So I am just looking at my reflection in the mirror of an airplane toilet. I notice I still have my oakleys on my head and look at the dark polaroid lenses bought to fight off the piercing strength of the Western Australian sunshine. I don’t think I will be needing them where I am heading.

The plane is on its way to London and my family and I are heading back home after almost 3 years out in Aus. There are many very significant uncertainties about our return such as where will I be working, where will we live, what to do about a car etc. As a very keen mountain biker (as well as a growing fondness for road riding), right now my mind is fixed on what lenses I will be needing for UK winter riding. Some may say I have my priorities all wrong. I know my wife does on a regular basis.

Don’t get me wrong, the riding in Australia was epic. Lots of bush, scrubland, a few rugged bike trails, lots of races, I even did a 12 hr enduro at one point but it is just different. It is hot, sweaty and very dusty riding. You ride covered in suncream, and have to plan to be out early or late in the day to avoid the full strength of the sun.  The guys riding there are fit, really fit. XC/Road race fit. Their fitness and training is very admirable, and it was painful to try to keep up with them. So much so I had to build a lightweight xc bike up to give me the slightest chance of staying up with them on the climbs. It almost worked, luckily downhill was never a problem staying at the front 🙂

Everyone I spoke to in Aus about coming home said to me – why on earth would you want to do that ?. I had people at home in the UK telling me not to do it. Winter sucks, they said, the rain has not stopped all month they said.  Whilst I don’t have choice as my contract was up, I was actually really looking forward to getting back to the UK.

Numerous questions were running through my mind. What tyre choice do I need for greasy, sloppy & muddy trails ? how many layers will I need to wear ? Will my reverse mullet xc bike (business at the back end and party at the front) be enough to keep up with my old riding buddies. How soon can I sample the new UK bike park ? These are the seemingly unimportant questions I am asking myself at the moment. The work and domestic situation are 1 million times more important than this obviously.

The berms, jumps and overall smooth flow of a UK trail centre is exactly what I have been missing. That sweet singletrack and the sculpted jumps designed to throw you safely into the air lined up with a smooth transition. I cant wait to ride some of my old haunts such as Swinley forest, Afan bike Park, Dorking hills to name a few.

Above all of this I miss my old riding buddies. Whilst they are not as quick, or race orientated as my Aussie mates, they ride more for fun and the thrills which ultimately is the best reason to ride. The fitness is a positive benefit but it is not the main raison d’etre. They politely wait at a trailhead to chew the cud, rather than racing off to see who can beat their strava time for the next climb. A few hours ride or a long weekend somewhere become an adventure and great catchup. You always come away with a big grin and stories that will last many years albeit covered in mud, wet and mildly frozen to the core.

For 2016 I will mostly be riding for fun, and the thrill of riding bikes with my mates as well as trying to cover them in roost and mud at every opportunity. By the looks of the boggy looking mud in the local park, I may even need to invest in a mudguard and dig the karcher out of storage in preparation 🙂

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