Before moving to Devon, I thought that mountain biking was pretty crap. The very first time I went was in the Alps – I spend the first day hurtling down a very steep mountain on a hard tail with an open face helmet, totally out of control. I had no idea what I was doing at all in any way; I was totally clueless but up for it, however it did seem rather dangerous….
The next day, a kind/concerned man at the place I was staying lent me a downhill bike, a full face and body armour. The body armour was a revelation – I was able to fall off on every hairpin bend and just roll around! It was ace until I broke my wrist…..
Back in the UK, after surgery to fix my wrist, I didn’t do any more mountain biking – living in London without a car, it seemed like a bit of a mission, and by the time I’d ridden to Epping Forest on a slow soggy bike, I was already knackered. So pretty much the second time I went riding was in Wales where I spent five hours riding in knee high mud at slower than walking pace. It was bloody awful, so bloody awful, that I was thinking of returning the mountain bike that Charge had so kindly lent me when I got back.
But last year I moved to Devon, and when I mentioned I might send the mountain bike back, my friends Kye and Gemma thought I was nuts and immediately set out to change my opinion. Several trips to Haldon and the Teign Valley later, and I’d properly caught the mountain biking bug (actually not a good thing, as now I want an all mountain bike and they cost a bomb!).
Anyway, the point; Erlestoke 12 MTB Enduro. The first time I entered this several years ago, I’d just been hooked up by Charge and they invited me to bring a team down from the big smoke to compete. I didn’t really know what was involved but I got the idea that it would be fun, gathered up some mates and headed down to Somerset. It turned out that the race started at 6pm (or 8pm?) and the idea was to complete a lap before your team mate went and did the same. You then had to do as many laps as possible in the next 12 hours.
When I set off for my lap it was already dark. I didn’t know how to ride mtb but I just had to slog my way up a hill through a field. So far, so horrible – this was back when I drank and smoked a lot and health and fitness were unknown concepts. Once I’d navigated my way through the fields, I then had to ride some really tight, winding singletrack in the dark which sucked! I was really scared that I was going to hit a tree and couldn’t cope with the steep drops and proximity of so many trees. Once back at the start, I decided I was not doing another lap and sat in the tent drinking beer instead. All my friends abandoned the silly competition as well, and we necked beers and whisky, made a lot of noise and slagged off mountain bikes.
Funnily enough, Charge didn’t invite me again, at least not until this year when Nick must have got wind that I’d changed my mind about mountain bikes. This time I was up for it! Whilst I still like a beer, the cigarettes are history, and I can actually ride a mountain bike well enough to enjoy myself. It turned out the race had changed slightly – it now started at 12 noon and ran until midnight, which meant fewer laps in total darkness. I was on a team with two other guys and we gave it a good go, getting in as many laps as we could. In the end, our team came 4th! Ok, 4th out of four mixed teams, but whatever, it was really good fun and I’ll be back next year. I LOVE MOUNTAIN BIKES!