Author Helen Harris
There are many forms of cycling that may pique your interest, some easier to get involved in than others. Take road cycling as an example. You need only step out of your front door to find yourself on a road, a road that links to another and another, a whole interconnected network of tarmac on which to roll and readily available maps and apps to help you navigate. But what if you favour knobbly tyres and dirt over slicks and tarmac?
If you're not skilled at orienteering (or inclined to be) there are a huge number of dedicated trail centres up and down the country designed to cater for anyone from novice to seasoned trail cat. Fantastic if they're also located nearby, but not so for me. There is an area of the country bereft of hills with some parts so flat they're actually below sea level! This is the place I call home with its gloriously broad, wide landscapes making the skies appear impossibly huge! It is however at least an hour's drive away from anything in the way of lumpy, technical trails and trail centres and so if I fancy an impromptu off-road ride I must explore what's available locally.
I've always liked to have a vague sense of where I'm going and know I'd very quickly get annoyed at folding and unfolding a map each time I needed to reference my location, that's one of the reasons I invested in a Garmin Touring+. This doesn't work quite so well when the unmarked trails and those secret little single tracks that twist through the woods that you want to find don't show up on your route map!
It's here I choose to defer to the knowledge of local group Peterborough Mountain Bike Riders, or PMBR as they prefer to be known. The group has been successfully running in it's current form for the last four years after Martyn Kelly and Joel Babb resurrected it from the ashes of a previous incarnation of the group. Not wanting to lose the group the two of them stripped away all the bits that can tie so many groups up in knots leaving them with the best bits. The group is hugely popular approaching 1000 members from the Greater Peterborough area and beyond, but is always delighted to welcome new cyclists into the fold!
The group hosts a weekly ride every Thursday evening at 7pm from The Gordon Arms on Oundle Road just outside of the city centre. On some nights, as many as forty riders are in attendance. Even in the dead of winter, with water bottles freezing on the bikes and mud up to the axles they still get around a dozen people turn up. Now that's dedication!
I've joined them on many occasions now and really appreciate the time the volunteer ride leaders put in to create routes so everyone else can just ride without thinking. Well, there's still a lot of thinking required because there's that gap in the bush you didn't know was there that you've now got to dive through and this narrow rooty path you didn't know about that you've now got to negotiate and did someone shout "STUMP!"? Before you know it darkness falls and a myriad of lights are blazing through the woods like a million candles** as the riders illuminate the trails before them.
Ok so the terrain around here may be a little more cross country in nature than gnarly single track but this group really showcase the best of what's out there, trails I'd never find exploring by myself. It's also a pretty social affair too finishing back at the pub for a bevy and a chinwag.
Joining a group like this also introduces you a plethora of like-minded individuals to go adventuring with. PMBR and it's members organise lots of ad hoc rides through the year to the trail centres further afield which are a great opportunity for people to try something different and improve their riding abilities. It's also much more fun to ride with friends!
So with spring just around the corner, why not grab your bike and helmet and head out for a spin with the PMBR. You'll be guaranteed a great ride.
Find out more about PMBR by following them on Twitter and Instagram @PeterboroughMBR or visit http://www.peterboroughmbr.co.uk
**If you read that in an angry Welsh accent a la Rod Gilbert, well done!
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