Many – and most would say far too many – times have I banged on about how rubbish road riding is. The key thrust of what passed as my argument was blacktop wheeling was dull, painful and entirely missing the joy, risk and skill of Mountain Biking. It appears I may have been more than a little wrong.
Before lambasting me for a U-Turn not seen since, er let me think – oh yes, last week by the not-Forest selling lunatics as Westminster, let me first explain that the change of heart is based entirely on context. I’ve always maintained that half the fun of riding MTBs is who you are with, with the other half being where you are riding. What I failed to understand is this has a 100% crossover with road bikes.
Over 1200 kilometres have passed under skinny wheel in the last twelve months, and – until today – only 40 of them had been shared with others. The majority of the remainder are tagged onto work days, chasing trains weighed down with commuting collateral – while a very few fired the guilt trigger and had me yomping around local lanes feeling more miserable that worthy.
Today failed to deliver any promising portents. Cold, grey and wet. Chance of dampness in the air, lots of it already on the ground. 8am start, 80k plugged into Jezz’s GPS and an Al mentally porpoising between fear and boredom. The really bloody annoying thing was not just that I enjoyed it, but rather I enjoyed it quite a lot.
Some reasons; Jezz – who is properly fit and fast – generously refused to roast me over the tarmac spit with a maximum attack from the first minute. The lack of rucksack, darkness, desperation to make a train/get home removed any real reason to whinge. A route winding pleasantly thought the Cotswolds, without climbing over any monstrous hills, made for looking around rather than looking for a spare lung.
But mainly it was not being solo. If I’d ridden this on my own a finish would be doubtful, excuses and early baleouts almost guaranteed. Which is pretty much how Billy-no-mates MTB rides end as well. Arguably You could even argue that road riding is more social on traffic free roads and without the standard straining Malvern Gurn in place.
For balance, important to state quite clearly it’s not as good as Mountain Biking. But it was today when off road trails would have been a muddy horror show. I learned some things as well: “How to trim my big ring” which I’d always assumed was some lycra-creepy initiation ceremony. And – even being a roadie novice – the art of drafting came easily to a man for whom cheating is a life skill.
First 20k were fine, second not so bad. Break for coffee and food was welcome, certainly more welcome than next 20k which dragged a little on less fun roads marked by traffic and gradients. Last 20k was surprisingly painless even with tiring legs and ice cold feet. Descending on twisty roads was friskier than I expected, and even some of the climbing felt kind of nice.
Don’t worry tho; the dark side shall not claim me. Chunky winter boots, flappy clothing and an absolute refusal to stay-press my willy in an orgy of lycra categorised me perfectly. I’m a Mountain Biker who will ride anything rather than not ride at all. Having said all that, a nice 100k out to Broadway is planned for next month, and I find myself looking forward to it.
Best hide the razor.