So yesterday Elly, I and some other friends went to Glentress (near Peebles) for a session on their purpose-built mountain-biking runs. The friend who organised this has been here several times, while the others often combine mountain-biking with their love of hillwalking, cycling to get to routes that otherwise would take all day to even reach. I’d not mountain-biked before but I suspect this won’t be the last time.
I have to say at the start that it’s an insane sport. You get utterly filthy from mud splattering your arse and even all over your face and it’s hard going uphill along rocky, muddy worn paths with tight hairpins and no sense of getting miles of smooth tarmac under your belt. But it’s delightfully insane! The exhilaration of Can I get up this step or will I put my foot down again? and Am I going to fall over now? are nothing to the madness of doing maybe 20mph down tight slopes with jumps and cambered curves so that you can be leaning right over. It’s maybe like speedway or what velodrome cycling would be, but with extra mud, irregularities and no need to fix your feet to the pedals. (That way lies multiple fractures.)
Here’s a map of the routes. We cycled up from the trail-head to the Buzzard’s Nest car park, then did a few circuits of the green (‘easy’) route to the west of the map. This was exciting enough for some of us, but others (including me) went on some of the blue (‘moderate’) routes. We cycled through points 11 to 16 on the map, then did ‘blue velvet’ a few times. (You go from 16 to 27 to 28, then loop back to point 27 along a forest road to do the madness again.) After that, I think we did ‘berm baby berm’ and ‘cardie hill’ (so called because it affects the innards, not your apparel) a couple of times, then descended ‘falla brae’, ‘good game’ and ‘the admiral’ back to the trail-head.
The high-point of insanity is point 7: here the blue route is a metal bridge over the upward route to Buzzard’s Nest. You only know it’s there a couple of seconds before you hit it, because it’s hidden by curves in the route and the berms you’ve been going up, over and down. So you ascend a couple of feet onto the bridge’s short horizontal surface and then realise, with no time to stop, that the drop the other side is more like 20 feet of metal and then a further drop on track. The only way is to keep going (because braking means you’ll skid, fall, bounce, splat and break things) and hang on until you’ve on the track and can begin to brake enough to make the tight curve you’re now approaching. But you can’t brake too here either much otherwise you’ll come off ignominiously and probably painfully.
The blue routes were enough for me (for now at least) – for the red (‘difficult’) and black (‘severe’), you need a lot of experience, a very expensive mountain bike with suspension at both ends (I was on a hired bike I named ‘mudlark’) and nether-regions with no pain sensors.
Anyway, here’s some pix:
There are more pictures, but I don’t yet have permission to make these public.
Hugh thanks to Ms W for organising this and the slap-up feed thereafter, to X and Y for photos and inspiring madness and to Elly for transport and bravery – and to Glentress for providing such fun!