Enjoying exercise together

10 December 2020

How to enjoy a good workout together

Our European Sales Manager’s MTB Muddy Trail Adventure

Jim Whitehead, Frog Bikes very own European Sales Manager had his nephew visiting for a few days in October half-term and decided to take him on a muddy trail adventure, for the very first time.

It’s often a little difficult to work out how to entertain kids, especially with Covid-19 making us think twice about certain activities. In the past, it has been too easy to amuse them with a trip to the cinema or a visit to an outdoor attraction so this time we wanted to think smarter.

Sam, aged 10 is a biker – downhill is his thing and his usual bike has full suspension and wide handle-bars. I’m a runner who enjoys off-road trails and therefore ‘Sam and Jim’s trail run-ride’ was an easy idea to come up with. So, I borrowed a bike from work. A Frog Bikes Push The Limits MTB69 in metallic grey and neon green. I was keen to see how Sam would adapt to the MTB considering his experience riding chunky downhill machinery, and also enjoy the chance to get out and do some exercise with my nephew.

Bike in hand, the next challenge was to decide on the route; not too flat and boring for Sam, enjoyable for me. We chose an 18km/125m ascent (and descent) trail run that I’ve done a few times before. It has a great mix of hills, descents, woods on paths and bridleways with limited roads.

Map and profile courtesy of Strava

Sam came prepared with helmet, clothes and shoes. We agreed that Saturday morning was our time, and with breakfast eaten and cups of tea drained, we stepped out into the rain. Torrential autumn rain. ‘What do you think of riding in the rain, Sam?’, I asked. ‘I like it, especially puddles’ was his eager reply. So, we made tracks.

It took Sam only a few minutes to get the feel for the bike. It was lighter than his usual ride, with narrower handlebars. He quickly got used to the steering and made great use of the bike's lightweight at our first obstacle, a kissing gate. Sam easily kicked the bike up to vertical and pushed it through. We were rolling again.

Our first major hill was just that. Steep and short climbing 40m in 300m travelled, and at up to 20% gradient it’s a challenge for any runner or rider. Sam made it partway up before losing momentum, but at 10Kg pushing the bike up the hill was no problem at all. As we reached the top we drew breath, slurped our drinks, and headed on through the continuing deluge.

At every opportunity Sam made a bee-line for any puddles or muddy patch, carving through the water and getting soaked in the process. I really should have thought about adding mudguards. The really slippery mud was a bit more of a challenge and Sam was out of his seat keeping momentum and maintaining control of the bike as his style quickly adapted to the different gearing and narrower handlebars that he was used to. It was great how we both used the tread available to us, Kenda tyres for Sam and trail shoes for me, to get the best traction through the mire.

One more drink and a quick energy gel and we were into the woods. The still heavy rain did not dampen our fun as we headed through the undulating terrain shrouded in the fiery oranges and golds of the late autumn leaves clinging still to trees and carpeting the floor. Sam found the bike easy to ride in this environment; because it’s lightweight it made it easy to get uphill, and the suspension smoothed out every lump and bump that he could find.

And on to the piece de resistance! A 1.2km downhill section on rutted tracks pock-marked with puddles, tree roots, gravel and mud. I ran ahead and Sam, having given me a head start raced me down. As we reached the bottom our grins were wide, the enjoyment clear to see on our muddy faces. The thrill of the speed, the challenge of the terrain and the feeling of rushing through the still falling rain exhilarated us both.

We were now on the final stretch. This is where I was worried that Sam would tire or get bored, a 5km riverside path from Shiplake to Sonning, and other than a couple of small footbridges and another kissing gate, usually devoid of challenge. But not today. Our ‘easy ride in’ was spiced up with lake sized puddles, ankle-deep mud and the risk of a swim if control was lost, not to mention plenty of walkers slip-sliding their way along our path. Just another obstacle for Sam to slow down, take control and manoeuvre around. We put in a final charge over a few hundred metres of gravel track next to a sharp drop into the river and burned off the last of our energies to reach our goal, Sonning Bridge.

As we headed home through the village, talk turned to our favourite moments of the morning; how was the bike? How cool was the epic downhill? Who’s got the muddiest clothes? Which was the winner of the ‘best puddle’ awards? And of course… will there be hot chocolate and biscuits waiting for us at home?

Back indoors, showered and warm we reflected on a great day. I’d wanted to see how Sam would get on riding the Frog Bike over a long and challenging route. He’d loved it! He liked how the bike rode through the mud and was easy to manoeuvre, how he could get it through kissing gates and over obstacles himself and not rely on an adult to help him, and how it felt fast and smooth on the epic downhill. The lack of mudguards had only increased the fun that Sam got from the filthy conditions.

We had both taken on the same challenge in our different ways; the uphills, the descents, mud, puddles and ever-falling rain. Sam on the Frog Bike and me on foot, we had beaten everything that the terrain and British autumn weather could throw at us, returning with our stories to tell.

Sam commented “I really like the way the bike rode through the mud and how easy it was to steer around obstacles. It was smooth to ride, even on bumpy services and really fun to go fast on the roads and tracks!”

Next time, we’ll find a longer route and will definitely be taking a Frog Bike along for the ride!

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