Don’t call it a heatwave, just call it summer: From Singletrack issue 120

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Chipps has vowed to only ride if it’s sunny. Unfortunately, this means he’s not stopped since early May.

Everywhere you look at the moment, there are knackered riders. Sleepy, listless riders moving with stiff muscles and jerky joints. They’re not unfit – quite the contrary, many of my riding pals are fitter than they’ve been for years. Only, right now, they don’t have the energy to lift a cup of tea.

It’s all down to the weather, or specifically the hot, dry and sunny weather we’ve been having…

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It seems that the first reaction of the British to hot, sunny weather is to immediately go out and get sunburn. Then we have a barbecue. But after two, maybe three, days of hot weather, we start to wonder what the catch is. After all, we don’t get those endless weeks of blue skies that our Californian friends have (and complain about…), we get a few days when we think ‘maybe this will be the year!’ then it tends to rain solidly for two weeks, followed by three months of mild, but grey weather where we might as well be in a Tupperware box in the crisper shelf in the fridge. And then the clocks go back and then it’s Christmas… And repeat.

Everyone I know is broken, but no one wants to be the one who takes a day off.

Or sometimes we’ll get a couple of sunny days, a couple of rainy ones, and then maybe another sunny day, but it’s hard to predict and impossible to rely on. In the magazine office sometimes you’ll hear ‘Sun’s out! Grab the cameras and a test bike! Head to the hills! Go!’, only for the would-be film crew to return two hours later, mud spattered and grumpy, their sunny window shut down and rained out.

So, having had weeks of still, hot, dry and sunny weather, British mountain bikers have been going crazy with the heat. EVERY day is a riding day and the novelty of having clean kit and a dusty bike after every ride still hasn’t worn off. On a recent few days off in Peebles, I did a big cross-country loop one morning and celebrated with an ice cream in the sunshine. And then, because it was still sunny and light until 11, I went and rode up to the Glentress mast a couple of times because, hey, it was still sunny. The following day, I opened the curtains with genuine surprise to find blue skies and sunshine. So I went for a bike ride.

The trails have started to turn to dust and gravel. The terrain that Californians have to ‘endure’ for much of the year. It’s got to the point where semi-slick tyres now have less purchase on the trails than when they were wet, such is the scrabble factor out there. But no one wants to change tyres. These are the summer tyres we’ve been hoarding in our ambient humidors (i.e. the garage) for the last four years. Of course we’re going to keep them on.

Everyone I know is broken, but no one wants to be the one who takes a day off. No one wants to miss riding on the last good day of the summer. While we can assume, or at least rationalise, that statistically there should still be plenty of long, hot days of summer remaining, the British ‘Yeah, but what’s the catch?’ reflex kicks in. Even on days when there aren’t group rides, our friends have been spotted out on the trails (or even road riding incognito in spandex and shades).

Really, we should all be kicking back for a couple of days to rest up. We should all have a day or two off and do what normal people do. No, I’m not sure what that is either, but it probably involves not-riding-bikes, barbecues, beer gardens and, I don’t know… garden centres?

OK, you’re right. While the trails are dry and buff and flattering, they need appreciating. Let’s keep the enthusiasm high, sliding into the autumn as superhumanly fit, super-skilled, bike gods.

Either that, or we can look forward to a nice, long, snooze.

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