Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Catching Up Part 2

I seem to have amassed a huge number of photos over the last few weeks or so and I'd like to get some down here with a little accompanying text, mainly for my own memories. So many memories! I hope others find them worthwhile viewing. Many have relatively long back stories which I won't recount in detail but hopefully the snapshots in time will provide interest on their own. 

The Tuesday night riders, now affectionately known as the Average Joe's Syndicate. The name was originally a tongue in cheek way to represent an 'ordinary every day kind of ride for ordinary every day riders'. As it turns out, one of the main protagonists for keeping the ride alive, and who is now one of my favourite riding buddies, is another Jo, here in the late summer greenery of the Forest of Dean. I can't say our rides are ever really that ordinary though, it seems they regularly have a sense of adventure, whether we plan for it, or not! 

The name stuck, and the rides (both the regular Tuesday and our occasional weekend get togethers) continue to be great fun with a really sound group of folk. Everyone has bounced off each other and the pace, along with the tracks we ride, have increased substantially over the summer. 

I certainly have seen a massive benefit in chasing Jo down scary off-piste stuff, and I think she would say the same with regard to being airbourne. 

This is another of our Tuesday riders, Mat, riding the rock slab for the first time. 

The best thing of all is that the progression has come without pressure to perform. We all just ride, and no one seems to mind if you stop half way down a descent in a panic, have a flap, fall off or spend ages chatting about really random stuff. I love riding with these folk. 

Long may it continue as the nights draw in and our lights come out.

I am most blessed to have riding buddies all over the UK, and often lucky enough to get shown around the home turf of friends. Another wonderful long day was spent on the Wiltshire bridleways with Stew and Tony, and, yet again, I was left at the end of the ride feeling very blessed to have the privilege of their company in such an outstanding location.

After a drizzly misty start, the skies turned blue as the late summer grasses fell aslant in wind, our wheels rustling through mile after mile of soul-riding. 

I have also been away on a Mountain Bike Swindon organised weekender. I could go on and on for hours about what a great bunch of folk the MBS lot are. So welcoming, friendly and accessible to all riders. I went along to join the ladies branch for a nice steady weekend. I wish I had time to tell you all about the people I rode with. This is Hilda, keeping it real and rocking the technical black trail on a hardtail. Hilda did the most impressive save I have ever seen on a particularly steep berm, it still makes me smile to think about it now. It brought a whole new dimension to the saying 'if in doubt, ride it out'. 

Brechfa is a rather great trail centre, enchanting forests, a real variety in trail types and features, and good for a mixed group. 

This is wonderful Sharon, the great organiser of the weekend, and much appreciated by all. To put together a bunkhouse for everyone, keep things running smoothly, organise food, barbeques, go to A&E with an injured rider and generally keep atop of everything requires proper project management skills. I guess that it's no surprise Sharon is also a Girl Guide 'Brown Owl'. The world needs more people like Sharon, who volunteer and donate so much of their personal time to helping others.

There were vegan burgers (lots of, including at the bunkhouse barbeque)

To top it all off, the owner of the bunkhouse had three rescue rabbits in the garden. 

I nearly pulled out of the Brechfa weekend due to time and work pressures, and feeling rather frazzled. I'm glad I made it. It enlivened, provided a chance to really get away from everything and chill out with some great folk. I think I smiled for the whole weekend!

Why this photo? It's pretty uninteresting I guess, but the black ominousness (what a word that is!) of the skies conincided with a similar internal feeling in me. By the time I was home a fever had begun, and by that evening I was laid flat with a nasty bout of norovirus that knocked me about for 48 hours, and took a week or more to get over. Luckily I had pressed on with finishing this ride, for it kept the AAARTY alive for another month. 2016 has been a just-hang-in-there kind of year for Audaxing.

September's 200 km climby audax was a good one though. The roadie came out for it's once-a-month dust off, and a trip over the Gospel Pass to Hay. It was hilly from the outset, with 3500 meters+ showing on the Garmin Etrex by the end of the ride. Worth every grunt and bead of sweat uphill, as the views were stunning, the sun was warm, and I felt strong the whole way round. Quite frankly it was the best 200 km loop I have ever put together, and I hope to do it again sometime. 

A brief bit about my trail/technical riding in general. I think it's been a pretty good summer overall. Can't say I've done anything spectacular, but I have definitely got more confident (if not better) at riding exceptionally steep terrain, done a little air-related stuff and am fitter than ever at climbing. The climbing strength has improved since I gave up all hope of finding a suitable gym again and have thus stopped squatting heavy weights. It seems my quads are benefiting from not being severely battered once a week and the lifting was compromising my pedaling way more than I realised. I have been trying to fit in some basic dumbell work at home, just to maintain a basic level of upper body and core strength. I could do with being much stricter with fitting it in each week, but hey ho, some is better than none, and I do what I can. I really miss the gym I used until it closed down, the people, my once-a-week routine, but you can't turn back the clock. Time to move on with fond memories. 

Thanks to other-Jo for the pic below. :)

I took the hardtail with me on a work trip to the East Coast, and managed a few hours of exploration finding urban singletrack and miles of coastal cruising. 

There is very little better after a long work day than pedaling steadily in the sea air, with the still-warm sunshine on bare shoulders, in trainers and rolled up jeans.

This Sturdy Cycles hardtail frame is one of the best investments I have ever made. Whether it is loaded with luggage, cruising aimlessly, or smashing out miles, it is everything I needed it to be.

The hardtail has also returned to Scotland on a work trip.  It was an intense few days and I was starting to feel a little saddened that I had the bike with me, and yet I may not get to ride in such a stunning part of the world. After two days of rushing, rushing, rushing, I made the excutive decision to take some time to myself in the early morning of a Friday. It was less than an hour, but every minute was valued, exploring a magical little forest on the outskirts of Aberdeen.

It was long enough to find the place full to the brim of walking trial and mountain biking tech. I had neither the time or tyres for the endless steep rooty trails, jumps and drops, but there was more than enough to pedal the hardtail to the Tappie Tower and see the 360 degree views over the coast and inland to the rolling hills. It was pouring with rain when I first arrived at the carpark, but stopped as I got out, and started only once I was back inside the warm and dry cab. Sometimes karma pays you back for your efforts tenfold.

The trail bike has also been on work trips, for smashing out steps and scaring myself stupid doing things I shouldn't when I'm tired. 160 mm modern trail bikes really do let you get away with murder. 

The Enduro is another bike I wouldn't change at the moment. Well, not now it finally has a decent shock on the back. The Cane Creek has been taken off and replaced by a tuned a RockShox Monarch with a piggy bag can, and a specific tune for (in my words) "a small person that rides like an elephant" The tune was done by Matt at https://www.ukcyclecentre.co.uk/

I will miss the summer this year, but I am also happy to see the seasons change. The most stunning season of all is just around the corner, and those autumn colours always warm the heart, no matter how cold the mornings become.