The Mountain Bike Life

As I sit here mid holidays, belly straining under the volume of roasted delicacies and more than my share of merriment (if you catch my drift….) I find myself reflecting on the year behind us, inevitably thoughts turn to mountain biking and my plans for 2014. Of course 2014 will be the evolution of that I have learned in 2013 so (over a festive tipple) I pose the fundamental questions around exactly what I have learned, decided or stumbled upon this year. Gingers Who, What, Where, How and Why of MTB 2013 if you will.



Who: well there have been any number of notable personalities in the running for this throughout the year. Danny Macaskill took his own brand of MTB/Trials riding to yet another level with the delivery of Imaginate. Tom Wheelers determination to ride despite losing the use of his arm shown in the online documentary ‘Peaks of Life’ gets him into my list for the year. Gary Fisher is always there, mainly due to epic facial hair, Kelly McGarry for ‘that’ back flip of course…. But the winner is: Rachel Atherton. Yes she is undoubtedly a great racer, and as an Englishman the fact that she is a British world champion helps more than a little as well but its because she’s a woman that she makes it to the top of this years list. Not as some sexist ‘isn’t it clever thing for a girl’, but because I fully believe our sport to be fully inclusive. Young, old. Fast, slow, Boys or girls and Miss Athertons performance this year, whilst great to watch can also only do well for the widening of the audience of MTB into the girls locker room as well as the guys. As a dad of 2 girls this is a bonus.

Clockwise from top left: Danny Macaskill changes riding films again in ‘Imaginate’, Tom Wheeler makes me feel like a total wuss for complaining about my injuries in ‘Peaks of Life’, Rachel Atherton showing that the girls can catch the lime light, and that the UK still has space for champions and of course: ‘THAT’ back flip.

What: Its been a reflective year of change on the MTB front for me this year. A subtle change in terms of what lights up my MTB interest has occurred and as such the items of desire have shifted slightly but there are things that have definitely earned a mention. On One Merino Thicky Socks get a warm welcome to the fold simply for being a toasty bargain. After years of battling waterproof socks that simply fill with water and cost too much, socks that stay warm when wet, don’t smell like the bad side of a rotten dog even after a long day in trail shoes and come at less than £10 for three pairs is a pretty welcome thing. Maybe not new for this year, but new to me was the clutch mech. Simply a great invention and anything I saw by Lezyne bought out the boy scout in me. I got very, very taken with the arrival of the ‘all mountain hardtail 29’er. The Niner Bikes R.O.S. a wonderful, rare and desirable case in point, but as a cheap ass, family man the award for bike of the year went to my Trek Stache 8, I’ve written plenty about her of late, suffice to say if I wasn’t married she’d live in the house. But the best thing I bought this year, without doubt, was my Saris bones bike rack. Around for a long time in the market, endless reviews already exist. Its simply the best of its type I’ve used, it’s super easy to simply drop the rigs onto my little BMW and go (for reference the Bones 3 will fit on the New model BMW 1 series). The moral being a cool bike is great, actually getting to ride it on trails is better still.

Clockwise from top left: Socks that don’t stink, freeze or cost more than your kidneys, On One Merino Thicky. Lezyne Tools, don’t need one, but want all the same. Eleanor, big bars, big wheels, BIG fun. Saris Bones. An old classic but the best result of the year. 

Where: For all kinds of reasons its not been a year of epic adventures. A few sorte’s to Welsh trail centers have bought some memorable moments as usual, A podium place at the ever wonderful Bristol Bike Fest as well as a good few sessions riding like a loon around the trails at Bristols Aston court have been a chuckle making in worthy of a mention but without question the best place I’ve ridden this year is my local woods. A tiny 1 by 3 mile wooded hill on the coast (A few mins of Go-Pro footage). I need no car to get there, I know the trails like the the inside of my own eyelids and I can put together a 4km lap of single track with a thousand feet of up and a grin inducing thousand down with no need of packs, planning, maps or other complications. The best thing is very few local riders really take the time to learn the hundreds of tiny, ever changing ‘desire’ lines running around the area. Many of them electing to drive to a local hill group, spending time in the car as I’m already on the trail. And of course no car means that a beer on the way home is a safe and social option….

Atop the mighty Skyline, A tough year has made travel to ride harder, but I still found my way to the occasional Welsh peak.

How: The Pump. Reading Brian Lopes’ book (Mastering Mountain Bike Skills) whilst completing my instructor course I learned that the thing I’d been doing while hitting trail elements was called ‘pumping’. Weirdly once I knew it was actually a thing, I started to work on it. Pump tracks, line revisions it basically changed my riding. In conjunction with Eleanor I’m hitting bigger lines than ever and running faster on technical trail than ever. Get active, get pumping.

Pumping: ride it until its an over exaggerated motion and find yourself actively seeking out the bigger lines. 

Why: This is the easiest to answer of all of the questions to myself. I still love it. My best friends are who they are to me because they love to ride. Many of my favourite places are so because the trails are awesome, my favourite clothes are those garments that advertise my status as a mountain biker to the public, and the place I have managed to forget my troubles the easiest Mountain biking is the place I have managed to put my own issues and the challenges in my life in perspective. 2013 has been a year to remind me that as I grow old and my abilities change, technology advances, styles and trends evolve and the simple act of riding a bicycle off road is still a massive part of who I am. Basically a successful year for Ginger then…..

Even on race day, hitting the trails brings a smile to my face….
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