Where did the challenge go?

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lake district


Recapturing the sense of adventure (Photo © Saman Joul)

Back in the days when purple anodising was first in fashion, when a Girvin Flex stem was all the suspension that you could want and steel was not so much real, as really the only thing you could get a mountain bike made out of, adventure used to be quite a big part of riding.

It was hard back in the early 1990s pick up a mountain bike magazine and not find a story about an epic trip, or to find Derek Purdy disseminating tips on how to survive the rugged outdoors and the benefits of taking a Trangia stove with you out into the hills. So where has this element of riding gone?

It’s perhaps not vanished completely: rather it is not so much the public face of mountain biking anymore. It requires sensible clothing and some outdoor skills, not the most fashionable of pursuits – maybe now someone can persuade Sam Hill that a map board is the next essential piece of kit for gaining the extra bits of time we might see a few more of them.

It also takes a little more planning; certainly it requires a little mountain craft and at times can be a bit hit and miss in terms of trail quality. So while this restless generation can get its fix at the trail centres (something that has helped to progress our sport greatly) some of us still crave the challenge of the hills

Nor is long distance riding dead either. We live in epic times; 24-hour racing is all the craze, feats of impressive endurance by the likes of Ian Leitch riding the South Downs Way Double in just over 18-hours and Rich Rothwell riding the coast to coast in 28-hours (faster next time he says).

But where does that leave the rest of us? Sure the idea of a 24-hour race sounds fun when you take part as a team and the idea of tackling one of the classic long distance routes sounds great: its just the thought that even a pretty fit individual should be taking around five days to do it that it seems to almost diminish the achievement that it really is.

But that shouldn’t put you off; riding your bike is always about personal achievement, from your first ride without stabilisers, to your first lap of a green route, to nailing that drop you had always wanted to do. So just because people can throw themselves of drops ten times the size of your personal nemesis should not take away from your achievement; you pushed yourself beyond what you thought was your limit and took the step up to the next level of your riding.

So it’s with this spirit that one of my challenges will be tackled – next week I will be riding (with a couple of friends) the coast-to-coast, mostly following the guidebook route, but with some local knowledge for a bit of extra fun.

A first in riding point-to-point for me, seeing the view change with everyday, and while there will be challenging terrain at times and more than likely challenging weather, like most mountain bike rides it will be as much about the journey as the destination.

There will be more about the trip afterwards, hopefully to inspire you to take on something similar, but if you want to find out how our progress goes, where the best pies and pints are in different sections of the north of England, not to mention who will grow the best beard along the way, you can follow progress at www.twitter.com/bikeithenry

But for now its time to get a last few miles in the legs. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

Henry Norman

Coast-to-coast

The coast-to-coast (or Sea-to-Sea) is a 140 mile (230km) route that crosses Northern England by way of the peaks of the Lake District and the Pennines. Henry and his riding partners will however make use of their local knowledge to endow the route, bumping the distance up to 220 miles (350km). They’ll be starting in St Bees, West Cumbria on Sunday 30 May and finish at Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire on Friday 4 June.

There’s a lot more information, and a map of the official route (not that which Henry will be riding), at www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/national-cycle-network/long-distance-rides/england/sea-to-sea-c2c

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