For me, the arrival of summer is usually accompanied by a serious snowboarding comedown, a sudden reduction in workload, and consequently cash, and invariably a period of rehabilitation following my latest snowboard-related injury. Needless to say, I don’t share the same sense of relief and elation that’s experienced by the majority of the UK’s population, who are emerging from a long, cold, dark winter filled with SADness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, when we get one, but it certainly doesn’t bring with it the same level of excitement I feel when winter starts to set in. Let’s just say, if given the choice between a holiday in the sun and a snowboarding holiday, snowboarding wins hands down, every time.
Each summer I try to find something to fill that snowboard-shaped hole, but injuries and/or limited funds tend to conspire against me opting for the obvious choices. A bad ankle break a few years ago put paid to both my running and surfing ambitions when it became apparent that I was only going to get limited flex back, so my physio suggested I should forget those pursuits and get a bike instead. At the time, I didn’t have a spare few hundred quid kicking about to buy a bike, so I stubbornly persisted with unsuitable activities until I eventually had to admit defeat. Fortunately my other half, Dan, is big into bikes so when he got himself a fancy new full suspension mountain bike, I was lucky enough to inherit his old one.
Last summer, a lack of transport to get to any decent mountain biking spots meant that I spent most of the time whizzing around Edinburgh’s cycle paths with a locked fork and slick tyres, and the closest I got to a mountain was Arthur’s Seat in the middle of the city. However, the acquisition of a car this summer meant that the surrounding mountain biking hotspots were finally within our sights.
The only good thing about last winter’s snowboarding injury occurring mid-season was that by the time summer came around, my wrist had nearly mended. So, as soon as I was able to use the brakes and change gear, I was off. After breaking myself (and the newly mended wrist) in gently with a few gentle off-road trails on the outskirts of the city, I was desperate to hit some proper mountain biking terrain.
I’m fortunate enough to live within easy(ish) reach of one of the UK’s best mountain biking destinations, Glentress Forest (about one and a half hours drive from Edinburgh) so have managed to get there several times over the past few months. My first taste of ‘proper’ mountain biking was somewhat of a baptism of fire as Dan decided to take me, and a group of similarly inexperienced friends, on the black route at Glentress. “It’ll be fine”, he insisted, despite never having been there before, “the black route’s only slightly longer than the red.” So, reassured by the fact that he’d done loads of mountain biking in similar areas, we followed him blindly into the depths, and heights, of the Tweed Valley. After 29km of gruelling, seemingly never ending climbs and challenging descents on rough terrain, we emerged unscathed, but absolutely knackered, including Dan, who sheepishly conceded that the route was a bit “longer” than he’d envisaged. It eventually transpired that the route he’d been looking at on the map was a walking trail, which was indeed significantly shorter than the ‘expert only’ mountain bike trail he’d just led us round!
Fortunately it didn’t put me off, quite the contrary, but we both agreed that next time we’d stick to the red route. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, our friends have politely declined invitations to accompany us on any subsequent trips!
The advantage of having been thrown in at the deep end, or rather, thrown down the black run, is that the red route seems like a breeze by comparison. It’s still pretty challenging and definitely puts me through my paces, but it’s great fun. There are some fairly relentless climbs, but these are interspersed with awesome descents packed with jumps, drops-offs, berms, log skinnies, bridges and North Shore timber trails. It’s also a much more manageable 18km, and the terrain is much less rocky and technical.
We took the bikes to the French Alps in June and did some true mountain biking around St Gervais. I love summer in the Alps, and riding fast down steep trails, surrounded by beautiful alpine scenery and snow capped mountains felt like the closest thing to snowboarding. Trips to Fort William, Wales and the Lake District are also on the cards before winter sets in.
I am now well and truly hooked and delighted to have finally found a summer substitute for snowboarding. I feel I’m improving each time we go and consequently, enjoying it more and more. I’ve only fallen off twice so far, and am convinced it’s no coincidence that Dan has managed to capture both crashes on camera! Fortunately injuries have been minimal, and I say this whilst touching wood, I hope to keep it that way. The last thing I want is to be out of action for the start of the snowboarding season. That would definitely temper my excitement somewhat!
Over to you…
What do you do over the summer to stave off cravings for snow?