So to me the best part of mountain biking is flowing down some loamy dry singletrack with the occasional jump or drop-off to get some air; that feeling where you and the bike seem to flow and glide as one and (briefly at least until your skill inevitably runs out!) you feel like you are an indestructible riding king!
Aside from that though there is certainly some joy to be had in getting some shiny new kit, but there is a health warning to be had here as I found out last weekend. Long in the planning was last weekend’s loop of Cutgate in Derbyshire’s Peak District; bikes tweaked, cars packed and mates suitably excited we headed off bright and early to make sure Andy could be back in time for a late afternoon family meal. It was at this point that my best mate and riding buddy Luke proudly announced he had some new winter riding shoes and he would doubtless have the warmest feet of our little trio for the forthcoming ride.
So we pulled into the car park and with a little jealously on Andy’s part and mine we watched Luke pull on his arctic capable looking footwear as we waded through the frosty puddles in our trusty but ‘battle-worn’ shoes. We quickly put the cold behind us as we hit the first rutted, muddy, rocky and generally bloody tough climb; it was at this point Luke requested a multi-tool (he’d remembered his new shoes but not a multi-tool!) because his feet kept unclipping without prompting, pedals suitably tightened we continued for another 500 yards before the problem resurfaced, we tightened the pedals yet further and continued for another ½ mile before the problem arose yet again; yet more tightening and an exploratory ride of Luke’s bike by both Andy and I established the pedals were plenty tight enough (I couldn’t unclip without assistance!). We decided to persevere and made it to the top of the first climb and over a traverse when Luke swore loudly as a pedal slapped his shin for the 7th time in as many minutes. My natural engineer (and desire to keep riding given I’d come all the way from Bristol for this!) kicked in and I eventually worked out that his cleats were set so deep in the (too narrow) cleat gap in the soles that they wouldn’t clip in to the pedals; a fundamental design flaw on a brand new pair of shoes which Luke (understandably) didn’t want to solve with my suggestion of hacking down the sole with my Leatherman! Cue a moment of what (we thought) was trailside inspiration; half a chain-link jammed under each cleat we got another 250 yards up the hill before all we could hear was Luke’s profanities again.
It was at this point Luke succumbed to the futility of being in the rocky, slippery (awesome) Peak District but being totally unable to clip into his pedals; we had a long discussion, got very cold and dejected and then did what all good riding buddies do, we turned back to the car as a group (never leave a man behind!). So after one very short descent which Andy and I squeezed every inch of fun out of and Luke endured with stoic good humour we were back at the car having covered 7 miles in 2 and a half hours (with less than an hour of moving time!).
So what’s the moral of this sorry tale? Well I think there are a few:
· Check new kit thoroughly before you go riding, faulty equipment is the easiest way to run a great ride; this wasn’t even a proper mechanical and somehow (trust me on this) that is far far more frustrating!
· No matter how good or bad a ride is, it’s always memorable and that’s why we love our sport; yes I didn’t get a proper trip into the Peaks with its brutal climbs and epic descents but I did have a laugh with 2 good mates and we will undoubtedly laugh (at Luke!) about it in the future.
· And the final (and most important) moral… Ride in Livigno in summer; you don’t need bloody winter shoes then! And of course Monkey MTB can help you get there too!