(it's worth waiting for ... )
It’s safe to say the Lake District provides the perfect playground for mountain bikers. With terrain like no other, breathtaking views, and the very best pubs for a quick pitstop, what’s not to love? Saying this, I must admit I’m not a huge fan of mountain biking... Or just biking in general to be totally honest. However, having a few friends who are fans of the sport, it crossed my mind a few times to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.
Myself and Marketing Assistant, Vicky, were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to spend a day with Dan from Single Track Minds out on the bikes, and where better to test our skills than the beautiful location of Grizedale Forest.
Before our mountain biking adventure could take place, we obviously had to find ourselves some bikes. Our go to was Biketreks, who are conveniently located at Grizedale Forest itself. We called 24 hours prior to our adventure and they were super helpful. We booked two e-Bikes (which I highly recommend if you are not the strongest cyclist as they give you a little extra assistance), paying £40 for half a day, or you can hire them for the full day for £50.
Once we arrived and had been given our e-Bikes, we were given a quick tutorial of how to use the different power modes on the bike, along with being provided with helmets and our bikes altered to our own personal height. Bikes in hand, we met Dan, our guide from Singletrack Minds. He explained which route we were going to take, the type of terrain we would encounter and also just told us to enjoy ourselves.
We began our ride by taking a right from the visitor centre, following the road to get to the one of the main forest tracks on the left hand side. This track was the perfect path to get used to the bike, the feel of it and also its electric aspects which I was completely new to. The path was relatively flat with a few hills with scenery which really took your breath away. The fresh smell of bark, range of autumnal colours and magic of the overhanging trees really set the day off well.
We got to our first rocky path and to say I was apprehensive was an understatement. For someone who hadn't sat on a bike in around 10 years, I was simply enjoying the flat, scenic forest paths, but Dan had a different idea. After a big gulp and some encouragement from Dan, we proceeded with the first rocky trail which actually wasn’t too bad.
After some time, I began to get the hang of the small rubble that covered the path. That was until we got to a very minimal hill, with Dan and Vicky ahead of me, I unfortunately did not have the balance to make it up the hill on rocky terrain so swallowed my pride and got off to walk whilst pushing the bike up the rocks. This happened a few times, but it was all part of the fun and getting used to a new activity. Vicky on the other hand, took everything in her stride, attempting everything thrown at her. She was much sturdier on the bike that me, but also still a beginner.
After a couple of hours exploring different tracks and terrain, the time flew by so we thought it would be nice to have a wonder down into the lovely village of Hawkshead. The quaint village is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, with an array of cafes, pubs and boutique shops. We popped into one of the cafes for a coffee to refresh ourselves and take in the lovely weather we had been so lucky to get in the midst of October.
After our stop, we hopped back on the bikes and made our way along the most charming path out of the village. Covered in a blanket of leaves, the autumnal colours were stunning. This was a delightful setting back to the visitor centre. Or at least that’s what I thought. We approached a very large hill, in which I had decided as I was wobbling up, was just slightly too much for me. However, walking up with my very heavy electric bike, Dan happened to let me know (over halfway through our day out) that there was in fact a button on the bike which allowed the bike to basically ‘walk itself’. This made the walk up much easier, but it was still quite the hill.
Once we reached the top, I had decided to get back on the bike as we proceeded down a trail which had similar terrain like others earlier in the day. Unaware of the obstacle to come, I felt quite comfortable and content in my progress throughout the day. I clearly spoke too soon. As we got further on, we approached a puddle around 6ft wide. As I saw the puddle, I initially questioned my capability of getting across it. Feeling like I needed to take myself out of my comfort zone (even more than I already had), I plucked up the courage to just go for it. However, within a split second before my wheel made it into the water, I hesitated, somehow losing all ability to steer. Long story short, I hit a rock and ended up being plunged into the puddle with my bike laying on top of me.
Laying in the puddle, both Vicky and Dan were quick to help. After I stood up, brushed myself off (or should I say wringed myself out) and of course the only thing to do was to hop back on and keep going. Soaking wet, the rest of the ride was slightly less comfortable but nevertheless, I still enjoyed myself. We eventually made it back to the forest trails which included a lot of downhill which I thoroughly enjoyed as I found it much easier than the uphill parts of the ride. This was the last leg of the ride and I’d say it was my favourite part. Not because it was the nearly the end (okay maybe a little bit because it was the end) but purely because I found it was so relaxing riding through a tunnel of trees, being much more comfortable than the last time we were in the forest at the beginning.
We made it back to the visitor centre and we couldn’t thank Dan enough, not only for his expert knowledge, thought out routes, but also his continued patience. As a total beginner, Grizedale was the perfect combination of a gentle ride out and elements of adventure. Even after my fall, I felt much more confident on the bike and felt with more experience and practice, it would be something I would consider carrying on with.