It had been a long time off the mountain bike. Prior to the ride recently, I think it was in December that I last managed to ride any trails on my trail bike. To put it plainly, there simply are no local mountain biking trails which were accessible during the last UK lockdown. Or at least none I could get to with the shorter daylight hours and in-between my work.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Keeping fit on the gravel bike has paid off and, now that we’re no longer under instruction to ‘stay at home’, I’ve been able to grab some much needed time on the mountain bike at my most local trail centres. In the end, I’ve told myself, since we’re supposed to be minimising travel, that I’m okay travelling to the most local trail centres to ride. That seems sensible to me.
Those closest to me will know what a massive crutch mountain biking truly is. The escape, which I’ve talked about so many times on this blog before, is a critical part to my positive mood. I’m a happy person generally and I like to think I share that with the world but time on trails really elevates that and allows me some time away from every-day life to recuperate and rest my mind. I’d had the ‘end of lockdown day’ circled in my diary since it was announced by the Prime Minister all those weeks before. I’d kept my eyes on the news to make sure no changes were being announced. And I counted down the days. As soon as we were allowed, I headed out on the bike.
At first, the wide bars felt alien and unusual. A bouncy full suspension bike, with burly tyres and flat pedals seemed a long way off what I was used to riding now. No longer did I have the drops to rest in, nor did I have my frame bag for storage. Instead, I carried my backpack and camera gear out onto the trails and began trying my best to find confidence amongst the unfamiliar position on the bike. Accompanied by Scott, a regular out on rides now, the social aspect of rides began to filter back into play.
We began with a climb, as all typical Dalby routes seem to. Away from the car, up the big hill and into the forest. It gave me enough time to remember how to find a comfortable cadence on the 1x setup and an opportunity to consciously think about creating a circular pedalling pattern on the flat pedals. As we reached the top, I knew the fun was coming – the downhill. I’d been waiting for this.
We dipped into the trees and found an old friend: the twisty berms which had long been one of my favourite spots in the forest. Perhaps expectedly, I felt slow and rigid through this section on the first run. Riding in a static position had been my usual so learning to let the bike move underneath me, trusting in the grip of the knobbly tyres, took some getting used to. Maybe four or five runs. By the tenth it was coming back to me and I started to pump into the corners and over the terrain to push faster and faster. I began verbally reminding myself of some of the key things I knew. ‘Move your hips.’ ‘Bend your elbows.’ ‘Dip your heels.’
The rest of the day followed a similar story. We arrived at a set of features on a stretch of trail and looped back and around to session them again and again. Each time I became more and more confident until the mountain bike started to feel somewhat normal again. By the time we had lunch, I’d already got a grin spread from ear to ear. And then I felt somewhat emotional as we looked out over the North York Moors in the distance. The view was incredible without a cloud in the sky. It seemed to stretch on forever.
I’ve sat in that same spot countless times but never stopped to appreciate the view before. Getting back on the bike was a long time coming. Being out on an adventure again was special. If nothing else, Lockdown has taught me to appreciate each and every ride to the fullest. And, as for the bike, well I’m finally getting used to it.