MTB-ing into 2018 like YEEEE-HAAA

First weekend of the 2018 and a mountain bike trip in the lakes : re-riding the Borrowdale Bash!

It occured to me while riding at the weekend that its been 3 years since I really started to take mountain biking seriously. In February 2015 I bought a full suspension bike, which seemed like a pretty big investment at the time. I was on the brink of losing my job and it seemed like a reckless purchase but blimey was it the right thing to do! What a fantastic investment it has been…. the hours and the miles and the things i have experienced as part of mountain biking. It has without doubt helped me to turn my life around, beating depression, overcoming anxiety and steered me in a new direction from an alcohol soaked meaningless lifestyle into something wholesome, healthy and so good for the soul. Plus I’ve challenged myself in ways I couldn’t have believed and it has been thoroughly rewarding.

This weekend we packed up and headed for Keswick exactly a year after our last visit. I was excited to try a new route, but due to lack of planning and research we decided to ride the Borrowdale Bash again. Trying new routes can sometimes be tricky even with a Garmin, so for ease we decided to go with what we knew. We enjoyed it last year, despite lots of mechanicals amongst our group and the weather and daylight fighting against us, the majesty of the Lake District countryside and the exuberance of experiencing a new place meant that I looked back on the day fondly and was keen to do it again, especially with better weather and riding conditions.

Prior to our trip in Jan 2017 I remember that we hadn’t ridden much in recent months and I was feeling out of practice. This was reflected in my riding…. I think I was battling myself and certainly wasn’t harmonious with my bike. Riding tensely, stiff and feeling frustrated at the fact many sections i didn’t ride as well as I felt I was capable of. Fast forward to January 2018 and my head was way more in the game. I have developed a strategy where I talk to myself out loud constantly while riding (mainly on downhill sections) telling myself what position I should be in, reminding myself not to tighten up and to keep my weight back even why my muscles are screaming at me that they need to collapse! I’m acting as a coach to myself, encouraging, motivating, reassuring and instructing. It works!

When climbing uphill if im finding it tricky or motivation starts to drop I start to count in my head as a way of focussing my mind and to keep me pedalling in a rhythm. Count to 8 in sets of 10, count to 100, then start again, count to 50, count to 30…whatever really. It is a process that seems to keep my brain busy so I don’t have to listen to the thoughts in my head saying “STOP NOW. YOU CAN’T DO IT!”

For me the benefit of re-riding the Borrowdale Bash route was the ability to know what is coming and also have a measure of progress! It’s such an amazing feeling to tackle a climb or descent and know that you did a better job than previously. I was literally grinning from ear to ear with myself that I’d confidently ridden a section which last year I struggled to get down (might have even walked it!). That feeling gives the much needed confidence and positive momentum to encourages me to ride better and better and generally it starts to feel nicer and more in tune with the bike, so it’s a really rewarding process. When i cast my mind back to 3 years ago and how far I have come I do feel really proud, and the knowledge that I also have a lot to work and improve on gives me excitement to see what i can achieve and where my mountain biking adventures will take me.

The Borrowdale Bash route is a nice route for those who don’t want to tackle a ‘hike-a-bike’ route – it’s nearly all rideable and mostly off road too which is a real bonus. There’s technical climbing and descending and some really challenging lines for those who want to push their skill level. It’s also a good route as it never takes you too far from civilisation – there’s a lovely village with several pubs/options for a break conveniently just before the Honister Pass climb if you feel the need to refuel! The views are stunning – classic Lake District scenes so plenty of good places to stop and admire the view or take some photos.

The highlight for me was the descent through the old Slate Mine – dramatic scenery with the steep sided walls covered in slate scree and the view of the beautiful Derwent Water in the distance. The riding through the quarry is a good challenge but not so steep or rocky that you can’t let go and have fun. I rode it much faster this time around and it was really brilliant, exhilarating fun. At the bottom i was whooping and cheering with the adrenaline rush (before the last climb around the edge of Catbells drained the last of the energy from my body!)

This is a great route and one I’m sure I will ride again – particularly because of the lure of finishing the ride and demolishing the famous COW PIE at The George in Keswick. A carnivores heaven, which kept me motivated during chilly and hungry spells on the ride!

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