Keeping afloat over the dark months

Back at the first ever Red Bull Mountain Mayhem, I was talking to Barrie Clark after his first night lap. The weather had been awful for hours and the once-fast track had degraded to a slippery slither through the woods. When asked how the course was at night, Barrie replied ‘At night, it’s not about picking the best line; it’s about keeping it between the trees…’

Not a bad view to have on a Saturday evening, just before dinner.

And that’s how it is with my fitness every winter. It’s not about trying to get super fit, but it’s about trying to limit the losses that the shorter days, colder months and tastier beer bring to the table. However, this autumn has been particularly hard on the bike-riding front. I’ve only really managed to get out for the bare minimum at times. September was full of Eurobike, then Interbike, then a single day of Three Peaks excess, then the Cycle Show at the NEC. No excuses though, now that the show season is over, I get to ride bikes a little more. My weekends are free(er) from work commitment and I can finish taking off all the days in lieu I’ve clocked up over the summer and autumn months, being away at weekends.

Cyclocross is my current saviour. It’s a date in my diary every couple of weeks over the winter where I can get over to a race, thrash myself for an hour and then head home for a late tea. It’s a little like mountain biking was in the old days before the internet. You’d meet the same group of people, chat, ride bikes fast for a bit, chat some more, drink coffee, heckle the other racers and then head your own ways home. However, a recent trip to Scotland did a lot to re-light that fire for mountain biking. For a start we had glorious weather and then we rode some great trails (and for once, I had the perfect bike with me, an Ibis Mojo HD) and I rode with some great friends. And that’s kind of how I ride, not for the tech challenges or the fitness or the speed, but the reoccurring thing in my riding is that I like to ride with friends. Regardless of bikes, or trails; who I ride with is more important than where or what we actually ride. And that’s coming from someone who gets to ride in some fantastic places. I’ll take a hysterically funny bumble through the woods with friends over all the solo slickrock you can shake a stick at.

Even this cantankerous old giffer makes me smile - and go riding bikes.

Right, time to ride bikes!

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