As the winter draws to a close and race season looms up, our tame racer Rab Wardell has finally got himself back off road after a broken wrist left him sat on a turbo trainer or restricted to running. Where better for a gentle reintroduction to riding in the muck than heading to the Scottish trail centres for some serious riding and yurt-time?
“In the last month I’ve enjoyed my first off road rides in almost four months – the rest and rehab has been worth it and I was able to hit the trails again, albeit with a protective wrist splint. Thanks to Richard Park for the loan of this. You’re a star!
For my first ride back I decided to head to one of my favourite trails centres; Glentress Forest in the Tweed Valley. I love to ride the trails in the forest for so many reasons. Firstly, they flow so well and are great fun to ride. Secondly, there’s a lot of variety with the option to up your game on different trails using sections of red or black, or throttle back and stick to the fun flowy ‘blues’ like Blue Velvet and berm baby berm. This was important as I had no idea how my arm would feel and I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to ride pain free – an epic into the highlands wouldn’t be ideal!
Not just a lycra clad, disco slipper wearing, roadie wanna-be…
Another reason for me to ride at GT is the fact that the level of risk is relatively low in comparison to natural riding. This would reduce the chances of a crash when coming up against something unexpected. This is something which often puts purists off of riding trail centres: the dumbed down, simulated adventure isn’t what they crave. I like to think that having such accessible mountain biking for the masses can only be a good thing. It’s great that most people can try out mountain biking!
The day at Glentress was tough to fault! I got to ride my new long travel trail bike, complete with flat pedals, baggies, hydration pack and peak on my helmet. Not just a lycra clad, disco slipper wearing, roadie wanna-be…
It was exhilarating to ride some of my favourite trails, challenge the limits of tyres and suspension, stay off the brakes and get my wheels in the air for the first time this year. The order of the day was riding ‘til dark and by sunset a slab of chocolate cake and a coffee at the Peel Café was desperately needed. A full day of riding a real bike was a shock to the system after such a long time running and turbo training – my hands and arms where aching more than my legs.
Following that fine Saturday in the Tweed Valley, my girlfriend Rach and I decided to sample some more of what the 7stanes has to offer. Van loaded up and it was off to Mabie Forest near Dumfries for two days riding and relaxation. I’d booked to stay with Marthrown of Mabie staying in their on site yurt. Nestled in the centre of the forest this place is a hidden gem. The yurt is a Mongolian style tent with a log burning stove, cooking facilities, beds and settee for kicking back on after riding. Another plus is the sauna and outdoor hot tub in the heart of Mabie forest.
On arrival we decided to get out riding right away and rolled down to the Mabie skills area for a play, before venturing onto the red route. The ‘Red’ at Mabie is a little more challenging than the trail of the same grading at GT, which makes for a nice little progression. It was a shame that one of the show case trails – the ‘Descender Bender’ – was unrideable while we were there due to trail developments. However the new trail Tally and the guys are building looks nuts! The 10 foot tall berms are looking good already. I cannot wait to rail them once the trail is finished!
After a few hours cruising the trail and sessioning the ‘Mini X’ course it was back to Marthrone for a juicy steak served up with veggies and some cold beers! The rest of the evening was spent sweating in the sauna and a star-lit soak in the hot tub with a few more beers. It was perfect.
To finally be back riding a mountain bike was a great feeling and over the last few weeks I have been able to move from a rigid splint to a neoprene one, and now finally to no split at all. The movement in my wrist is coming back steadily and I’m happy that I’ll be ready to rock in my first races. I’m writing this during preseason training basing at The Bike House in Innerleithen, and my body and bikes are undergoing significant tests to ensure I’ll be ready when I line up for my first XC race in less than a months time. I’m taking part in the Alpine Bikes Night and Day Enduro this weekend so come and say hello if you’re riding too. The main aim is to finish off a solid week of training with a hard and fast race, but to remain fairly relaxed. It’ll be my first enduro and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be a great chance to test downhill speed as well as my overall fitness. I can’t wait to open it up a little and see how I’m riding. [Ed: He came 8th in Senior as it happens, not bad for the first race after months spent injured]
Over the next month I will be unveiling my race team for 2012 with details on event calendar, bikes and new sponsors being announced on the 1st of March. Keep an eye out for that on www.singletrackworld.com
Until next time…”