Get your bike, we're all going for a ride

It’s started. My eight year old asked me for an iPhone. Actually, the tone of the question seemed more of a demand. Then the reasoning began before I’d even had chance to say, “NO!”. She continues with her demands, “But ALL my friends have one, or at least a tablet!”. “No, maybe when you’re a bit older” replies the hostage. What I’m really thinking is, “when you’re 18 and can afford to buy one and pay the bills yourself”.

She looks at me as if I’m being unreasonable. Not normally one for being bullied into a corner, especially by a child, I'm aware that I'm feeling a tinge of parental guilt. Then my six year old son flashes past the window on his nearly new mountain bike, bunny hopping over some discarded toys. It’s an eBay special, but he doesn’t care, as far as he’s concerned this is a birthday present with real fun potential.

He has no need nor desire to own a flash mobile device other than one with two wheels and some nobly tyres. I look back at my daughter, “Get your bike, we’re all going for a ride”.

In other towns, the statement, “Going for a ride" might well be greeted with dissent, or because of the apparent dangers that lurk outside the front door, could be vetoed by the other parent. But this is about Wadebridge and, in particular, a perspective on its ever increasing importance in the cycling world.

 Really? We didn’t see the 'Grand Depart' taking place in Molesworth Street, and not since 1992 has the Tour of Britain, (then known as the 'Milk Race') passed through our town. But let’s get away from the road for a moment. Let’s get dirty and talk mountain biking. Because, for mountain bikers, it is the centre point on the map for many riding opportunities and the route to physical improvement without even knowing it!

This all starts with one key feature of our unique town; the Camel Trail. Hardly the “knarliest” of terrain, and it's unlikely to test anyones cycling abilities beyond peddling in a straight line. But it does allow us, from the youngest beginner on a balance bike, to the seasoned racing snake or the free rider on a steed greater in value than your average bungalow, to go fourth and find their way through every discipline associated with mountain biking. Its all out there to be experienced.

In itself, the eighteen mile route is fulfilling, with ever changing landscapes.cycling 1

The Trail has played a part in many a Wadebridge cyclist’s daily routine, as well as for those living up and down the Camel Valley through which it winds. In my case, my parents allowed me a first unaccompanied foray away from home as an eleven year old, when it first opened 30 years ago.

I’d like to think I’ll continue to ride it for at least as many years to come. There is no ageism on a bike. My bike is my gym, my commute, my fun, and is the all important link to the countryside and the natural world within.

And it’s not until you decide to turn off at numerous points along the way that you begin to appreciate there’s a whole network of seriously fun riding to be had.

When whizzing along one of the many rights of way, forest trails and wooded single track within close proximity to the Camel trail, you tend to forget about all of the above mentioned modern life distractions. You become totally focused in the moment. Putting in the next peddle stroke, aiming for the brow of the next hill and what tantalisingly lies beyond. Freedom.The rush of all the senses working efficiently, stimulated by the flavours of the countryside, the woodland, the meandering river and the conifer plantation. The site of the roe deer skipping along the track and then gone, outpacing the fastest of riders.

The fleeting glimpse of the kingfisher or the cluck of the woodcock as he breaks cover. Every so often the friendly acknowledgement of the farmer or the forester, the guardians of our rural landscape. Then there is the other countryside user; the fisherman, the walker or the horse rider. All different disciplines, but we are united in this privileged moment and we see it in the knowing nod. This is now. The Shopping can wait. The gym card just became redundant.

We have hit so many bases. We have engaged with the countryside whilst barely leaving a trace of our being there. A tyre print at most. We have acknowledged its beauty and importance. We have cleared our minds of all the superfluous and superficial. We have enjoyed the company of friends, egging each other on, pushing each other to climb, not a mountain, but a nonetheless not-too-insignificant Cornish hill. Near exhaustion, muddied, wearing a layer of perspiration, we return to the familiarity of the Camel Trail.

Just a short ride back home now. There is a slight increase in trail use as we draw closer to town, slowly reintegrating us with easy urban life. This is not the chaotic scene played out on the M25 on a Friday afternoon. We are not to be drawn into that rat race. The easier terrain gives us a moment of calm to reflect and plan for our next mountain bike adventure.

Lets do it again…

The MTB peddler