I also find myself changing my riding style. Although I aim to ride light at any time of the year, when the trails are soft it refocuses me to ride with a light touch, I slow down a bit, brake with more anticipation and avoid dragging my wheels. This all really helps to save the trail surface. There’s no looking cool like the youth out in the Alps here!
One thing for certain though, I will definitely be navigating if I’m out exploring new trails. With the advent of GPS and smartphones, my navigation is a bit less traditional these days; I have a variety of apps on my phone that really help. A word of caution though! From conversations with others and from personal experience, its worth remembering that because a trail is shown on the app or map it doesn’t mean it is a good idea to ride it! Or that it even exists! I’ve found the best formula for putting great rides together is to mix a little bit of everything together – OS maps, Google Earth, local info, guidebooks – there is a wealth of information out there these days. With things changing and developing so quickly, undoubtedly there will be many new options available that I haven’t discovered yet.
However, what’s a new trail to me could be an old favourite to you. It’s important to remember that whilst you might be avoiding riding a trail for all of the reasons mentioned above, then I come along and ride it in order to avoid trashing mine. It’s worth remembering this when out riding; always try to consider others and protect the trail you’re on.
Once out there on the trails, using the mapping software on our phones to know where we are is a good start! I tend to use ‘Viewranger’ most often; the wee blue dot on the map is always reassuring! Especially when I see it sitting exactly where I think I am. If that’s not the case, then at least I can start to make a plan for where next. Often apps like ‘Viewranger’ are free to download, then you pay for the maps you need. I find myself completely obsessed with recording my rides. If I’m in the mood to, I’ll then upload them to the likes of ‘Strava’ when the connectivity lets me! It’s taken a bit of practice for ‘Viewranger’ to become a useful tool for me, but it is worth it. At times, I’ve used the search function in the app to find inspiration for new routes in new areas. As always though, check conditions before riding. Just like the phone I also find myself using my GPS cycle computer with mapping at times to tell me how far I’ve gone or to decide where next. I also take a photo of any trail map notice boards at trail heads and refer to these whilst on my ride. It’s amazing how much information is out there now. However, I’ve learnt the hard way how draining all of this is on my phone battery, so now I always take a small battery pack and cable for my phone. They are invaluable.
There’s no denying that there is a whole world of information at our finger tips now, but I never miss the chance to head to the local bike shop if there is one. They are a great place to get current info on trail conditions and where to avoid, and maybe get a coffee, buy a souvenir of your adventure – or to replace the gloves I forgot to pack!
I have certainly reminded myself already that I don’t need to pack my bike away this winter. I can still get out there and enjoy the trails whatever the local weather.