Taking spinning out of the equation, the last time I rode a bike and I mean a real bike, was probably about 16 years ago. I figured out that I could cycle the 16 miles round trip to the gym and save myself some petrol money. It also meant that I got double the workout. Bonus.
About a year ago my friend bought a mountain bike. As happy as I was for him, there was a part of me that started to long for a two-wheeled steed to call my own. I wanted to get up early on a Sunday morning, pedal as fast as I could through a forest and feel the wind in my hair while dodging dog walkers and joggers. So at the end of May when Ian and I headed to the Lakes for a long weekend, I decided it would be the ideal opportunity to hire a couple of bikes and take to the hills. So we did.
After discovering that the main road to Hawkshead was closed due to a marathon, we had a long and windy drive ahead of us to Grizedale and we only made it to the hire shop by the skin of our teeth. After signing my life away by accepting the fact that I may die, asking for a helmet with fairies on and also for a bike with stabilisers (none of which I got), we were on our way.
I may not have been spinning in months, but 6 days a week I do a mix of interval training, strength training and aerobics, and although there’s still room for improvement, I consider my fitness level to be way above average. But however fit I thought I was, nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead. The guy in the bike shop had directed us back out of the visitor centre and onto the road. ‘Turn left, head back up the hill and turn right into the forest when you see the sign for Moor Top, then follow the purple way markers’.
After having a quick practice riding on the flat and getting used to the gears, we headed out onto the road and….back…up….the…hill. Luckily for me, I have thighs of steel and calves of iron. Ian however, does not. As I continued to pedal to the top of the hill and leave Ian trailing behind (bad wifey), the tables soon turned once we made our way into the forest. As I came face to face with the first bottom twitching descent, I watched in surprise as Ian left a trail of dust and went speeding past me. Up until now I hadn’t associated mountain biking with anything other than exhilaration, but with every second of my downhill hell, the fear of falling and the pain associated with it began to grow; rapidly. I let out a scream, gently pressed the brakes and started to slow myself by dragging one foot on the ground. When I finally reached the bottom I stopped to gather my thoughts and saw Ian grinning at me. I realised that I had several more miles ahead of me, so I started pedalling up the next hill and as I approached the next descent I did so with slightly more confidence. As my confidence began to grow and we slowly reached the end of the trail, I realised I was actually starting to enjoy the descents, and my fear was turning into exhilaration.
We headed back to the visitor centre to stock up on water and Kendal mint cake before doing the trail one more time. As my fear subsided and I settled into the ride, I realised there may not have been dog walkers or joggers to dodge, but there was definitely wind in my hair!