In June my husband, Ian, suddenly decided that he would like to try mountain biking. I think he just got a bit fed up with being left behind while I was out cycling, yet didn’t fancy doing the long miles on tarmac. I love riding my bike so I assumed that I would also love mountain biking – especially with him.
We hired bikes from our local cycle shop, Bridport Cycles, and went out on a Bridport Cycling Club mountain bike ride.
Our first club ride was for beginners and although we found it quite difficult and tiring we did enjoy it.
We then went off to our nearest trail centre at Haldon. Again we hired bikes and cycled around the green trail which was very pleasant. Then we tried the light blue trail – more interesting but manageable. We then tried the dark blue trail. Too interesting. I found the steep, stony descents really frightening and couldn’t stay on the bike. There was no point in looking at the red trail, that was way beyond our skill level. We did have a play in the skills park and although I avoided all the drops and stony paved areas, I did think that I had improved.
We took advice from a couple of experienced MTB riders at BCC and Ian, being an impulsive sort of guy, just found a couple of good deals online and we bought a full suspension bike each.
The shiny new bikes were both blue and we were very pleased to be out riding in the beautiful countryside in West Dorset where we live.
We found routes that were not very technical but managed to find some mud even in the dry summer.
Riding the MTB was really good fun after the serious stuff of the Exmoor 70.3 ironman in the summer. The sole reason for riding the MTB was to have fun.
We enjoyed some lovely rides in the summer. We are fortunate to live in a very scenic area close to the sea. Scenic also means there are plenty of hills, of course.
We returned to Haldon quite regularly and gradually improved. Ian improved more quickly and was much braver on drops and stony descents. We no longer bothered with the green and light blue and were able to ride around the dark blue more quickly.
We ventured onto the red trail. Ian could ride about 50% of it and I couldn’t really manage much of it at all. However I kept trying and pushed my limits in the skills park. We have returned to Haldon regularly and each time there is significant improvement. We can now enjoy riding the red trails. Some intensive sessions on the regulated trails at Haldon have really helped improve our skills and confidence. The next step is to travel to a different trail centre and frighten ourselves there!
Back in West Dorset we became more adventurous and challenged ourselves on more technical routes. At this stage, some of the time I was not having much fun.
We continued to go out on BCC Club rides. Club rides tend to be challenging and hilly but take in some beautiful coastal scenery.
We took the bikes with us on a visit to the Gower Peninsular in Wales and found some good routes and had some fun times again.
As the weather changed and the trails became wetter and muddier we faced new challenges. In the summer I would worry about the smallest patches of mud and puddles and really hated the back wheel squirming. I soon had to get used to puddles and lots of mud as well as wearing lots of gear in the cold, wet weather. We even venture out in the dark occasionally which adds another dimension to our riding. Often hilarious.
I’m pleased to say that I have improved a lot over the last few months and I am enjoying the MTB riding much more. I am much more confident on steep stony descents and am able to ‘stay on my bike’ most of the time. It’s still really hard work and very strenuous –especially with all the mud and puddles, but we usually have a lot of fun on our rides and it’s great that we can enjoy cycling together.
We are planning some cycling trips away this year as my focus moves away from competing in triathlon back to cycling just for the sheer enjoyment of being out on my bike. I love riding my bike – but riding my bike with my best buddy alongside me is the best!