Saturday, 18 September 2010

Egg and the Dangerous Black Cow

Last week a friend of mine, AJ, updated his facebook status to "loving night time mtb-ing!!!". What a brilliant idea, whole new hours of potential saddle-time.. I was very envious and demanded information immediately. One week later and I'm loading the mountain bike into a car at dusk and carrying a selection of torches, none of which I am convinced is going to be bright enough to allow me to see where I'm going. 

After carefully analysing, I selected my brightest light and attached it to my helmet. Not really ideal and/or comfortable, but necessary for getting through this experience alive. I turned it on and realised I could actually only see about 10 metres in front of me. Fantastic. That is not a whole lot of reaction time when you're hurtling down a gravel trail in darkness.

The boys told me it's not hitting a hole or a bump I should be worried about. What I should be worrying about apparently are black cows, because you can't see them and you'll be in a world of hurt if you hit one. I thought I'd have to be pretty unlucky to hit a cow and went back to worrying about bumps, holes and other obstacles.

We set off, and I quickly realised that I really couldn't see much at all. Every descent was a blind act of faith. If I kept up with the boys then I could see more from their mega lumen beams, but for the most part I held off and maintained a slightly steadier pace. Towards the top of the first hill I had started to get accustomed to riding in darkness and just as my focus became more relaxed, guess what? I had to swerve to avoid a black cow which was staring at me with it's demonic glinty eyes and taking up a good proportion of the track with it's general massiveness!

I had a camera mounted onto my handlebars and unfortunately, like a ghost, you can't see the cow on the footage. You can however hear my gravel skid and exclamation of "cooooowww". Now I knew that there were indeed dangerous creatures out in the forest, I think subconsciously I pedalled a bit quicker and lost a bit of the worry about aforementioned obstacles.

For the next few miles I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the same way any adrenaline junkie enjoys being in a constant state of slightly scared. We whipped through some really nice bits of track and then, with a gentle reminder from Ady, I remembered what was coming next: Heartbreak Hill.

This hill is a nightmare. It goes on forever and it's made entirely of sand. Hit it too fast and you'll come to a dramatic halt and fall off, hit it too slow and you'll come to a very undramatic halt and fall off. What you need to do is get into a low gear and spin for your life whilst trying to keep going in a straight line. I've been up this hill in daylight and made it to the top before so I had confidence in my ability. However, at night all your peripheral vision is gone and with it, your sense of balance and direction. In true Eggy fashion I came off twice, both times enjoying ear fulls, mouth fulls, glove fulls, bra fulls etc of sand. I finally made it to the top. The rest would be plain sailing!

It actually was. I only had one chain coming off incident, which I liked because it was the first time it has ever happened when I've managed to un-cleat my foot in time not to fall off - success! After the last awesome bit of down and the last horrifically steep bit of up, we were done.

Verdict: exhilarating way to enjoy trails, just watch out for the cows.


  1. Fantastic! What an adrenalin rush - bit too hardcore for me though!

  2. Trust me, the cows are out to get you. They want to take over the world, one bike rider at a time!!!