Words: Clive Forth
Photos: Frazer Waller
Welcome to The Opposite Pedal, the ramblings of a man who’s spent too many hours alone on the trail. Z – A mumblings on mountain biking life and language. The last instalment (letter X) took us down a formidable trail, which also just so happens to be in this week’s W, for Wilderness.
noun [ usu. in sing. ]
an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.
“a voice in the wilderness an unheeded advocate of reform.”
ORIGIN Old English wildēornes ‘land inhabited only by wild animals,’ from wild dēor ‘wild deer’ + -ness.
Trails come in all shapes and sizes, you can find trails on all parts of the earth, from that cheeky desire line linking the car park and local store to a crazy trail strewn across the curvaceous back of mother nature herself.
Our love of all things trail brings us together one way or another, this of course means trail centres, bike parks and popular routes are becoming busier. When I started riding off-road 26 years ago a major factor was to escape the crowds, for me it’s all about back-country wilderness riding, the sense of adventure and achievement from a wilderness ride sure takes some beating.
Don’t get me wrong, ‘pinning’ the local bike park is a blast and has its place but the simplicity of man and machine heading out on an adventure into remote areas gives me that added fizz that Top Gear’s James May often tries to describe…
I love every part of the adventure. Planning the ride, prepping the kit and returning to creature comforts, having been and seen many angles of earth that few will ever share. All my day-to-day disturbances dissolve as the focus changes from the complexities of modern living back to a simpler form of existence. The ride line, my breathing, the weather seem to become clear to a point where I no longer have any thoughts.
In the void of space and time I float along surrounded by outstanding beauty and natural complexity, birds of prey soar alongside, schooling me in the art of flight and I’m inspired to ride light. Energy efficiency is everything out here, nature is inherently lazy and will choose the most efficient solution possible. I must work in harmony with the fundamental principles.
Long hours in the saddle require a methodical minimalist approach; it’s crucial for survival. This all adds to that adventure, the margin for errors are narrowed in the wilderness, mistakes could be costly to the point of no return, failure is not an option!
As beautiful and eye pleasing the wilderness is, the reality of the environment you’re in is really quite harsh, The Opposite Pedal out here is a dog-eat-dog world of survival, weather systems can change rapidly, mechanicals can hinder progress and delay schedules, easy it may be to get tied up in the romantic ideal but you can never afford to let your guard down by cutting corners on all important prep time.
From the bike to my fitness, every faculty has to be tip-top to take on the challenge of the wilderness time and time again. This is where the trail in the bike park plays an important role, purists may argue that trail centre riding is not mountain biking, call it what you want, the bike park or trail centre gives you a place where you can hone your skills and develop fitness, I consider them as the shop window to mountain biking.
These facilities offer us a consistent platform where you can easily measure fitness in relative safety, the way-marked route allows you to focus on technique without the addition of navigation, however the manicured ‘designed to be ridden’ nature of trail centres will need a little imagination if you are to replicate the type of terrain you’re likely to come across on the natural trail.
Whether roosting the bike park is your bag or cruising the back country gets you pumped up it’s all good, ultimately when it comes to trail selection it’s a case of different stokes for different folks, just make sure you keep it rubber side down, ride with a smile and never a frown.
See you out there somewhere.
Clive Forth. MTBSkills, Transition Bikes.
Follow Clive on twitter - twitter.com/cliveforth
Images courtesy of www.frazerwaller.com