Being woken by the sound of a pinball machine at 6am is not the best start to any day. However, when it’s a specially selected alarm tone on my iPhone for maximum “WAKE UP AND GET OUT THERE” effectiveness, it’s kind of bearable.
Thirty minutes to get fed and coffeed up ready for a mate to arrive. Still unsure about what lay ahead, I was feeling a little apprehensive but keen to get going. Destination: Sherwood Pines and the, much talked about, Red Route or Kitchener’s Trail to give it’s official title.
Since my epic adventure in the Peak District (see post “A Weakling and a Wuss!”) I have been determined to improve both fitness and confidence on my mountain bike. A few short routes around Sherwood Forest so far but nothing too testing. I decided that a dawn raid was in order today to tackle something a bit more gnarly. Fortunately I don’t have far to go to find such a challenge. The vast network of cycle trails around Sherwood Pines is within 10 mins peddle from my front door. The rest of the Cogs and Crags team visit the place regularly and have told me how good the Red Route is so I thought it was worth a go.
Riding this morning with a non C&C mate who had also done this a few times before, we set off along the trails to the park. Weather was very warm for the time of day with just a threat of rain in the air. Fuelled by bran flakes and raisins, I was feeling good and set off at a pace. By the time we were at Gate 1 of the actual route, I was well warmed up and eager to explore. Still feeling cautious over the rougher terrain, especially on the downhill sections, it took a bit of effort to allow the bike to “run” a little. No great problem though, just had to keep the speed down a bit.
The actual route is fantastic, 13km long over mixed terrain, with something to keep everyone happy. Well signposted all along, you are taken through dense, dark pine forest, fast twisting downhill runs, and zigzaging uphill stretches. The occasional big bomb hole is never too far from your thoughts as they seem to be planted randomly, just to catch you out! Over a couple of sections you are taken through the most densely forested areas, constantly weaving the bike over pine straw, between trees which give you little more than a handlebar’s width to get through.
Due to holidays and work etc, I hadn’t seen Si for a while. So in order to catch up on gossip and stories, we took a few extended rest periods along the way. Despite this, swapping over from time to time between sections to allow each other to enjoy the lead, we made good progress. All of the time, I was gaining in confidence and feeling remarkably fit. Then we came to Gate 16 and I really came to life! Leading the way, I found myself flowing quickly over the rough and twisting track. Hopping over tree roots and bouncing through craters, I was loving what I was doing and really getting a buzz from it. This continued until the end of the route at gate 20; the terrain is simply brilliant!
I was almost sad to see the cycle shop as we passed through the final gate, adrenaline pumping, I wanted more. We took a short stretch of road back towards my village and I really pushed it hard along the mile or so of tarmac before joining the bridleway back to home.
Putting my bike back in the garage with a fixed grin on my face, I really felt good. That deafening noise at daft o’clock was a distant memory, the pain in my hands was insignificant and I didn’t give a hoot about the burning in my legs. All that I could think about was the fantastic way in which we had just kicked off the weekend…awesome!