17 January 2012

Mud, Sweat, and Gears

On Sunday we took the mountain bikes out for their first ride of 2012. We know we'll have to put in a lot of kilometers on them when we do the Camino, so we figured we'd better get started training!

We're experiencing somewhat of a cold snap right now (or maybe it's just an 'average' snap rather than the above average temperatures we've had so far this winter), so I was definitely apprehensive about the weather.  Hearing Alberto's stories of his frozen water bottle and painful hands from the day before did not help! We layered up our jerseys, Buffs, even our gloves and filled our Camelbaks. I reminisced about last year at this time, when I told Alberto that I was unwilling to ride in anything lower than 10 degrees C (50 F) -- hah! Here I am heading out on a day with a forecasted high of 6 degrees (42 F)!

All layered up

We waited until about 10:30 to get on the road, by which time most of the frost was gone from central London, and headed up to Epping Forest, our favorite mountain biking destination within easy reach of London. It takes about an hour by bike to get there, but it's a pleasant ride, mainly along canal towpaths.

Once in Epping, we mainly stayed on the larger trails, which had the advantage of allowing us to go faster, thus using some aerobic energy and keeping us warm, but had the disadvantage of being popular with walkers (with associated dogs and children) and horse riders. Oh well, we better get used to it for the Camino!

Epping Forest is famous for its muddy conditions in the winter, so we were not surprised to encounter mud--on the single track sections but also on the bigger paths. Some of it was frozen over, but other parts were definitely not! Alberto said my tires are better for muddy conditions, because they allow the mud to escape rather than getting trapped in the treads, but it seemed to me that the mud was just 'escaping' all over me! By the time we were done with the ride my entire body was covered in mud splatter -- but I guess that's what real mountain biking is all about.

This is why mudguards were invented
There are a lot of great hills in Epping Forest, which was good because we both need to get back in shape! The hills were tough and by the end of the day we were both really feeling it in our legs. But it was so great to be back on the bikes again, and a great way to enjoy a rare sunny winter's day.

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