Hike-A-Bike? Completed it mate.
This week I undertook my first hike-a-bike adventure under the guidance of Endless Trails along with six other brave souls. The place – Helvellyn, The date 25th April, the weather – let’s just not, okay?
In any life event there are lessons to be learnt, and good lord did I learn a fair few on that day…
Hiking up a mountain with a 15kg bike is well, it’s as hard as it sounds.
No sugar coating, no positive spins, this was damn hard okay? At the very start of the hike I was already falling behind but felt a little more justified in my slow pace when I was reminded that I most likely had the heaviest bike – a lack of strength, fitness and will power probably didn’t help either.
You have to remind yourself you are carrying at least 14kg on your shoulders, hiking is already hard enough with adding a bike to the mix, so don’t expect this to be anything less than full struggle bus.
If you think you have packed too much in your bag, it’s probably the right amount.
I cursed myself most of the way up for packing so much into my bag.
“Why did I bring my down jacket? Do I really need two sandwiches? I’m never going to drink all that water. Two spare pairs of gloves is excessive…”
You will need all of it. ALL OF IT. When you are out for a big mountain day you have to be prepared for anything. Anyone who hikes in the UK will be fully aware that you can encounter all four seasons in a day so remember your suncream, waterproofs, warm clothing and sunglasses.
If there are any delays, mechanicals or god forbid injuries, you will need the clothing, the equipment and the food to cope with a long day in whatever weather Mother Nature decides to sashay your way. BE PREPARED!
The weather at the bottom is absolutely never the same as the weather at the top.
When we set off from the car park we had samples of sunshine, occasional showers and cloud. In the following few hours of hiking and riding we experienced heavy rain, hail storms and wind strong enough to blow my Nukeproof Mega horizontal when lifted off the ground.
Since this trip I have now ordered a proper (read expensive) waterproofs because I never want to be soaked like that up a mountain ever again – just like Mary Berry I do not like a soggy bottom.
Putting the bike on your shoulders is quite easy.
After our first lot of pedalling and pushing we reached the start of the first hiking section, Julia talked us through how to lift and carry your bike for maximum comfort: stand on the non-drivechain side of your bike, drop the nearest pedal down, hold your bike by the forks and either seat tube/rear triangle and lift over your head until the downtube is resting on the top of your bag. From here hold your fork lower and crank and shimmy your bike until it rests comfortably (I use this term loosely) on top of your bag. Easy!
Putting the bike back down however…
This is the tough part. You’re exhausted and the wind doesn’t want to help you out so you’re probably going to drop your bike and smack yourself in the back of the head a few times, occasionally hooking your helmet with your saddle. It’s okay, we all go through it at some point. Just do you best not to be strangled by your frame and forks.
Layer yourself like an onion.
Layering your clothes is so important I cannot stress this point enough. You need to be able to take off layers if the temperature increases or if you’re feeling hot putting in an effort up the hill, and you need to add layers for the brutal snow/wind/rain/hail/generally shitty weather. I am a believer that there is no such thing as bad weather if you have the right clothing, although weather can be really shitty sometimes.
You might feel like you can’t do it, but you can.
By the end of the first hiking section I was struggling to breathe, my chest felt tight and yet I was too embarrassed to ask the group to slow down – something Julia stressed was important at the start of the ride that if you need the group to slow the pace SPEAK UP! I could feel the tears coming and the words rising up my throat “I don’t think I can do this”.
It was as if Julia knew. The group stopped for a rest as I toddled up the rocks and Julia came down to meet me, asking how I was doing. The sign of a good guide for me is someone who is aware of what the whole group is doing, how they are coping and if there needs to be any adjustments made to ensure everyone experiences success. Julia ticks every box. If it were up to me I probably would have stopped there and went home defeated but frequent rests meant I could keep up with the group without exhausting myself too soon.
You have to listen to your body and go at your own pace.
You might feel like you need to push on harder and pick up the pace to keep up with the group but it is so important to go at your own pace. Even the healthiest people can take a bad turn and the mountain is not the place to push outside of your comfort zone. This might sound a bit serious because it is. Getting back down the hill in one piece is the goal, whether or not you reach the summit.
No matter how slow you go, you won’t be left behind.
The beauty of a guided ride is that you can guarantee at least one person will be looking out for you and waiting to make sure you get up and down the mountain in one piece – your guide. I was lucky enough to be part of a supportive bunch of motivated women who were all looking out for each other, chatting away and laughing at the absolute state of us trying to walk a straight line in the strong wind.
If you are slow, you may have a solo photo shoot.
Bringing up the back of the pack meant I ended up with an array of top quality photos taken by Julia while the group waited on me catching up. I can’t guarantee this will always happen but it was great to have an upside to being last up the hill!
Coming down the mountain is much more fun that going up it.
Self explanatory. So much better. This is where I become thankful that I have a 15kg full suspension bike. I recommend stopping now and again to appreciate the descent and get a look at your surroundings and also because blasting from top to bottom in one go is a little disattisfying considering it took you hours to ascend and only minutes to descend.
A huge thanks has to go to Julia Hobson of Endless Trails MTB for the guiding, the motivation, the photos and the best tasting tiffin I have ever had.
Do you want to try hike-a-biking? Check out her other upcoming guiding dates on her Facebook.