“Never again”. It was early May 2008, and I’d just completed the Moonride 24 race in Rotorua, solo. I should have been ecstatic. I finished second solo overall and first (probably only) singlespeed. The physical and mental fatigue had overwhelmed me though. It was a tough race. Torrential rain fell for 12 hour prior to the start and turned the Rotorua trails into a quagmire. Rain was still falling as the pedals turned at 10pm, and it continued for the next six hours. By dawn, the rain, mud and late autumn cold had got to me and my short planned break to change clothes turned into over an hour of shivering in the van, trying to get some feeling back in my left foot. There were still 15 hours to go. The race did get better from there: the rain was replaced by sunshine, the course dried out and the pace quickened. It wasn’t exactly easy though, and having to ride the last five hours in the dark and cold again really wasn’t amusing.
Fast forward to August 2009 and I’d spent a year of infrequent riding and a loss of motivation for most things mountain bike. The Moonride felt like a last fling, and family expansion meant playtime focussed on children, not bikes. I reached a decision point. You might call it a mid-life riding crisis. My weight was creeping up and I got frustrated pushing up hills I used to be able to ride, and descending at the reduced speed that my rusty bike handling skills allowed. I enjoy riding so much more when I can actually ride. So I set myself a goal. I decided to race in the 2010 24 Hours of Adrenalin, the Solo World Championships. I have secured a place on the start line in October (through my previous 24 racing results), my entry is all paid up, and flights to Canberra are booked. The words “never again” have been repeated to me many times since by family and friends.
After 20 years on various mountain bikes, my riding has become simple and very defined. I search for a purity of riding experience. I want to feel and interact with the terrain. I demand an element of craftsmanship in my riding. I choose to ride a rigid single-speed bike, and I have no plans to change that. So it goes without saying that I’ll be racing in the single-speed class. Riding for 24 hours on a rigid single-speed is pretty unique and fortunately, for someone like me who loathes the idea of training, it lends itself to a unique preparation. My plan is simple. The race will require physical and mental toughness, so my preparation must develop this. The bulk of my riding will be done on my race bike, mainly because it is my only mountain bike. It will involve short fast rides at night, slogging up hills and undertaking long hard days in the saddle. For a little respite and to deal with a damp and blowy Wellington winter, I’ll turn to my other bike––an old fixed-wheel roadie. There’ll be plenty of riding with friends, and always room for just having fun on a bike.
Believe it or not (and I’m not sure I do) I’m actually looking forward to this. The last 8 months have reminded me how much fun mountain biking is. I’ve rediscovered how satisfying it is to get leaner and fitter, and to be able to ride harder, more frequently and for longer. Now that winter is here, I’m going to embrace this slight sense of masochism and enjoy my riding.
Footnote: Paul Smith is our…. well, we don’t actually have a name for what Paul does for Lab-Gear! We ‘met’ Paul quite a few years back, when he was running ‘Essence Bicycle’, importing Pace and Cotic into New Zealand. Before that, when he was living in the UK, he was an avid Lab-Gear customer. We kept in touch on and off over the years but this year, while chatting about the various things we are both doing, it came up that he had become one of the official nutters out there.
Long story short, Paul is our official, unofficial, how ever you want to look at it, NZ trail rep and kit abuser. He will be telling tales, big and small, of his adventures in NZ and further abroad as he preps up for his launch on the Solo Worlds. If you’re in NZ, say hey if you see him on the trails – he might just whip something out of his wallet for you!?!?!