When it comes to getting you out of your usual environment, the mountain bike is a hard tool to beat. You don't have to pedal for long to leave behind the buildings, cars and people that make up most of our lives.
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I'm pretty sure a better way to get out and experience the outdoors hasn't been made. While walking takes an age to get anywhere and motorised transport is noisy, the bicycle is swift, simple and next to silent. That means that not only do you get out there quickly in return for a bit of sweat, you have a pretty good chance of seeing even the most easily spooked of animals before they can catch wind of you.
Where I live, you often come across wild boar and deer when riding at dusk, with the meeting usually being quite surprising for both parties.
However, animals — even shy ones — are generally rare, but they are at least something you expect to see out on the trail. Some things are not. For example, I recently came across a small hut in the woods, near to nowhere in particular. Following exactly the same logic that gets you killed in a horror movie, I investigated a bit closer. Luckily for me, it wasn't any sort of sinister hideaway for someone that thinks human skin is an excellent substitute for fabric, but something far more puzzling.
Someone had chosen this spot to erect their very own private woodland toilet. A proper loo. In the middle of the woods. I've got to admit I didn't hang around to check it out any further — clearly, for someone this was hallowed ground and I had little desire to witness them enjoying it — but I have no idea who made it or why they chose that spot. I can only assume that they liked to be close to nature when hearing its call.
That however, is fairly mild as it goes. One friend of mine happened upon an elderly man, naked save for his underpants, rolling about in a patch of stinging nettles. Once he'd scooped his jaw up from the floor, he asked if the man was okay, to which the man cheerfully replied to him that it was to help ease the pain of his arthritis. Turns out he might well have a point, but that's just not what you expect to see. Dog walkers, totally. Old men rolling about in nettles, less so.
Another friend told me about riding on a remote moorland, high up away from any town, when he ran across some people doing a photoshoot. That'd be fairly rare but not weird in it's own right — except this was obviously a photoshoot for a 'special interest' magazine. One that lives on the top shelf.
Other mates have told me tales about coming across the Bacchanalian scene of an illegal rave when out night riding, the low boom of dance music and the human carnage getting increasingly intense as they got nearer the epicentre. Coming from the quiet and emptiness of the night, it probably seemed more like hallucination than reality.
I'm sure almost everyone has a story of the bizarre, odd and downright strange things you run across when out on your bike, so what are yours? Share them in the comments section below...