So towards the end of last summer, I had a little road bump that stopped me from riding for a while. We all have them from time to time. Some accrued on the bike as injuries and some (usually more seriously) come about all by themselves in everyday life. Mine was an annoyingly small umbilical hernia.
This is pretty much, eactly like a hernia in real life.
I say annoying, because it was small, yet caused such a surprisingly big break in my riding. Time off the bike always feels longer than it is in reality, and it was no different in my case. The recovery whilst smooth, and shorter than some others with the same condition seemed to drag and drain more than I had hoped for.
I have been back riding for a while now, and whilst I probably could be riding proper trails again, I have taken my time. Easing back in with lots of XC orientated miles. Building the fitness back up and not pushing the healed surgery more than I know it can handle.
I have been giving the big bike some TLC and spent some time building myself back up as well. But that break in period I feel is over, its time to go ride bikes in the woods again.
Finding time to ride during the work week can be hard. Between family and work commitments, time is the most valuable commodity. With fitness and bike skills being rented and not owned, it can be hard to keep the weekly mile count average up. So why not get creative and mix up your commute? Whilst not pure trails miles, the time in the saddle can help keep your fitness up, and all time on the bike is good time.
Feedback, that sense of feeling the trail, the bike instantly responding to your every input.
Every half turn of the cranks propelling you forwards, the tyres telling you what they find through your hands and feet. The wheels turn and the tyres buzz, the frames silence only broken by the occasional chink of chain on stay.
I love hardtails, I have two of them, their characters may be totally different but the solid connection between rider, the trail and the sensation of riding that they provide are the same.
Convention says you should ride a hardtail first. Learn your bike handling skills before getting a full suss or risk having your lack of abilities hidden by a more capable bike. Whilst I agree with this to a point, riding a hardtail will teach you bike handling, and how to ride a hardtail whilst riding a full suss will teach you bike handling and how to ride with suspension.
Hardtails teach you to be smooth, to refine your line choice and control your speed. Riding smooth can be fast, but the smoothest line is not always the fastest line.
Full suss teaches you the fastest line, how to not brake and to trust the suspension. Trusting the bike to do its job is not always a short coming of skill. It takes confidence and bike handling to hit a section of roots and drops knowing the bike will work, and will work better if you don’t grab a fist full of brake.
Hardtails teach you about pedaling, climbing and body position, riding a full suss teaches you the same.
There is a place for both kinds of bikes, I am faster on certain types of trail on one and slower on others, it depends. Almost all my PB’s at trail centres are on hardtails and almost all my natural descents are on full sussers.
I wouldn’t pick one over the other but if I could only ride one bike for the rest of my life, it probably wouldn’t have a rear shock.
(depending on what side you approach the hill), is a hidden gem in the southern edges of Aberdeenshire.
From the steep old growth of Drumtochty Glen, to the tight dark stands on the Auchenblae side, this hill has a lot of character and range of trails on offer. For the committed downhill rider and enduronaut the Drumtochty slopes provide plenty of challenge and speed for those willing to tame the gnar. On the mellower side of things, the tight trails of the Auchenblae side are woven over and through deep furrows cut between dense crops of pine trees, on ground that is apparently impervious to rain.
The fire road climbs snake lazily upwards and is dispatched without much fuss allowing the main business of descending to soon begin. The “trail” singletrack on the Auchenblae side of the hill provides singletrack with a character quite different to offerings elsewhere in the region. The dense growth of harvest timber has led to quite a barren understory, that is both fast draining and thick with the loam created by years of shed pine needles.
These trails are short fun blasts that reward the committed who work their body english as much as they turn the cranks. They can be linked together to create long flowing runs that build in pace the further you run, before breaking the tree line and climbing back up the fireroad for another blast on the roller coaster.
The impossibly weather proofed trails have a deep soft loam that rips into high roster tails as you bob and weave between the furrows. Yet with all that grip, sniper roots still lurk in the shadowy corners waiting to grab a wheel out from under you and set you pin balling from side to side down the trail.
Then there are the longer newly dug steep “enduro” lines. Off camber, with steep chutes and rooty drops. The newer lines are best attempted with repeat viewings, as once on the bike blind drops always appear larger than they are in reality.
You can’t simply steam roller these trails if you want to go fast.
The proximity of the trails to each other and the modest climbs of the hill may lead you to expect a less demanding character of singletrack. Yet a trail can be as challenging as you make it, with precision and bike handling levels increasing dramatically the faster you go. You can’t simply steam roller these trails if you want to go fast.
It may not have the number and length of the trails at other local spots like Scolty, but this is one hill not to be overlooked.