What's your favourite bit of trail? That's right, "bit of trail". I'm not talking about whole trails. It's relatively easy to pick your favourite whole trail I think.
Chances are it’ll be a descent. It’ll probably be that amazing descent you did on holiday (remember holidays?) Or it could just be your regular week-in week-out contouring local loop. It may even be an extended tortuous technical climb. Whatever your particular choice (it’s a descent isn’t it?) I expect it’s a trail that lasts a decent amount of time. It occupies a period of time that is significant. A period of time where it is possible to “get in the zone”.
Things that last a decent amount of time are usually easier to prioritise and rank. Take music for example. I think it’s common for people to have an all time favourite album (“Dusty In Memphis” by Dusty Springfield, by the way) but it’s much rarer for people to pinpoint and proclaim an all time favourite individual track. So it goes with mountain biking and individual sections of trail. If I asked you to name your favourite ten seconds of trail – and I am asking you exactly that same question right now – what would your choice be?
Because I’m a paid trail geek I get to think about things like this quite a lot. I always have done really. Choosing your favourite ten seconds of biking is an inordinately tricky task. It’s taken me much longer than I expected to come up with final choice. In fact, I wished I chosen a different topic for this column as trying to come up with my winning trail chunk has really eaten up far too much of my working time!
Actually, there’s a tip for you. If you find yourself with a bit of time to kill at work, during a climb, at the dentist, sat if traffic, wherever and whenever, try and think of your favourite ten seconds. I bet your thinking about it right now aren’t you? Don’t think about it too much now. You’ll miss your train stop. Or your bum will go numb on the toilet seat. Depends on your current reading location. Save this contemplation until you properly really need to waste some time.
Anyway. My chosen ten seconds. It was tempting to go for a really sweet bit of singletrack somewhere picturesque and wild. There are a handful of Lake District options I could have gone for, or a couple of real corkers over in the South Pennines. Everyone loves a bit of swooping along a skinny trail don’t they? Then again, it was also tempting to go for a flat-out fast-as-heck section. Despite my protestations for being a “wild country explorer”, I do have a real penchant for a well constructed DH track. Something over in deepest darkest Wharncliffe could have been a winner here. What about the techno-techno stuff? I love my slo-mo, super steep, sketchy ‘n’ stupid stuff. The thing is, some of the best stuff like that is borderline unenjoyable sometimes. Often it feels like a pointless game of “Dare”. Most of the time you’re just glad to have survived.
So what is my choice? Well, my favourite bit of trail is the first bit of track I ever rode a mountain bike on. A piece of woodland singletrack near my parents’ house in Lancashire. Nothing amazing. Some roots, some nice loam, a couple of dinky lumps to jump off and cool little built up corner. Fun but not something you’d particularly remember if you ever rode it yourself. Yes, it’s a bit of sentimental choice. But it is actually an excellent trail still to this day. I guess I just instinctively knew where to debut my (borrowed) mountain bike. No other trail can come close to the emotions I experience when riding this trail. I experience all the best of the past, the present and the future when I’m zipping along it. It is my hallowed earth.