It should be winter here in Gingerville. It should be all clear, crisp, frosty dawns. Breath steaming in the quiet morning air. The winter sun should be glinting off of frosted, firm winter trails like something from a chocolate box scene. It should. It most certainly isn’t but it should. No, Mr. J. Frost has obviously decided to take a sabbatical and mother nature has hastily replaced him with brothers Damp and Moist and their never ending supply of precipitation. This causes all kinds of headaches for the pedaling masses, and no problem is properly resolved without some creative thinking……

Definitely a couple of clicks past moist here in the SW of England at present…… Wetter than an otters pocket. Photo copyright Richard Austin

The issue isn’t only the deeply significant amount of water that has tumbled, seemingly relentlessly, from our grey and doom laden skies. Nor is it simply an issue of correct clothing. There comes a point as a mountain biker where one has to take responsibility for the trails we ride. Sometimes not riding trail is simply the right thing to do as the erosion and damage we can inflict on very soft ground can be significant. Ultimately damaging the environment and also ruining the trail for riding once dry.

What to do when this situation occurs? Retreat to the road bike. After all, its dark early so you can avoid most of the stares as you tread along clad head to foot in deviant wear. Problem is to gain benefit of tarmac miles you need exactly that: Tarmac miles. Sad to say that the roads once you get out of our small town have fared not that much better than our beloved trails, indeed you may say some resemble them. Its a braver man than me that will bat along at 15-20mph in the dark along flooded roads on 23-25mm slick tyres (or ice, as one of my team mates will attest this week). Yes indeed, even the tarmac miles are less than recommended at present. So what to do. Surely there is no fun to be had from a bike while limited to the small patch of town I call home?

I sat, brooding on the topic, considering caving into the dull agony of the turbo trainer when a snippet of conversation from the summer fluttered into my head. I was sat discussing a ride with ‘Dockers of Doom’ (PT and general maniac), pouring over Strava data when he laughed and pointed out that the route outline looked like a picture of a dog licking a pea. (You can’t make this stuff up….) As the man once said (no idea who the man was, could have been a lady, but it WAS said) If you want a new idea look in a museum.

I can’t ride trail at the moment without a wet suit and a divers helmet, I can’t put in proper miles on the road without an up to date will and life insurance. I’d rather BBQ my own gentleman’s vegetables than make the turbo trainer the frequent companion it once was, so how about a new challenge? When guiding or looking for ways to challenge riders plotting routes that look fun is a big part. Indeed having a good grasp on your general whereabouts and direction is a great asset to any mountain biker. Believe me, I have some really good friends who are great riders but who share their sense of direction with the average oak tree. They know up is usually OK, but that’s about it….. And so (sharing a modicum of the lime light with my notorious friend) I introduce to you: Strav-a-sketch! If you can’t get fit, get direction!

Did anyone ever manage to maintain patience long enough to actually draw a recognisable image with one of these bad boys? If we want to know how the playstation generation got started I think we look no further. I generation of people so disillusioned with available entertainment they were inspired to design something better……

There are pictures galore online of artists who work on a grand scale. Indeed Simon Beck is an artist who creates the most amazing, grand scale masterpieces with little more than some fresh power and a set of snow shoes. However I fear even the remarkable Mr. Beck would be hard pressed to create anything of note with nothing more than above average rainfall to call on. Not for us snow shoes. Our weapon of mass creation will be the humble velocipede, an even more humble rider, an unavoidably soggy map and a Satellite. I wouldn’t expect great things…..

The remarkable work of the Snow Shoe artist Simon Beck. Try that in Soggy Somerset my friend…..

Its more challenging than you’d think, your sense of direction will need to be spot on, you’ll need to really understand your map, and of course you’ll need your Strava set to ‘master piece’ but it can be done. That’s right, if your bored, set a challenge of a limited few miles and go make your mark! You can honestly say you can see your works from space, even if ‘Dog licking garden vegetable’ hasn’t been called into the national gallery as yet I’m sure its simply a matter of time….. I’m telling you its the next big thing! If nothing else its more mentally taxing than yet another Sufferfest session in Turbo Trainer hell.

Its no master piece, but carved by satellite in the cold and damp is a somewhat wonky set of The Mountain Bike Life Initials……

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