Oh, my word! Have you ever tried cycling on the Malvern Hills?
I have borrowed a mountain bike from a friend so that I can practise cycling off-road. I foolishly thought that I should start with the official mountain biking routes set up by the Malvern Hills Trust. After all, the hills are right on my doorstep.
The first challenge was to re-attach the front wheel – my friend had removed it so that the bike would fit in my car. I had watched closely when he showed me how to do it, but was just a little bit concerned that I would mess it up. I breathed a sigh of relief when I assembled the bike without too much trouble, and an even bigger one when I completed the ride without the spindle flying out en route.
So now I had a bike in one piece and was ready to set off.
Within only a couple of minutes, I was gasping for breath and just couldn’t get the amount of oxygen I needed into my body. It was time to stop and admire the view – an age-old tactic that every hillwalker knows well!
Having regained a degree of composure, I continued up the relatively gentle slope and along to Green Valley, where the route becomes even steeper. Rather embarrassingly, I only managed to fight against gravity for about twenty seconds before succumbing to the inevitable and having to push. Even pushing a bike up such a steep slope is hard work, so I was relieved to reach the top and cycle along the old carriage track for a while.
Heading back down was no easier. The path is narrow with steep switchbacks that are way beyond my capability, so I spent more time off the bike as I negotiated the tight bends. To add to the challenge, the whole of the route is shared with walkers, and the switchback path is particularly popular. It was a very slow descent.
With a pounding heart and legs like jelly, I was glad to get back in one piece!
I hoped that on my second outing, I would be more confident on the gravelly tracks and steep slopes.
I started in a similar vein, taking a break almost immediately. That view is rather wonderful, after all – who wouldn’t stop to admire it?
Onwards and upwards I cycled… and pushed. I was definitely feeling more confident, but more able? Not yet. Unless, of course, you count the ability to push a bike uphill. I’m getting pretty good at that. But I guess that’s what training is for.