The muni hasn’t had a lot of use over the summer. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of exploring new places, a task better suited to the faster 29er or the bike, so the muni has mainly sat in the garage collecting spiders. With Joe’s PMT this coming weekend however I thought I ought to check that it still works, and I can still remember how to ride it…
To this end, Saturday morning saw me making a lot of spiders homeless as I dusted off the muni. Having not been to the Quantock Hills for ages, I had a vague plan to return for something approaching an epic compared to my normal muni rides; a loop covering the full length of the ridge and taking in as many of my favourite bits as my legs could manage.
Starting off, a brief spin along a fireroad led to the top of the first descent of the day, a recently discovered, really tight length of singletrack winding around the hill before plunging to the valley floor down a rocky shute. With fresh legs I managed it all the way down with only a planned dismount half way down to find the right trail at a junction; I’ve never come close to riding the last bit before, so this left me in a good mood for the next climb.
After spinning back up the fireroad to the top I zoomed along the ridge to the next descent, the narrow singletrack into Hodder’s Combe that BMW attendees will remember. Always good fun, despite the certainty of pedal-strike induced superman impressions at this time of year.
Another descent, another climb; up Lady’s Edge to Weacombe Hill. This is on rough singletrack, so is much harder going than the first climb, and results in a few UPDs on the rockier sections. The gravity karma is soon cashed in, as the next descent is only a few metres from the top.
Weacombe Combe is another recent find; smooth and fast right down the far side of the ridge. It is even worse for pedal-strikes than the last one, though; on two occasions I find myself parting company with the muni, one of those spectacularly flying off the trail into a big ditch, with a ballistic muni in hot pursuit. That hurt…
A fairly easy road climb next, looping around the north end of the ridge before following a trail to the top of the rock-fest that is Smith’s Combe. This is the furthest point on my ride; ten miles in, and my rear is beginning to complain. Fuelled on by soreen I plummet down the hill - this is much more fun than on a bike, where you just hold on tight and bounce your way down - and get a pedal in the back of the leg as a reward.
Another climb and a rather dodgy leaf-covered downhill led to a welcome break on the green at Holford. Where are all the ice-cream vans when you need one? Hopping back on before the legs get chance to cool down it was upwards again, through the stream crossings of Holford Combe. This proved rather uncomfortable; having leaky holes in the back of your leg is one thing, but then dousing them with rather chilly water is a good way to make your legs seize up.
Emerging onto the road at the top it was time for the last descent, a very wide and rocky track which made for a lot of different lines to take, swooping around trees, larger rocks and car parts (car parts? There’s no way you could get a car down there, so did somebody carry them all down there? Weird…) towards the bottom.
Emerging from the trees I came across a woman sat on a little stool, painting the glorious panorama of the hills, the view across to Wales and, unless some artistic license was involved, the nuclear power station in the distance. “Oh, jolly good!” she exclaimed when I went approached. Yes, in England people like this really do exist. I said hello; for some reason the hills were deserted today, I had seen very few people at all.
By now the legs were willing but the rider-seat interface was weak; the last climb followed the most gentle route I could find back to the car park at the top, skirting up the side of the valleys like a helter skelter in reverse, until I finally rolled back to where I had started seven hours, 22 horizontal miles and 1,300 upward metres earlier.
This is where it started getting painful.
In hindsight, wandering around the carpark for five minutes while devouring the last of the soreen, crisps and an apple probably isn’t enough to wind down after such a ride. Doing your longest 24" muni ride ever after a long lay-off probably doesn’t help much, either. That evening my legs were tired, but that was about it. On sunday they ached a little, but I evidently moved around enough to keep them working. Monday, however, I could barely walk! Sitting for long periods behind a desk definitely didn’t help, but you could almost hear the creaking when I started walking around.
Today I’m still hobbling slightly, but they’re getting better; I should be back to normal in time to do it all again in the Peak District at the weekend. The lesson to learn from this is to not abandon the muni in the garage for so long! Even though it’s all just moving your legs around in circles, the bike, 29er and muni all use different leg muscles, so riding lots of one doesn’t necessarily keep you ready for the others. Spinning up hills on the bike seems to mainly use the inside of the thighs; on the other hand stomping up hills on the muni uses muscles on the outside. The 29er seems a half-way house between the two, presumably due to the more upright posture than the muni and not riding up technical, silly-steep trails so often.
Now all I need to do is rediscover the 20" trials unicycle. I don’t know how that’s going to happen, though…