This month’s Star Letter

This month’s Star Letter wonders, not unreasonably: “I can’t really remember why I gave up mountain biking in the first place”.

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Road closed

Five years ago I (foolishly) ceased mountain biking to take up a new hobby. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? They call it road riding. It consists mainly of grinding round potholed lanes with a pained expression on one’s face, getting shouted at and assaulted by motorists, before happily returning home full of made-up stories of heroism and bravery for my pure barry wife.

Well, this summer I’d had enough of it, I tossed aside my titanium road bike and borrowed a spare mountain bike from a very dear friend. And my goodness, what an experience I had. Heading to our old haunts in the Surrey Hills was like some sort of homecoming — we rode trails from back in the day, we tried new singletrack that was exhilarating and loved it. Strangely though, I’d remembered the sport slightly differently, imagining the tricky descents and forgetting the taxing climbs. In reality the reverse was the case, the descents felt fun, and natural as my body remembered what to do: while the climbs were far harder and more challenging than any road grind.

Boy, there have been some changes though. I love the was dropper posts now work reliably, triples have all but disappeared along with their annoying habit of ditching the chain at every chance. Packs are gone (where does one stash one’s sarnies?), socks have grown an inch or two, and everyone’s wearing skinny trousers now instead of shorts (mental note, I’ll have to refresh my wardrobe and ditch those Sidis and 3/4 length shorts). Strangest of all though, everyone smiled at each other, said hi and no one threatened to break my legs if I didn’t move over.

I returned home after that ride a new man, I’m heading back off-road and I won’t be looking back over my shoulder. The funny thing is, I can’t really remember why I gave up mountain biking in the first place.

– Garfield Blyth

mbr – Inspiring stuff, Garfield. The changes to the sport over the past few years have been huge, something we’re recognising next month with a retrospective on the best advances. Not to be missed.

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All Star Letter correspondents win a Madison Zenith waterproof jacket worth £99.99.