By Richard Jones
A week or so before the end of 2018, I was asked about my New Year’s resolutions for cycling in the year ahead. Now, I habitually abstain from this sort of thing; mainly because I have such a terrible memory that I can never remember what I’ve resolved to do. However, one thing I have done for some years is log my rides in a – dare I say it – spreadsheet, just so I can see how many miles I’ve done and where I’ve ridden over the year. I usually aim to achieve 1,000 miles of mountain biking per year, which is 19-odd miles a week – the sort of distance the average ‘weekend warrior’ mountain biker is likely to do anyway. However, being the sort of accident-and-injury-prone klutz that I am, I have only actually achieved this target once previously.
Typically, last year, I had the usual muscle injuries sustained from not stretching or warming up properly (or at all to be honest) before riding, that my ever-aging body objects to. So, I got to December and could see that I still had 140 miles to go if I was to make that 1000-mile target. Outside the rain fell and the wind blew, and I thought, ‘no chance of that then’. But then some vaguely uplifting music filtered into my brain and, like a scene from Chariots of Fire, I thought, ‘no, I can do this!’
Yet sometimes the fates are there to conspire against you. After a few night rides and a decent few miles the first weekend of December – and with time off work to come at Christmas – I was confident I’d make it. Then my dropper-post broke and, not having a spare seat-post, I was looking a bit stuck.
Nevermind, I thought; I have a 25-year-old, rarely used Dawes hardtail in the shed, so I thought I’d just use that. Until my first day commuting to work on it and getting a puncture on the way home. It was dark and raining and I realised, after getting the tyre off, the inner tube out and a new one ready to install, that my pump was in my other backpack! Meaning a two mile push home… and some swearing. Puncture fixed, the next attempt sees the chain snap and I didn’t have a link for it. Luckily this was at the top of the hill from my house, so I rolled back down, jumped on the road bike and got to work that way.
I was starting the feel somewhat cursed, but my replacement dropper-post arrived (stuff Christmas, I was spending my money fixing my bike!) and my mountain bike was back up and running. Several rides and some miles later, and with three days of the year left, I still had nearly 40 miles to go. I set out on 29th December with no plan, and rode, and rode, and rode. Much later on, exhausted, I rolled back into home and, after checking my mileage, I was still four miles short of the target! So, on New Year’s Eve I took a nice, short little local tootle, and my 1000-mile target was achieved.
Which brings me to 2019 and the setting of new targets. What do I want to do in terms of cycling this year? What was most interesting looking back on a year’s worth of riding was the realisation that I rode almost exclusively in the Peak District, bar a number of ventures to an old stomping ground at Cannock Chase. So, while I want to hit that 1000-mile target again – and I’m so lucky to live on the doorstep of a fantastic place to ride – I really want to get out to other parts of the UK – get into some of the other fifteen National Parks, and get out into Scotland and Wales; maybe even head to the Alps for some lift-assisted riding.
I was pleased that I had the resilience to keep going in December and hit that target, but motivation to ride is readily available just by looking at a map, at all those miles of bridleways, by-ways and trails that this country is riddled with. Maybe the resolution I should be making is to improve the maintenance of both bike and body so that I can keep getting out there!