Posted by: ichthuscyclista | November 8, 2006

I’ve been a mountain biking today…

…and it’s flipping hard.  Today, I fell off more times off my mountain bike than I’ve fallen off my road bike in the last four years. In terms of relative injuries, though, the mountain bike wins hands down – or more likely some other part of the body going down.   When you fall off a road bike it pretty much always hurts (see previous entry for a prime example).  Skidding along at 15-20 mph with a only a layer of lycra between you and tarmacadam’s choicest black stuff invariably ends in tears and probably scars.  While I wouldn’t say that falling ‘plop’ into a heather bush is a joyful experience, it does mean that you can get back on and carry on riding with minimal pain.

Going uphill is another matter though.  On a road bike, there is really no excuse to get off and walk unless you are a big girl’s blouse.   It might be less than edifying when someone walks past you as you think you might be finally in a position to give Lance Armstrong a run for his money over an alpine pass or two, but at least you still carry forward motion.    Frankly, on a mountain bike, there are times when the path is so rock strewn that even uphill the balance of ‘injury likelihood’ versus ‘looking like a bit of a pillock when walking instead of riding your fancy mountain bike’ tips pretty heavily towards the pillock side of things.   Unlike going downhill there’s no momentum to carry you forward and I just don’t want the shame of breaking a leg or an ankle and having to get airlifted out.  I have therefore learned something nearly important today; although on the map a bridle path or byway might look as though you could ride it both ways, some of these cycle paths are just not rideable in the uphill direction.  Note to self: plan my next route carefully to avoid lots of pushing uphill.

Having said that, the downhill on the other side is nearly always a gas.  As is scaring sheep (I’ve been having a little competition with myself about how close I could get to a sheep before scaring the living daylights out of it.  Schoolboy-like I know, but I was three hours into the ride at this point).   After a few fun downhill trails, I got to the point on the last one where the terrain suddenly got much rougher and I was still going pretty fast. Too fast.  Way, way too fast. Things then started running through my mind at this point, like:

  • I’m about to lose control of the handlebars…
  • I’m about to lose control of my bike…
  • I’m about to lose control of my vision…
  • I’m about to lose control of my bladder…
  • Erm..wasn’t this the point where Tim broke his scaphoid a couple of years ago?
  • And wasn’t this the point where John broke something even more unpleasant?
  • If I put the brakes on it might cause a skid and make it worse…
  • this could hurt…
  • …a lot

As you might have guessed, my relief at getting to the bottom of Porter Clough was palpable, as now are the bruises on my backside.   Once the adrenaline had dropped to normal levels I thought that it was still a bundle of fun and I’d do it again, only a bit more slowly.   The scenery is truly God’s country.  It makes a better alternative to grinding out 50 or so winter miles on some heavyweight hack with a distant motivation to be fit enough to beat one of my cycling club colleagues up the Muur next April at the Tour of Flanders.

I’ll be out next weekend. Then I’ll be deadly: next time I’ll armed and dangerous with a map.

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