MUD WRESTLING

MBUK STAFFERS ED AND LUKE DON TO WATERPROOFS AND VEN­TURE OUT BAT­TLE THE EL­E­MENTS – AND EACH OTHER! – RE­MIND­ING US THAT WIN­TER RID­ING IS TONS OF FUN

Mountain Biking UK - - CONTENTS - pho­tos andy lloyd ed thom­sett words

Win­ter rid­ing doesn’t have to be a chore. Ed and Luke brave bib­li­cal rain­fall (and snap­per Andy Lloyd sac­ri­fices his cam­era – sorry!) to show you how you can have max­i­mum fun in the mud

part They say that the hard­est get­ting out of any chal­lenge is hits the nail the door. That phrase to win­ter on the head when it comes

Think of moun­tain bik­ing, I reckon. wo­ken up on a all those times you’ve out­side and week­end, seen it rain­ing in the shed. de­cided to leave the bike have had a Or, if you’re like me, you’ll of “Should re­cur­ring in­ter­nal dilemma that evening I, shouldn’t I?” fol­lowed you choose the by feel­ings of re­gret if all you need lat­ter op­tion. Some­times

– or in my case, is a kick out the door telling me to our staff writer Luke come rid­ing. stop be­ing a wuss and mo­ti­va­tion My sec­ond, un­voiced is that I’m for brav­ing the rain to­day

Luke is get­ting se­cretly wor­ried that at the too quick. Be­fore he started in my mag, I was all too com­fort­able now he’s po­si­tion as top dog, but de­sire to go turned up, with a burn­ing wor­ried about fast and win races, I’m around in my be­ing ousted! If I laze in all the wet­slip­pers while he gets

weather rid­ing prac­tice, come race sea­son, I’m go­ing to have my pants pulled down! I don’t men­tion any of this to him, of course, I just agree to come along when he sug­gests an out­ing to the Welsh Val­leys on a de­cid­edly soggy day.

Mixed ruts Any hes­i­ta­tion about rid­ing in bad weather is al­ways in­stantly for­got­ten on the trail. Two cor­ners is all it takes to get my en­dor­phins fired up. The pedal-up to get here may have been a bit bleak, but I’m yet to find any­thing (any­thing that can be printed, at least...) that beats the feel­ing of slid­ing a bike around a muddy rut. It’s the con­stant bal­anc­ing act and the in­ter­nal hy­per­aware­ness that comes from know­ing the tyres could break traction at any sec­ond that make it such a buzz. You’ve got to con­trol the bike and com­mand it to stay on line, but re­main loose enough to al­low it to skip and dance be­neath you.

There’s no time to pon­der such thoughts to­day though – my full at­ten­tion is held by the need to hang onto Luke’s back wheel, as the pair of us slither down a steep, grooved­out path. I’ve got my eyes fo­cused on his line, but I’m poised for any sniper roots and at­tempt­ing to dodge the mud shower he’s throw­ing up as best I can.

Three min­utes of semi-con­trolled slip-and-slide later, we fire out the bot­tom of the trail, onto firmer ground. Sad­dles go up for the next climb and we’re soon un­zip­ping our mul­ti­ple win­ter lay­ers to let off steam. Crest­ing the ridge of the next val­ley, we’re sud­denly ex­posed to the full force of the el­e­ments, so we don’t de­lay long up here. It’s seats back down and a head­first dive into more murky, tech­ni­cal South Wales good­ness.

Mud larks Good trail se­lec­tion is an es­sen­tial con­sid­er­a­tion for win­ter rid­ing. Some lo­ca­tions are off-lim­its be­cause the dirt turns to ice with the slight­est hint of mois­ture. At other spots, you’ll in­cur the wrath of the lo­cal trail builders if you gouge up their hand­i­work with deep ruts. Sim­ple is of­ten best, and a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of pedal-

I’M YET TO FIND ANY­THING (ANY­THING THAT CAN BE PRINTED, AT LEAST...) THAT BEATS THE FEEL­ING OF SLID­ING A BIKE AROUND A MUDDY RUT

scrap­ing and bar-drag­ging fun can be had from a few hand-cut turns on a bracken hill­side. Our pho­tog­ra­pher Andy knows the per­fect spot. And the fact that the trail splits into two in places, form­ing a nat­u­ral dual track, gives me the per­fect chance to re-as­sert my po­si­tion at the top of the of­fice peck­ing or­der!

Luke and I hike to the top of the hill and wait for Andy to give us the sig­nal. A thumbs up, and we hit the ped­als in uni­son, our back wheels fish­tail­ing for grip. It’s a sprint into the first berm (pud­dle) and Luke makes it first. He com­presses in and fires out, amid a blast of icy wa­ter. I can’t let him run away with this, so down the next straight I put on a spurt of speed. Hit­ting the fol­low­ing turn neck-and-neck, I dive for the rut and he opts for a risky in­side. As I will my­self off the brakes, my bike squirms in the apex and, on exit, my limbs pull all sorts of weird pi­lates shapes in the fight to stay up­right.

I’m poised for a col­li­sion with Luke, but it doesn’t come. Glanc­ing over my shoul­der, I see him ly­ing on the deck. Ha! I’ve got him. Fair­ness would dic­tate that we switch lanes and race an­other heat, but right then the rain, which has re­cently abated, starts dump­ing on us again. It’s the last straw for Andy’s cam­era, which, af­ter be­ing drenched from above and splat­tered with slop from be­low, de­cides enough is enough. Our brakes aren’t far­ing much bet­ter. But even though we’re pretty much soaked to the skin, we’re gut­ted to be cut­ting things short.

Sav­ing the worst for last

The one bit of win­ter rid­ing I al­ways dread is the clean-up op­er­a­tion. Don’t get me wrong, I love noth­ing more than strip­ping bol­lock naked in a South Wales layby. It’s the bit af­ter you’ve driven home that does it for me. All you want to do is curl up by the fire, but in­stead you’re out in the dark hos­ing off a moun­tain of dirty kit by torch­light. It’s crossed my mind to take up a sport that doesn’t in­volve get­ting cov­ered in mud ev­ery week­end, but then where’d the fun be in that? Ah well, it could be worse, I think to my­self as I pull on my boots and head out. At least I’m not Andy, with my two-grand cam­era in a bag of rice in the kitchen!

We won­der if this shot might have had some­thing to do with Andy’s cam­era trou­bles?

South Wales show­down – Ed and Luke fight dirty

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