Lessons learnt...

Czenglish Posts: 26
edited September 2009 in MTB beginners
Had a very educational ride today.

Went out about 5pm, intending to climb up & ride along a big ridge not far from my home. Everyone says it's good riding there, but have shied away from the 350m climb up until now. Didn't say where I was going, in case I wimped out - in which case my missus would be taking the mick all week. Plan was to ride to the far end of the ridge, climb up it, ride along the top, nice downhill to one of my favourite pubs & then an easy 20 mins home.

First 20km were great - my favourite fast, flat singletrack by the river. Got to the bottom of the ridge & wheezed my way up it. (Proud of how much my climbing has improved this year, would never have managed this 6 months ago). Got to the top, paused to catch my breath & tinker with the saddle, & then set off through the forest at the top of the ridge. All went well until about 8pm...

Maybe it's because I'm just back from holiday (or maybe I've had my head up my arse) but hadn't noticed that of course it's getting dark a bit earlier. I'd greatly underestimated how long the ride would take me. Missed the turning I'd been aiming for, but no biggie, as there was another one a couple of km further on which would take me down to the pub.

Found the second turning which took me down into thicker forest. And into darkness. It was around here I learnt how quickly it gets dark in a forest. And how crap my light is. And how daft it was to assume that the track would be an easy one (like most of the tracks round here). It was all roots, tombstone rocks, fallen branches & sudden drops & washouts. And then I lost the path.

All the forest looks the same in the dark. It was very steep, and I'd already had a few close shaves with large rocks & roots. The idea of spending the night in the forest with a compound fracture didn't appeal. It was pitch dark. I was lost. I couldn't cope with the terrain (it would be challenging for me in daylight, never mind in the dark). I was getting pretty nervous by then, so dismounted to collect my thoughts.

I had a compass, I had a map, I had a cheap crappy light. I had my mobile, but the battery was almost dead. I was way out of my depth, & possibly facing a night in the forest. I nearly lost it.

But I managed to stay calm. I had a rough idea of where I was, & I knew that as long as I kept heading north, I would reach civilisation and home. It was way too dark, rough & scary to ride, so I started pushing. I *hate* pushing (feels like cheating). I was pretty rattled at this point, but managed to keep myself together and make a plan: keep calm and head north, even if it means pushing all night.

I was also kicking myself, as 20-30 mins before I had crossed a road which would have taken me off the ridge in no time. But that was now a long way back, and a long way up.

I suppose it's an anticlimax to say I soon regained the path, which quickly led to a larger track I felt confident to coast down, and which soon led me to a road I recognised. I was home within an hour. Sorry if you've been hoping for an epic tale of survival, in which I fight off bears with my multi-tool, bite the heads off badgers, & am reduced to drinking my own urine, ingeniously filtered through a contraption made of spokes, innertubes & chamois.

But this ride did teach me a few things:

- Just because you're not far from home, don't assume that things can't go pear-shaped
- Never make assumptions about a track you've not ridden before
- Give yourself plenty of time to get home before dark, unless you have decent lights
- Lights: supermarket specials will get you home from the pub, but are no effing use at all off-road.
- No shame in diverting to a quicker route home if it's all starting to get a bit much. Better a live coward than a dead hero. (I was pushing myself too much).
- Know your limits
- Tell someone where you're going
- Carry a map & a compass (& know how to use them). Always have a rough idea of where you are & what direction you ought to be heading in
- If your partner is really frosty with you when you get in, this is becuase she has been worried about you. She needs a hug & an apology (She did call, but I'd already found the road home by then. I didn't call, as I wanted to save the battery in case things got worse)
- Oh, and make sure the bloody mobile is charged properly before you set out.

All very, very obvious stuff really, but I'd never paid proper attention to these before. I'm tooling round my local area, not striking out across the desert. But still, I should have thought things through more beforehand, and should have been better prepared. Maybe you could say I'm a lightweight, as I'm sure there are guys out there who cycle backwards, naked, up Mount Everest... covered in jam & pulling a trailer full of wasps. Sitting in my kitchen with a large scotch at my elbow, this all seems a bit silly, really. But it was the most "exciting" ride I've had, and I hope I'll be a better & more responsible cyclist in future as a result.

Epic post, perhaps I'm still a bit wound up. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to read through the "what lights" sticky.


  • Sounds a frightening experience mate.. :shock:
  • BurtonM
    BurtonM Posts: 425
    i woulda been shatting it. fortunately, my bikes not very old so the white paint acts as a light. people think jesus is coming when they see me on my meta.
    yeehaamcgee wrote:

    That's like saying i want a door for my car that doesn't meet the roof, because I once had the wind blow it shut when I was getting in, and I had my head squished between, well, the door and the roof.
  • M1llh0use
    M1llh0use Posts: 863
    Czenglish wrote:
    Had a very educational ride today.

    I'm still a bit wound up. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to read through the "what lights" sticky.

    fun was it>? :twisted:
    {insert smartarse comment here}
  • I was expecting a story of extreme survival then - but on a serious note - it means others will learn from your mistake - so its not all loss! Glad you got back safely though.
    Specialized FSR XC Expert 2010
  • miss notax
    miss notax Posts: 2,572
    Blimey :shock:

    All sounds a bit scary! Glad you came out of it ok, albeit with a tale to tell!

    This is the reason why I never ride alone - I have all the navigational skills of a blind goat :oops:
    Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away....

    Riding a gorgeous ano orange Turner Burner!

    Sponsor the CC2CC at http://www.justgiving.com/cc2cc
  • another useful tip is to take an unblocked phone and as many SIM cards as you can as many won't work in the middle of nowhere/forests etc..

    a lot of phone companies are giving any SIM's now so it's useful to have one that will work
  • Have to say, it`s a great post. Pretty sure I`ll learn something from that.

    However, in my opinion, bears would def have been a bonus.

    Go listen to... www.wefunkradio.com
  • that sounds like a truley epic ride dude ull remeber that always!!
    2 Broken fingers broken again... F@$%^£g hell that hurt!!!

    92% of teenagers have turned to rap. If your one of the 8% that still listens to real music put this in your sig.