Dear Diary, Lock Down 2020 | Trails Are Better With Friends

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One of our readers shares his tale of discovering that in lock down the trails are quiet – just a bit too quiet.

Lock down, the meaning of:

  • The confining of prisoners to their cells
  • A state of isolation or restricted access instituted as a security measure

If we are all honest the vast majority of UK citizens haven’t actually been in ‘lock down’, many have gardens, we go to the food shops, we go out to ‘exercise’, we probably sneak out and go to places we have been asked not to go to, only a small percentage are really confined to their home. So for most of us it’s not so much a lock down, but rather a restriction of our right to travel about the country as we would normally do.

I am extremely lucky to live in rural Dorset on the edge of a small village, one shop, one (very nice) pub and a bus stop, and virtually on my doorstep are bridleways in all directions across the local farmland. I can go for miles on my mountain bike with hardly any rubber touching any tarmac and mostly without seeing anyone apart from the odd dog walker. So did I enjoy all this countryside as part of my daily exercise during The Big Lock Down’? Well the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

lock down friends
There has been none of this of late, and it turns out the trails are worse without friends

To begin with I enjoyed the empty trails, getting out of the house, the sunniest April on record, and England in the spring (by far my favourite season), but as the days wore on getting motivated to go out became harder. ‘What!’ I hear you ask, ‘you’ve got time, great weather, trails a plenty and you live in one of the prettiest counties in England, what’s wrong with you?

Well I realised what I was missing a week or two into lock down, when after a couple of wet days I was riding a piece of favourite trail, probably a bit too fast, lost grip and was totally out of control heading for a large tree. However, by some miracle (absolutely no skill involved!) I kept the bike upright, on the trail, missed the tree, headed on down the track and splashed across a small stream. Going up hill from the stream I turned, looked behind me and without thinking said ‘Wow, did you see ……’ and there’s the issue: I was alone with no one to share the moment with.

As much as I enjoy riding any bike anywhere at any time it’s the friends I ride with that get me out of the house and on the trails. Sharing news, putting the world to rights, taking the p*ss (‘you don’t want to do it like that’ – add a West Country accent, it sounds better) while some poor sod is struggling to fix a mechanical problem or puncture, debating which pub/cafe to go to and sharing those moments when someone ends up on the floor or in a hedgerow or as in my case narrowly avoids a spectacular prang with amazingly skilful riding.

lock down friends
Missed you guys, me on the far left.

While on my many solo rides over the last ten weeks I saw and heard many things, was blessed with an abundance of nature in Dorset, had great views on sunny days, rode some great downhills and ball breaking climbs, explored new trails and revisited some old ones. I have told my friends and family about my rides, in some cases shown them photos and shared them on social media platforms.

However that is not the same as saying to a mate ‘Do you remember when WE saw the forest painted with bluebells in 2020’ and having that shared memory. It was, by the way, an exceptional year for bluebells, at least in my part of Dorset.

Ten weeks in and lock down was eased, though not without its problems (we live not far from Durdle Door!) and we are once again meeting up with friends. Best of all from my point of view the trails seem to have been rebooted and refreshed for having a mate or two to share them with again. Motivation restored I am looking forward to every ride with renewed enthusiasm. Now I just need the pubs to re-open.

Comments (5)

    Quieter trails? Wish they had been round here. All of my favourite trails were awash with people who had recently discovered the great outdoors because all of the shops were shut.

    You’re right about riding with people though. It’s nice to share experiences and chat rubbish with like minded souls.

    As tenfoot says above I found my local trails the busiest ever, but if you where prepared to go uphill a bit then things mysteriously became quieter!
    For me, the quality of a ride is always determined by the people I was with, rather than the trail itself.
    Nearly back to normal.

    Tenfoot & Jobro – Yep the trails did get busier as the lock down progressed, but we live in a very low population density area, very rural, so they were never that busy. Added to that I avoided the busier regular dog walker trails and also got out early or late in the day so met less folk on the trails.

    I couldn’t agree more with this. When we were first under lock down and only allowed out once a day to exercise (or exorcise, take your pick), it kept me sane(ish), but it wasn’t the same. I already knew that riding with my mate was far better, for all the reasons mentioned by Gary (or is it Scott?), tenfoot and jobro, but being forced to rode solo really hammered the point home. Riding with mates is always better, even if you do end up sat beneath a tree talking cobblers, drinking IPA and eating Quavers for half the “ride”. Especially if you do…

    Brakestoomuch – It’s Gary, my son Scott bought my subscription for as a Christmas present and registered it in his name during the purchase process. I have tried a few times to change the name on the profile but it doesn’t save the change, all the other changes I made were saved ok. It probably doesn’t help that I already had another profile on the website! 🙂

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