In this ride report, Rob charts the adventure ride and the point at which he decided ‘enough was enough’.
Trying to push myself to do something beyond my previous ride has been a reoccurring theme for me since I first picked up the mountain bike in ’93. Rarely does it go to plan, often far from it, but I’ve usually calculated fairly accurately even if my body can’t deliver what my mind can envisage. Occasionally my flights of fantasy take me to a place that I dare not imagine I tread. The Double, on the
News spread pretty fast that I’d failed to make the return leg to Milngavie. No surprise there, I sent the twitter announcing I’d climbed into the van moments after I stopped. Honesty comes from failure as much as success, and I’ve never been afraid to fail, only afraid not to try. Humbled though I was at the warmth of response that flooded to my phone as I dipped in and out of consciousness as we drove through the mountains. Complete strangers and friends alike sent me congratulations for getting as far as I did, and encouragement to return and conquer the ride next time. Blessed am I to seek to inspire others and then at my weakest (and strongest moment) be repaid a million times over by the support and inspiration of my biking fellows. If I ever manage to double the
The day was as perfect as an April days comes. Clear skies, big hills, slight breeze, and the promise of my love of bikes and trails. I ate alone in the living room as the rest of the house slept, then eventually, one by one, my partners in the escapade rose from their slumber and readied for the day. Surrounded by dearest: my closest childhood friend, my parents,
Rob's Santa Cruz Blur XC
I love the start; no fanfare, no tape, no starters gun, just 5 guys, 2 cameras, a bike and a sense of adventure. “Shall I start?” then I’m away, winding my way through the parkland on the edge of the city suburb and out towards the waiting clutches of the mountains. I felt great, fantastic even, with my new lightweight bike, lightweight kit, lightweight body and a return to fitness that has been too many years missing. My coach and my lass have given me such guidance and support for me to feel this good on a bike. After so many years of “getting away with it” and pulling through with mental strength the contrast couldn’t be greater.
I dusted through the opening miles, then the 20’s, 30’s and into the maze of rocks and barely walkable rocks on the eastern banks of
I climbed, and descended, and climbed, and the big stuff loomed closer and steadily grew towards the sky. One hour up on schedule, then two hours up, I wanted three by
The view into the hills
As I climbed from Tyndrum it felt like a different day. The sun had dipped below the ridge and the wind picked up and licked away with a cold iciness that cut to my core. I stopped for my jacket on the trail, and then more clothes as I dropped into
I opened the gate that signals the stretch through Rannock Moor. I expected a long grind of a climb that I’d struggle to conquer. I found a beautiful twilight wilderness where the deer surveyed my steady progress as I trespassed their home. One for the memory bank that fills with each passing year with images that I hope will never be lost from my brain. It was tough, and unforgiving surrounds, yet captivating and absorbing in it’s remote and blissful solitude. Words will never capture the emotions that ran through my veins and invigorated my body. A moment so precious I would fail to replicate and yet would never want to. It was unique.
Then suddenly, it was dark.
Deer in the mist
My mind slipped to home, to my lady, to warmth, to safety. My heart cried inside my chest and nearly broke me by the side of the trail. Why was I here? Why was I doing this? Have I not suffered enough in this body of mine? I sank deeper, and yet continued with the program, pedal down, pedal up.
I can’t remember ever walking so far with my bike, or at least that’s how it seemed. I couldn’t see further that the sphere of my light and it felt like I was on the edge of the world. Whipped by the wind and spattered by the rain I began to switch from sorry feeling human to a man of resolve. I can do these things and as long as you can still walk you can still keep going. The descent was mental and I smashed into, over, through, anything and everything. I’m not sure if I became a lot braver or a lot less caring. I rode through to Kinlochleven at a fair pace that I’d not have thought myself possible of.
From there to
As I headed into those hills again a strange thing happened that has rarely occurred before. I realised that I had a responsibility. I realised the danger involved with this route in this condition. I’d never once really pondered this on any previous adventure. I wasn’t scared, I was just aware of the multiple small errors I was making and the fact that some terrain will forgive you but some quite possibly won’t. I pondered for almost three hours as I fought and wrestled and carried and pushed, and very occasionally rode my bike flat out into blind corners in the pitch black before I descended to Kinlochleven on the very edge of control for the second time. I knew I should stop, but I knew I could still continue, at what point do you say enough is enough and stop rolling the dice?
I tried to be honest with the crew but I couldn’t. It took Clive a good ten or so minutes to say what we were all thinking yet none were wanting to hear. Being a hero is only heroic when you live to tell the tale, being airlifted from a mountain side is not a smart way to go, and this time around I wasn’t strong enough, or fit enough, to safely make the Double. The tears weld up in my eyes as he spoke the truth that I already knew in my heart. I’m glad he said it as I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to utter the words.
As we sat at breakfast the next day we already had the plans on the drawing board. For the first time in years I have a challenge that really will need a serious attack plan and suddenly everything clicks into place with the Seven Deadly Spins. A collection of rides that starts with the serious, but do-able, South Downs Double, addresses the requirements of every rider below a keen soloist with multi-day options and bail-out scenarios , and now has a tough MaXx-Daddy one-hit-adventure to challenge the hardest solo nuts that the