Memory Lane

I went back to one of my old mountain biking haunts at the weekend. Nestled away in the Shropshire hills lies a forest with many acres of fine singletrack, steep climbs and fast flowing descents. The names of the all the trails came back to me immediately: Garlic Run, One Eye, Ariston (a climb that goes on and on), Off Camber, Foxglove and so on. Its a place that was kept quiet for years and used by only a few locals – its since played host to the National Champs in 2005 and also a Trailquest, so I needn’t be so secretive now.

Mint Sauce - Ascending to Heaven

If you’ve read my Nerve post, you’ll have noted my observations with regard to trail grades. I remember a good few test pieces in the Mortimer Forest, but as was the trend at the time they were all UP. Having also done some rock climbing, a system of grading the difficulty of something was very familiar, and we tried to adapt a similar system for our local trails but without much success.

However, the one thing that did prevail was the use of a quote from a Mint Sauce cartoon from December 1993. Mint climbs a long grass climb that ascends up through the clouds and eventually to the seat of god (who incidentally looks the same as Mint). God says to Mint “tough climb eh?”, to which Mint replies “middle ring all the way”. “Oh” says god.

Once you’d managed a climb in the little ring, it seemed a natural progression to attempt it in the middle ring. And by doing so was to downgrade its difficulty so you could poke fun at to your friends doing it in the little ring, but increase its difficulty relative to you doing in the little ring. Which kind of brings me back to climbing where we had our own simple system that graded boulder problems based on percieved difficulty. H-, which wasn’t hard; H, which was hard and H+, which was so hard you couldn’t do it. Simple.


  • nice bit on memory lane there sir 😉
    and if I remember rightly – with amber tinted eyewear – it was all lovely even with zero suspension and cantilever brakes – ahh the old days eh?

  • completely unrelated to the post (sorry), would you recommend joining UK24?

    I (vaguely) remember you mentioning it during the Real Ale Wobble…i like the idea of it but can’t tell if the club has any real benefits

  • Steve – I remember getting 44mph off High Vinnals and clattering down Climbing Jack with a rigid bike all too well

    Dave – difficult to recommend joining to be honest. Club seems to have gone very quiet, and other than eligibility into a (pre)selected 6, 12 or 24hr event for the “club championship” I don’t think there are any benefits…

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