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
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