Learning to ride a mountain bike is fun, frustrating, thrilling, exhausting and expensive, but most of all it’s really bloody painful. The older I get the less I bounce, and I can’t help feeling that I should have given this a go 10 years ago. That said it’s often the falls and the injuries that make a good story, who’s really interested in hearing about a ride without incident? Wouldn’t you rather hear about the one that ended up in casualty?
The climb up Win hill just about killed me and I had to push the bike the last narrow, steep 100 or so metres. I was rewarded with the fast, smooth snaking trails along Hope Brink down to the junction of Brinks Road. Here Matt and I had a sarnie and talked about the way down – Brinks Road, The Beast or Potato Alley. Brinks Road cut the ride a bit short so we discounted that. I had questions about The Beast, like “Why’s it called The Beast?” Answer: “Because it’s pretty gnarly”. As this was my first non trail centre ride, I decided that I wasn’t ready to meet The Beast of Hope Cross so we hit the Roman Road with Potato Alley as our destination.
The Roman Road is strewn with a variety of loose rocks of different sizes, I’d never tried to ride up something like this before and I really struggled. Every rut and bolder seemed to draw my front wheel towards it, and every falter resulted in a foot dabbed and the loss of precious momentum that usually caused an energy sapping restart. I found myself again pushing the bike up to the gate feeling wiped out and a bit despondent. A group of riders at the gate dished out some “bike love” to me and the shiny new 456, I thanked them and said that “now I just have to learn to ride it.”
After a little more climbing we reached the top of Potato Alley, a steep rocky descent, I wondered “how much worse could The Beast be?”. Much, is the answer, but I found that out a few months later. The main trail has a thin track running along the narrow grassy bank on the right hand side and, where possible, I made use of it. This offered some respite from the pummeling I was taking from the rocks on the main trail. About 3/4 the way down we meet some riders coming up. Avoiding them interrupted my line and I went over onto my side. Apart from a bruise the size of a dinner plate on my arse I got away with this fairly unscathed. As we ploughed through the shallow stream at the bottom of the slope and onwards down towards Ladybower reservoir that old friend adrenaline said hello and I remember thinking that this must be what Peak District biking is all about.