Diarrhoea of Rocks
There is a certain pleasure in challenging yourself to venture unto the limits of your ability, in whatever discipline you choose…however to step beyond the comfort of the known and plunge deep into the yet undiscovered can be a hair raising experience with some pain thrown in too.
For the keen adventurer, this is all part of the equation…in moderation, however only fools and amateurs push too harsh and jump without surveying the landing area first. But, the quest to do and see something different is within us all, even if we don’t always know it.
We are inquisitive by nature, whilst past history would hold our hands to be cautious or to encourage us to go once more, we have built up walls that would protect us from harm and would distract us from witnessing the horrors of the world. We have in built mechanisms that enable us to choose the best course of action for us. What we think is the right decision may indeed be correct, but it can equally be a blinding blunder, yet once a decision is made, we will tend to repeat a positive experience that delivers a favourable outcome…until it doesn’t. Then we are supposed to learn from those experiences and not repeat the failed process again.
Whenever we try something new, whether in our social lives, private matters or working toil…we are using this same process of using past experiences to guide our thoughts and how to approach whatever we are trying to achieve. If we imagine a new adventure to be similar to something from our past, then we will tend to approach it in a similar manner. Depending on how successful this new venture is will also determine future endeavours.
Of course, when translating this to two dirty wheels, we are talking about the same kind of process. The very first experience of taking the bike off road…was…”Wow, this is different! Where’s my grip? This is bloody bumpy!” The more we did it, the more we got used to it…the more we enjoyed it (possibly) and the further we wanted to expand our experience of it. Then it finally happened! We began to get very comfortable on dry hard trails and even considered increasing our pace up to 10mph…or beyond. We felt brave, empowered and in control of our destiny, but then we rolled over some small rocks and it all got sloppy very quickly indeed which led to an arse clenching moment.
Gravel, is something that I have an enormous amount of respect for. Larger pebbles and stones, even rocks are easier to spot approaching and naturally the rider will tend to be more conservative about. Whether on the flat, on a climb or in the descent…rolling over larger rocks can be very destabilising on the front tyre. Naturally we think of road riding up over a curb and how uncomfortable that can be, so riding over large rocks has the same impact. To say that rocks should be avoided at all costs may be over stepping it somewhat but proper consideration and respect should be paid before riding over them too.
Anything bigger than a brick should be avoided if at all possible, however if the rocks are closely packed together, then this might indeed be a suitable ‘road’ to ride over, however when spread apart…this Roman road might very well be your undoing as the front tyre would slip into holes, abruptly be halted and get deflected without warning.
Gravel on the other hand will give a false sense of control and most riders will approach oblivious to the dangers lurking ahead. Depending how course and deep…gravel can act like sand. The front tyre can dig in or can be deflected too. Both tyres slip and slide, whilst any foot down by the rider can mean sure footed intentions soon turning to unintentional lounging flat on ones back.
The surface is one of the most important variables in off road riding as it rarely is solid enough to place all of your trust in the tyres to grip. Any loose surface or wet conditions will mean that the tyres will want to do very strange things and may jolt you out of a slumber back into a steely focus in the blink of an eye. Virtually every trail I can think of will have changing surface conditions throughout the year and will invariably change from year to year too. Often trails are eroded by the effects of rain, top soil is washed away unearthing rocks and gravel..which in themselves may also be carried downhill too, to leave mini canyons in the track.
The diarrhoea of rocks can unsettle the finest of riders and scare the living daylights out of the inexperienced too. Never underestimate the surface and almost always hold a healthy respect for rocks of all sizes. If they are small enough to ride over, then moderate the power and speed whilst letting the front tyre search for its own path. If the rocks are larger, then either avoid like the plague or reduce speed to crawl over them. Either way, always say to yourself, “I am not Toni Bou! I am not Toni Bou!” If it looks too much to handle, then simple submit, abstain and turn around. Always choosing the path of least resistance and keep your riding as simple as possible, especially in the early days and you’re on a grand adventure where ultimately you need to get to a destination in one piece. Onwards.