Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Keeping it local

Us mountain bikers often spend hours in a vehicle just to get to a trail centre, or the start of a wild trail, sometimes spending more time travelling than riding.  But it doesn't have to be that way!

I did a pretty tough group road ride on Saturday 2nd January.  It was a great workout but left me pretty tired afterwards.  Not surprisingly, when the alarm went off on Sunday 3rd January, to get me up early to drive half way across the country to go mountain biking, I hit the snooze button and went back to sleep!

Yes, dedication to the training plan is important but you need to listen to your body and sometimes that requires a lie-in!

With it getting dark before 4pm at this time of year, and with my plan to do between 4 and 5 hours of mountain biking on Sunday, that lie-in meant I didn't have many options left if I was going to drive somewhere to go mountain biking.  When I checked the weather forecast for the day ahead, however, it looked like the weather was best in the West.  So, why jump into the van to drive for hours, cutting down my riding time, when I could keep it local and mountain bike in the Glasgow area?

I spend a fair amount of time driving to trails or race venues.  It's perhaps one of the downsides of mountain biking.  Unless you live in the countryside, you have to drive to get to the start point of your ride.  I live in Glasgow, and despite the city location, there's more mountain biking than you might think on my doorstep.

In my last blog, I mentioned the benefit of a road ride is that you can ride immediately from your door and also get in a good base endurance ride.  Well, the same goes for mountain biking.  Why not leave from your door and explore the trails in your local area?  Yes, it might not be the number one trail centre in the UK; it might not have perfectly designed jumps and berms; and you might spend a fair amount of time on the road; but you'll get a good workout, can still work on your skills, and you're still riding your mountain bike!

I headed off to the south side of Glasgow first of all, cycling on the road to Cathkin Braes.  A good 30 minute warm-up on the road got me ready for some start practice at Cathkin.  If you've read my blogs over the past two seasons, you'll know I have had a few issues with my starts, so I was doing 10 "standing start" sprints.  Not so much focused on sprint power, but focusing on getting clipped into the pedals straight away and my form for starts and sprints.

A rather grey looking view over Glasgow from Cathkin, but at least it was dry!

Then it was a couple of laps of Cathkin Braes Commonwealth Games mountain bike track.  I may have raced and trained there many times, but you can always work on your skills even on a trail you know well.  Trying new lines, using the flat smooth sections to practice wheelies and manuals, focusing on body position in the corners.  All great practice while also getting more Zone 2 base endurance into my system!

Trying different lines and focusing on body position even on a section I know well

Following, that it was a nice steady spin on the road down to Pollok Park.  The MTB trails in Pollok are tiny and often overlooked because they're too easy.  However, if you take them at the right speed, and especially at this time of year when they are muddy and slippy, it's another great skills workout.  Fast, flat corners can be very challenging so don't overlook an otherwise "easy" trail like the one in Pollok Park.

Don't overlook "easy" trails like Pollok Park.  It's how you use them that counts!

Then it was more steady endurance on the road, all the way over to the north of Glasgow to finish my session off in Mugdock Country Park.  This is where the West Highland Way starts, and with the first section being pretty flat, it can be a good winter endurance ride if you head on up to Conic Hill and back, with the obvious benefit of the hill in there too.  

However, with my focus of Sunday's session on skills, I instead explored the many off-piste "hidden" trails in Mugdock.  I know some of them well, but others not so much.  Some of the local riders have invested great time and effort building these trails and while they are often quite short, they are great for working on your skills on muddy, rooty and/or rocky descents.  Also tight twisting flat corners, which we don't have a lot of in some of our man made trail centres in Scotland.  I therefore sometimes get caught out by these in some of the XC races south of the border, so Mugdock is a great place for me to get faster at those kind of corners.

Slippy, slidey, muddy fun in Mugdock Country Park

I had every intention of riding home too, for even more base miles in the legs, but by this point I was pretty tired and my wife thankfully agreed to come and pick me up!  The train was an option too, given the light was fading.  But even without the ride home, that was almost 5 hours of riding on my mountain bike without having to travel by car to get to the start of a trail and all on my own doorstep in Glasgow.

If you live in Glasgow, don't overlook these trails!  Regardless of where you live, make sure you explore the local area and local parks.  There may be more mountain biking available than you think and it'll save you a load of travel time, as well as doing that little bit for the environment!

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