The Kraken Wakes

My legs are over half a century old and have taken a lot of punishment over the years, taking me up and down hills as fast as they possibly can. Recently they’ve started to complain a bit. I get out running for a few weeks then find I’ve developed a twinge. I then have to take it easy for a couple of weeks. I go out running again, just a little at first, build it up gradually then… Another twinge.

The trouble is,  not only do I need to keep fit but also I really enjoy running – especially off-road. I’ve been out fell running on and off for thirty-odd years. I’m no good at it, if being good means doing well in fell races. Although I’m a bit of a loner where running is concerned, I have entered them occasionally and always come near the back of the field. I wasn’t faster when I was younger and I don’t seem to have slowed down  that much with age. Moreover, focusing on training never improved my times by very much. However, there’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of arriving at the top of a hill under your own steam. At times it’s hard work but there are times, too, when running over a summit or along a ridge is like walking on air. I enjoy hill-walking but when I’m out walking, if I’m enjoying the walk, I’m invariably planning a return visit, with my fell shoes.

With all this in mind, I decided to  be kind to my joints and get a mountain bike. I ended up buying a Carrera Kraken. I’m having a great deal of fun with it both on the road and on the hills. Swaledale isn’t far from here. It’s famous for its Land Rover tracks, good paths and long ridges. My first expeditions into its hills have been cautious – I’ve ventured no further than eight miles so far. They’ve certainly lived up to expectations, though on one occasion I learned the hard way that cycling up steep, rough tracks into a strong headwind is nigh-on impossible (and certainly no fun).

I thought it would be good to film these exploits but, I quickly discovered there’s no need: there’s plenty of Youtube videos of mountain bike rides out there already. There’s probably a whole shed-load of hard drives somewhere devoted to storing them. This film was filmed a few years ago by mountain bikers in Swaledale, not far from the area I’ve been exploring. It certainly captures the fun that’s there to be had:

 

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9 thoughts on “The Kraken Wakes

  1. About those twinges, Dominic — consider yourself lucky to have them. If you wake up without some kind of pain after fifty, you’re probably dead. As for the mountain bike, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s always great to try something new (e.g., I just now getting a bit into fly fishing). By the same token, the film of the mountain ride suggests that the rider needs to remain visually focused at all times on the narrow, rocky trail ahead, and this leaves me wondering if mountain biking comes at the expense of being present for the unfolding beauty of the landscape. Wow, as I typed this last word, a flag appeared on my screen alerting me to the fact that you just commented on one of my blogs. Serendipity!

    1. Not serendipity, exactly – I’m having a blog catch-up session! Regarding “mountain biking[coming] at the expense of being present for the unfolding beauty of the landscape”, that’s not my experience. I quickly discovered that the process of looking where you’re going was very similar to fell running where, of course, you have to look at the ground a lot, too. I enjoy the changing perspective – the surface of the land can be as interesting as the horizon. For example, there was a lot of Iron Age activity in the area I’ve been exploring and it’s fascinating to look among the rocks for archaeological traces. And the patterns made by heather, peat, sand and the way water shapes them is endlessly fascinating. I love being on moorland, not just for the horizon but for the ground under my feet, too. It strikes me as I write that a lot of photos I’ve taken on moors have been taken looking down. Come to think of it, I used to rock climb a lot in my youth. One of the great pleasures of that was the shape of the stone inches from your face and the smell and texture of the rock.

  2. Ae you and Robert intending to do the Lyke Wake on your bikes?
    I keep meaning to say to you – I hope you take your mobile with you when you go off on these lonely
    rides. If you were to fall of and hurt yourself it could be hours/days before anyone found you.

  3. Cycling is my favourite remedy. For anything and everything.
    As someone once said: Cycling is like good jazz, plenty of improvisation, lean solos, change of tempi. Never a definite finish.

    1. It is rapidly becoming mine. One thing I really like is the way you can hear everything around you on a bike. It’s one of the few ways of traveling fast though a landscape without feeling cut off from it.

  4. Love Sabine’s comment! Cycled a lot in Germany last year and became hooked.

    Pat, I shan’t be taking my mobile with me as a matter of principle. Don’t worry, though – I’m sure we will be in staggering distance of the nearest pub much of the time, which will be able to organise stretchers etc.

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