basket of gorse to catch you. I could see Ross’ tyre scrape. I got round it and plunged into the gully path below. This turned quickly into a series of rock-rolls and loose corners. It wasn’t particularly long, or particularly steep but it was a tremendous blast for the forty-five seconds it took to get down. There were grins all round. It was all the more sweet for never having left the city. This was right under people’s noses.

Happy campers

Happy campers

We scoped around, played and tried a few things that didn’t work. Then we found another likely-looking line from the top of the hill. It was steep enough that I had a quick stroll down before committing. It was steep, loose and really quite twisty. I wasn’t entirely sure it would go. Only one way to find out though so I dropped in. It was a little loose on the way down and on at least one occasion I could feel my back wheel lift off the ground, then I had to tripod around a hairpin with my foot on the ground to make sure I didn’t disappear into yet more gorse. By the time I got to the bottom, I still wasn’t sure it would go. That didn’t stop the grins.

More happy camping

More happy camping

A look at the watch revealed there was time for one last run before turning for home. So we opted for another run of the loose rocky descent. This time it was nailed flat-out from the top, choosing better lines, hitting corners faster and skittering across the loose rocks. The fist-pump at the bottom was only semi-ironic. In Hampshire, this bit of trail would something you’d build a ride around. In the proper hills outside Edinburgh it would be unremarkable. Right here and right now, it was trail gold.

Necessity is the mother of invention

It was also time to ride home to feed tired legs and, probably, tired children. All the way home we chatted away. We’d had just under four hours, and we’d managed to find genuinely good riding within the city bypass. There was also the feeling that a more concerted perusal of the map would probably reveal more.

Lunch was despatched while chewing over the ride and pondering how to do it better next time. Edinburgh may be blessed with considerable gradient but we spent all of about twenty minutes planning the ride and still found something worthwhile.

It goes to show that, with a little thought and imagination, worthwhile riding can probably be found in most places. You’ll be surprised by how good some of it is, but you will have to look in some odd places.

So the message of this story is: get out and ride. All time in the saddle is better than none.

 

More to come on the rest of the trip

Posted by BackPedalling Andy in Rides, 0 comments
Pushing the boundaries, not the bike

Pushing the boundaries, not the bike

And now for something completely different

After my tour of the singletrack highlights of the city of Edinburgh on Saturday I was in Glasgow on Monday. This time I was hooking up with an old colleague, Andy (just to be confusing), for a trip to Glentress. This, most iconic of trail centres, would be a very different experience. Where Saturday was about finding things that were unexpected, this was all about having a blast on purpose-built mountain bike trails. I was really looking forward to it.

Last time I was at the Peebles trail centre, was maybe six or seven years ago on a 100mm travel hardtail with 1.8” tyres. I recall the red route being a little hairy in places, mostly due to our introduction to braking holes in the trail, but otherwise a lot of fun. On an earlier visit I’d underestimated a tabletop on the Spooky Wood descent and ended up with my scaphoid in plaster.

I was curious what the trails would feel like all these years later with more bike and more experience under me. I was keen not to have a repeat of the Spooky Wood incident.

Time for some CPD

Andy is very much a product of the Seven Stanes. Very happy with rocky, technical trails and comfortable with the bike in the air. This was very much his home turf and he was keen to show off the best bits.

I am a fully qualified mountain bike leader. I am a pretty competent mountain biker in a variety of terrain. That does not mean there are no areas where I feel my skills might benefit from “development”. It boils down to being in the air and steep rocks, neither of which are easy to get in Hampshire. So part of the point was to get plenty of that in over the course of the afternoon to refresh and hone my skills.

Glentress has been, and may still be, one of the most visited mountain bike venues in the world. One of the joys of visiting on a Monday in the middle of November is that the place was really, really quiet (apart from the lads changing, wrapped in leopard print towels, in the car park).

We headed for the skills area for a bit of a play to get our eye in. We checked out some rock rolls and drops. All of which are bigger than anything I’ve encountered in Hampshire. It’s hard to find features where air time is compulsory. Drop in we did. First time: wayward, second time: better, third time: nailed and confident. I was getting my eye in and believing in my skills.

Bigging it up

Which is when Andy suggested we move on the freeride area. Some tabletops, about 3-4 feet across the top, a few berms and a step-up. All bigger than anything at my local trail centre. First time: intimidating but largely managed, second time: better and quicker, third time: confident and at pace. I was getting there. These were skills I have but don’t get much chance to work on at home.

So Andy suggested we move on to the bigger jumps. Hell, why not. These are probably 4-5 feet across at the start and bigger at the bottom. So we dropped in. Hit the first one, whoop. Hit the second, whoop. Hit the third, oh god, it’s a hip jump and the landing’s at an angle to the take off. Land it and slide the back wheel round to set up for the next one. Launch that and hope the landing’s in the right place. Catch berm and two more tables to finish. On the final one it seemed to take an eternity for the bike to come down, even then it was only the front wheel. Don’t panic, weight back and wait for the back wheel to land. Which it did, eventually. And done.

I’d got away with it. Just. But definitely outside of my comfort zone.

Let’s do that again.

Push back up and drop in again. This time the lines were better, the speed was better and I spent less time riding along on my front wheel.

Again. Better again. And crucially, more confident. Again, this time with the confidence to attack it.

It’s amazing how much succeeding at something at something can boost your confidence.

Anyway. Why were we here?

Soon enough we needed to get on our way: there was only so much daylight to play with.

And we had an appointment with Spooky Wood and the drop to the valley floor. All that stood between us and that was a big climb. Oh well, best get on with it.

"...make a little birdhouse in your soul"

“…make a little birdhouse in your soul”

After a considerable amount of twiddling, gurning, grinding and a brief pause for a sandwich while a robin landed on our bikes we arrived at the top of the hill. I had brief flashbacks to the last time I’d stood here with a hire bike, before coming to grief.

Concentrate, trust your skills and believe that your bike will do the job.

Drop in

Dropping in at Spooky Wood

Dropping in at Spooky Wood

It was brilliant. A helter-skelter all the way to the bottom. Tabletops were despatched, compressions were pumped through, puddles were manualled past and even the surprise rock drop was launched. It was great. I was looking ahead, seeing what was coming and picking my line. I was loving it, and catching Andy in places. Next section: more of the same, compressions, berms, small tables and the occasional steep bit. All the application of skills in an unfamiliar setting. I may not have been familiar with the trail but I was more than equal to the challenge. The tight section through the trees was much more like home with its slippery roots and leaf mulch. The bottom was just laugh out loud.

I grinned the whole way down. Even the bits where the tree cover meant it was almost dark.

In short I had a great day out. The free coffee at the end was a real bonus.

I can’t recommend Glentress highly enough. Thank you to all the trail builders there. I can see how much of a pasting the trails get and how much hard work goes into keeping them riding sweetly.

This is Luke McMullan riding the Spooky Wood Descent

Moral of the story pt.1

On Monday I went out to ride and have fun. I also chose to deliberately put myself in a situation where I was outside my comfort zone to begin with. I chose to use the opportunity to refresh and practice my skillset. By doing so, in a managed and progressive way, I had a great ride and was able to boost my confidence on terrain that’s hard to find down here.

The use of the first person pronoun is really important. I chose to put myself there. There was no pressure on me, no-one was egging me on, if I decided I really didn’t fancy something I could walk it.

When it comes to progressing and improving skills, peer pressure can be a terrible thing causing you to feel compelled to try things you are not ready for. It makes you more likely to make a mistake because you’re tense so it’s not a part of the way I ride, or the way I lead.

Placing yourself in a space where you feel confident pushing your boundaries and putting your skills into use is a good thing, coming from within and a desire to improve. I will support you in this whenever I can.

Moral of the story pt.2

When you say “I’m not feeling confident about this” I really do understand how you feel.

My desire to get better at riding my bike means I have to step outside my comfort zone in the belief that I have the skills to ride it. I know that feeling of having to attempt something based on belief rather than memory. I know that feeling of taking a deep breath and committing.

The setting for this feeling is different for everyone, the obstacle that causes you to pause is different for everyone. When I say that I understand, it’s not glib encouragement, I really do empathise with facing down uncertainty.

Posted by BackPedalling Andy in Rides, 0 comments
26 ain’t dead?

26 ain’t dead?

Not having the latest bike is not an obstacle to getting out and having a blast is the real lesson of the day.

Really? You’re going to open that can of worms?

Apparently so.

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Spot the difference?

In the summer of 2014, after years as a hardtail abuser, I upgraded my bike to the highly rated Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Evo (henceforth just called “Stumpy”) . I loved it. It is better than my old hardtail in almost every way, with the possible exception of the Formula brakes. It makes me a better rider, a more adventurous rider and a faster rider. It’s brilliant. My old hardtail sat in the bike shed unloved. No amount of telling my wife “I’ll use it in the winter” or “I’ll ride it to the pub” actually got it off the rack.

In December I found myself with time to ride but with the stumpy temporarily off the road. With a certain amount of trepidation, I got the hardtail off the rack, dusted it down, tuned it up and went for a ride. It’s an old Specialized Rockhopper, though the frame and the shifters are the only original components now. It’s a completely different bike: no rear suspension, 3×9 gearing, 100mm fork, no dropper seatpost and smaller wheels. How would it compare? Could I still ride it or would it end up in the hedge in frustration?

In its defence the trails were mucky as hell though, in the interests of fairness, it did have the same Storm Control tyres on so this was never going to be a fair test.

It was interesting. Initially, I found myself fuming every time I reached for the shift levers in the wrong place. When I got used to that, my attention turned to not being able to drop the seatpost without stopping (so I didn’t), which made a difference to how I rode. That dialled in, my attention was turned to the difference the wheels made.

That’s when it got really interesting. A lot is made of how much nippier 26” wheels are compared to 29ers. I’m not sure how much I noticed it going down a size, I suppose I’m used to using more energy to lean the bike over but it may have contributed to the second phenomenon. The grip, or lack of it. I lost count of the number of times I loaded the bike into a corner only for it to begin to slide away from me which took some getting used to. Was it the smaller contact patch or me using too much energy to lean the bike over? I’m not sure I could say for definite. But the difference was significant.

However the real question is: did it end up in the hedge? No. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to ride. It was like meeting a friend I’d not seen for years and picking up the conversation where we left off. It was great fun. It goes to show: actually the joy comes from getting out and riding, not from riding the best bike there is. It also shows that, certainly in the woods round here, any bike is a good bike if you ride it with the right attitude.

So, what’s the difference between 26 & 29? Not nearly as much as the difference between riding and not riding. Not having the latest bike is not an obstacle to getting out and having a blast, which is the real lesson of the day.

So, for a fun ride, so long as it’s in working order, whatever bike you have is good for a ride. Check out Backpedalling’s shorter rides for a fun introduction to the local trails.

I should admit, for the record, that I haven’t ridden the Rockhopper since I got the Stumpy back up and running: it is just more capable. I am, though, looking for a dropper seatpost for it. They really do make a difference.

 

Posted by BackPedalling Andy in kit, Thoughts, 0 comments