Words by Phil Allum:
The weather forecast was not great. But one of the greatest things about our sport is the fact that we are not dependant on certain weather conditions. Cricket? You’ll need a dry day. Flying? Then the wind is critical. If you like surfing, then swell is essential.
With mountain biking, weather wise, it doesn’t matter. If it’s dry, you stay dry. If it rains, you get wet. But unlike other sports, you can always get out and get on with it.
This is what I was telling myself as I set off from home, with menacingly dark clouds amassing overhead. But does anyone else think this way?
I shouldn’t have worried that I’ll be riding on my own, as Nathan & Pete were both tempted by Graham’s idea of a supersized ride and started their rides from Coate Water, along with Graham.
A quick cycle around the lake, across the 3 fields and we were up to Barbury Castle. Here, we were joined by Richard, John, Nigel & just in time Kaye.
As the wind started blowing and the heavens were threatening to open up, it was time to get moving. We set off across the hill fort towards Hackpen with a strong headwind, picked up the Ridgeway, and started the task of dodging puddles. Those without a front mudguard were treated to a lovely Wiltshire mud facial.
We followed the Ridgeway to Fyfield downs, along the way we had to traverse a badly rutted section. With a mixture of peddling, paddling and walking, all 8 of us managed to navigate it without a single sit down. There were a few technical dismounts, but no full on sit downs, so they don’t really count, do they?
A quick stop to help a farmer throw a one eared sheep over the fence, and we were on the sponge like grass that covers Fyfield downs. The gravel tracks after the Sarsen stones has a gradient that is sufficient to freewheel most of the way, but with a monsoon now engulfing us, and a full on gale force headwind, it was non-stop peddling all the way. Those who had earlier been treated to a mud facial were now experiencing stage 2, which felt like a skin peel.
Passing through the trees down to Rockley, some opted for the root drop, including Richard Ford, who then won the ‘Find the rabbit hole with your front wheel’ competition.
From here it was a bit of tarmac before the climb up to four mile clump. Here we passed Gravity Team loon Mike Brazier riding a cheat bike – one with an internal combustion engine- looking suitably wet and muddy.
With everyone finding their own rhythm and tackling the climb at their own speed, it was no surprise to see Graham disappearing into the distance.
I was loitering around the middle of the pack and I’m glad I was. Because I could then award Kaye with ‘Save of the day’, when she got seriously crossed up in some ruts and looked certain for a muddy splash landing, but controlled it well to carry on if nothing had happened.
Arriving back at Barbury Castle, the rain had stopped, the clouds were breaking up and blue sky was appearing all around. Typical.
Personally, I love acting like a big kid and sliding around in the mud. Judging by the 7 others covered in mud, but all grinning (I think they were grinning), I would say I’m not alone with that thought.
Big thanks to all for joining me, looking forward to the next time.