Trail Finding

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There it is, just past that gnarled tree, before the gatepost. A slim gap in the brambles and nettles. A snaking path of brown dirt. The brakes go on and I loop back. Dart off the fireroad and onto the swooping track. Gently dropping down in sweeping shallow bends. Eyes beady and peeled, looking for roots and hidden holes.

GPS me and my path would knit a messy cat’s cradle of knotted trails, all within a few square miles of wood. But I’ve lost an hour, discovering and rediscovering lost trails.

In the winter their character changes. They’re stodgy bogs. A hard slog and a full bike clean. But now in summer all that’s left is fine dust on the paintwork, sweat on my forehead and a tingling in my forearms.

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On being Underbiked

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In cycling, there’s nothing like being on a trail on a bike that you’ve got no right to be riding there. Riding off road on skinny tyres and no suspension is a rite that’s probably lost many riders. ‘Cross riders know what I’m talking about. So too do those who grew up in the pre MTB era, when you rode one bike everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed being underbiked all my life. At age 9 I rode my 5 speed Falcon Eddy Merckx over ramps and did cycle speedway before I knew it existed.

When I was fully grown, I rode the Delyn Challenge, on the bridleways of the Clwyds, on lowly Trek hybrid amid hardtails and full bounce bikes. 

One of my favourite road rides on a 23mm tyred road bike took in a rocky unmade road in the Pennines. Another, a rooty singletrack shortcut.

Someone said that the thrill of riding off road was all about finding the edge. It’s a fact that you find the edge faster when you’re underbiked.

So get out there, find a trail and get sketchy.

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Resurrectio the Swiss Army Bicycle

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Demonstrating the sheer flexibility and adaptability of Resurrectio the Green, I give you Resurrectio the off road bike. Flat bars, stripped to the bone, Schwalbe Land Cruisers (tyres of choice for the 3 Peaks so I’m told) and gear changing handled by Sun Race’s cheap but ever so cheerful ratcheting friction shifters. Ready for some evening bridleway rides with colleagues and some woodland scorching with Tom. This is one versatile frame and fork, to be sure.

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Playing out

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When you were a kid you played out on your bike. You didn’t measure your enjoyment in miles accrued, calories burned or average speed attained. You went out on your bike, had some fun, the came home when you were done. It’s easy to forget that simple raison d’etre in the current age, where even our leisure time seems to be imagined in terms of KPIs.

Last night, my son and I played out in our bikes.  I called down to his house and we went for a spin along the waterfront. A warm breezy evening to be savoured.

We rode to the Pier Head, stopped awhile, admired Liverpool’s Three Graces, watched the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry boat leave for Douglas. Raced it along the waterfront until we ran out of road and it sailed toward New Brighton.

Then we played some more, racing each other back toward the Liver Building then decided to hunt out a pavement cafe where we refuelled heartily on tea, coffee and massive chocolate brownies (a fulsome recommendation for The Quarter by Blackburne House).

Then we dropped through Chinatown’s gilded arch, back towards the waterfront and caught the tailwind home.

You should try playing out on your bike sometime. It’s fun.

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Sandals as summer cycling shoes

I mean seriously, why not?

There’s a huge amount of hogwash flying around out there about cycling specific shoes being ‘essential’ for cycling any distance at all. So much so that manufacturers even make commuter specific models, apparently purposely designed for the daily grind.

The alleged merits of cycling shoes are that their stiff soles and mechanical attachment to the pedal makes for a more efficient pedalling stroke. The funny thing is that us average punters, hell bent on depriving ourselves of our disposable, buy this science without the means of proving or disproving the theory.

But sandals? Surely a step too far? Well I hate to break it to you, but I did a 30 mile, hilly mixed terrain ride last week wearing a pair of Rohan sandals with no issues whatsoever. No chafing, no apparent loss of power and the blissful feeling of the summer air wafting over my delicate pinkies.

I also did Sky Ride Birmingham shod thusly, including a go on Rollapaluza’s roller racing rig, recording 25 seconds dead for 500metres standing start.

I do have a few key recommendations for prospective sandalled bikers. A model with a non exposed toe is good, as is a strap around the back of the Achilles. A grippy sole is also desirable.

So you can ride and ride strong in normal shoes or even sandals. The key is to get grippy pedals with a good, wide footbed.

Forget about the pulling up on the pedal stroke. It’ll only distract you from your power stroke. Think about it. Do you really think you can augment the power of your left leg pushing down by pulling up with your right? At best you can unweight your upcoming leg but you don’t need clips for that.

Forget about stiff soles too. Strong feet, ankles and supportive pedals are all you need.

For more on this Google ‘Rivendell Shoes Ruse’ for further pondering.

ps: I don’t do socks and sandals. I’m saving that for my dotage.

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