This is post 3 of 4 for my mountain biking in England series. Read more here!
Well, what an ill-fated ride this one was! First of all, I wasn't really 'feeling it' when I headed out that morning. I was tired and honestly didn't feel like exerting any energy which I knew I definitely would be because there isn't a flat mile in south west England. But I pushed through those excuses and headed toward Monksilver (where the ride was to start) because I usually find that the sluggish feeling dissolves once I'm in the bike saddle.
Not this ride.
Here are a few things that went amiss:
✦ As I was unloading my bike from the car, an older couple walked by and the elderly gent stopped for a chat. I usually enjoy a pleasant conversation with a stranger, but this guy WOULD NOT STOP TALKING. Holy moly. He asked me about cats and camping and what I do for work and why I’m in England for the summer. He told me about his daughter who is a hair dresser and how he once held two goats for a woman so she could milk them. He shared that he and his wife lived in a camper van for six years and he was a retired plumber and his last name is White so people call him Whitey. Interesting stuff, for sure, but my god it went on and on. After trying to convince myself during the drive that a ride would be fun, this guy made me ecstatic to get on my bike just so I could get away! Thankfully his wife (who probably had years of practice) was able to coax him along.
✦ Stupidly, I forgot my guide book with the map of the route and written directions at home, so I was just relying on the digital map I created on ridewithgps.com which I then imported into the maps.me app. This system honestly works really well - all I have to do is check my phone to see if I’m on the right track - but I feel better when I have a physical map and directions with me. 'Just in case'. I started the ride with a slightly doomed feeling because I knew I shouldn't be heading out by myself into the back trails of Exmoor National Park without an actual map…
✦ It started raining just as I was riding away from the car. I know this isn't a big deal - people ride in the rain all the time - but with that doomed feeling in my stomach already the rain just added another layer of gloomines.
✦ The hills! Oh the hills. Maybe I was just tired and hadn’t given my body a good break for a while, but I felt like these hills were seriously out to make my ride and day miserable. I know it’s not their fault, but many curses were thrown at them anyways
✦ Much of the trail was so overgrown that I could barely ride it. It was kind of fun pedaling through tall grass at first, but that got old pretty quick
✦ This was the real kicker. With 3.5 miles to go I got a flat tire and I 100% wasn’t prepared for it. No spare tube, no pump, no repair kit, nothing… At this point all I could do was laugh because this ride had already been so hapless. I had a chuckle then started pushing my bike through the field trying to avoid stepping sheep shit as much as possible.
✦ I laughed until I discovered that the last three miles were composed of awesome downhill single track through a narrow tree-and-stone-wall corridor. Gah. It would have been epic.
✦ As I was walking down this amazing single track, cursing the ride all over again, somehow I managed to strike my pedal against my shin which resulted in an immediate half dome swell and numbing pain radiating through my shin and calf. More curses.
✦ When I got back to the car, I checked Strava to see how far I had ‘ridden’ and of course it had failed to track.
Ok, so it was a pretty ill-fated ride, but I also like to think of the positives. So what didn't go wrong (because it's hard to say that anything really went ‘right’)?
✦ I had created and downloaded a digital map of the route and imported it into the maps.me app before the ride, so at least I knew where I was at all times. And my battery didn’t die nor did I have any technology issues, thank god.
✦ It didn't pour down rain, it was just a light drizzle and then the skies cleared up midway through the ride lifting my mood a notch or two
✦ The flat tire happened three miles from the end of the ride, not at the beginning or in the middle.
✦ Maybe if I had ridden the awesome downhill single track I would have gone over the handlebars and split my chin open (again). Or worse.
✦ I had enough food and snacks to avoid the disastrous hand of hangryness
✦ I learned some valuable lessons: always be prepared for a flat tire (or other mechanical issues), listen to your body, and go through a checklist before heading out for a ride so you don’t forget anything! And don’t talk to strangers.
Onward and upward!