Monday, 12 December 2011

An Introduction to Mountain Biking...

Beautiful medieval Bhaktapur
...courtesy of Chris Woodcock!

As those of you who know us well will be aware, Chris is the sporty one in the relationship. I do my best but pushing myself to the limits physically has just never really been my thing. However, that is the joy of all relationships and travels of this type. You are exposed to experiences that you would never otherwise have and take on challenges that you never thought were possible. I introduced Chris to the joys of trekking (see his blog on our wonderful trip (and the topic of rubbish!) here) and he introduced me to the pain of cycling up mountains. I thought I'd be OK since I used to cycle to work in London most days. In hindsight I'm not sure that the Himalayas, the most unforgiving mountain range in the world, was a great place to begin my foray into the world of off road cycling  but there you have it...thrown in at the deep end is sometimes a good place to start.

Looking good!
I am being rather melodramatic, we only went on a two day taster trip but I can honestly say that it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. To be honest I'm not sure it was the biking so much as the the fact that my saddle was so small and 'ergonomic' that it dug excruciatingly into my rather large bottom and made it impossible to sit down with my full weight and 'power' up the hills. Instead I tentatively hovered on it and exhausted my poor thighs before I'd even reached the slopes. Chris tried to help me out by taping two of his t-shirts to the seat as cushioning on day one. This made it a little easier but did not entirely dull the throbbing. By day two my entire fleece was strapped to the saddle and finally I found some respite from by bruised behind, even if it did make the locals laugh at me rather a lot. Well, it was either that or the fact that I was sporting a rather attractive combo of shorts over leggings and huffing and puffing rather a lot - all in all I looked pretty peculiar. Holly, if you are reading this, I found a whole new sense of admiration and wonder for your cycling trip through Europe and America... (see here) you are a serious legend to be able to sit on a saddle for days on end - respect!

Our first day of cycling from Kathmandu took us out through the city (bleurgh!), down the highway (more bleurgh!), through suburbs to Bhaktapur (wow!), through surprisingly deserted countryside, back onto the highway, and up up up to Dhulikhel, a dusty highway town that has (supposedly) superb view of the Himalayas. Unfortunately the day we decided to go it was hazy and cloudy and we didn't see a thing. Day one was described as 'moderate' on the biking scale, I was not looking forward to day two where we had a two hour 'hard' section. Still, we had no choice but to get on with it so, we got up super early (in case it took me all day to get back!) and set off, fleece padding in place. Despite the pain in my rear, it was surprisingly much easier going on the second day. Our route was indeed, 'hard' but the incline was relentlessly long rather than steep and took us through a scattering of beautiful little villages that felt as remote as those in the heart of the Annapurnas despite their proximity to sprawling Kathmandu.

I have to say that reaching the top of the hill after a solid climb (I only got off a couple of times near the top to push) did feel rather fantastic. As we sat there eating our alpen bars and looking down the valley from where we had come from I understood why people take on challenges such as this. That and the amazing downhill section that followed as we whizzed our way down down down, the wind in our hair,  all the way back to the smog and pollution of Kathmandu.

I'm not sure that mountain biking up steep dirt road tracks will become a regular pastime of mine but looking back I did very much enjoy the experience and sense of achievement. If I could only find a bike with a saddle comfy enough to accommodate me then perhaps I could be tempted to do more of this space!

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Ems - if you do it regularly I think the rear end does harden up a bit, as it were (says she, world expert!!?)
    Wonderful blog, great photos, love it. Hope you and Chris both keeping well xxx