How a shaky start on an unsuitable bicycle led to my love of the mountains – by Adele Mitchell, Social Media Coordinator at FINDRA.
My first week at FINDRA as social media coordinator has reminded me of other ‘firsts’ – specifically my first adventure in the great outdoors.
These days I regularly mountain bike with a group of friends, and we’ve travelled all over the UK and Europe to ride. My first adventure, however, did not get off to a great start!
When I was 15, and bored in the school holidays, my best friend Alex and I decided to cycle to Anglesey via the not insignificant ascents of Snowdonia. With zero preparation or experience, and on bikes designed to journey no further than the corner shop (in my case, one gear and not quite full size wheels) we relied on sketchy GCSE map reading skills, leaky cagoules, and damp sandwiches. Mountains? Well, how hard could they be.
By the end of day one, we had found out. Exhausted, weather beaten and starving, we virtually crawled through the gates of the Youth Hostel, half way up a wind swept Welsh mountain. As we parked our bikes in the shed a male cyclist – with the physique of a seasoned roadie and a proper touring bike with drop bars and skinny tyres – arrived. He casually enquired which route we’d taken over the mountains that day. We pointed at a road on our map. He stared at us, incredulous. Then he looked down at my bike and simply said, “On that?”.
Now, some would have interpreted this comment as a compliment – an admiring acknowledgement that someone of my obvious athleticism had no need for such fripperies as gears or adult sized wheels. Sadly, instead I was instantly engulfed by a tidal wave of teenage awkwardness and imposter syndrome. Which, on top of exhaustion and starvation, wasn’t exactly the ideal end to the day.
Undaunted (well, maybe a little bit) we awoke the next morning feeling rested and ready to go. It was a big, beautiful sunny day. Over breakfast, and using our dodgy map reading skills, we worked out that we had a long, hard climb early on. But with refreshed legs – and fuelled by a YHA Full English – if we left early enough we could be in the next village by lunchtime. Even on ‘that’ bicycle.
Half an hour later, we were flying down a deserted mountain pass, witnessed only by an audience of sheep, with the sun our backs, legs sticking out, yelling with delight.
Five minutes after that, we realised we’d misread the map. The ‘climb’ was actually the descent we’d just ridden. We arrived in the village ‘for lunch’ at 10.30. There was, in those idyllic moments, no such thing as an inadequate bicycle.*
These days I am far better prepared to enjoy my now mostly off-road mountain adventures. A choice of full suspension or hardtail mountain bikes resplendent with 1 x 12 gears, dropper posts and tubeless tyres (note: zero chance of being shamed in a bike shed). I’m up to speed on energy snacks and hydration, and ALWAYS appropriately dressed. It’s my love for the comfort and performance of merino that led me to discover FINDRA. I’m also way better at reading maps (or using apps that do the navigating for me).
The mountains haven’t changed though, and neither has their magical ability to make me feel very small but hugely joyful at the same time. I am drawn back, again and again, for the endless climbs and swooping descents. For the sun on my back, a warm wind on my face, and hopefully not too much rain (‘winning at the weather’). For the big skies, the steadfast mountains, and the best friends. And to feel 15 again.
* Yes, we did make it to Anglesey.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Manchester Tart was a staple of my school dinners and is the taste of my childhood, so its my ultimate comfort food. It’s basically a pastry case with jam and custard plus coconut on top – a bit like a Bakewell tart but with custard in place of frangipane.
This Delicious Magazine recipe is a very elaborate version of a very simple dish (I’m sure they never went to this much trouble for school dinners) but its totally worth the effort and, because it cuts no corners, tastes even better than I had remembered.
I live in Surrey now and none of my southern friends had heard of Manchester Tar, but they all really liked it. It’s especially good when you have post-exercise munchies!
Visit Delicious Magazine for this Manchester Tart recipe.
ART OF THE WEEK
Guggenheim Gallery, Bilbao
A few years ago I did a cycling holiday in Northern Spain. Before we flew home we spent a couple of days in Bilbao. The incredible Guggenheim Gallery (designed by Frank Gehry) sits by the river and is a stunning building in a beautiful city. We saw a very moving Louise Bourgeois exhibition there (see here Maman Spider in the pic below) and spent several hours exploring on hire bikes, before heading to the bars for some delicious Pinchos.
MUSIC OF THE WEEK
The Boys From Nairobi: Benga and Rumba from 1980s Kenya.
This week we have a collection of tracks wrapped up into a new album celebrating Benga and Rumba music recorded in Nairobi, Kenya in the early 1980’s.
If features five Kenyan groups from the era and this is the first time their music is released outside of Kenya. I’ve played this several times since coming across it a couple of weeks ago and just love it!
Have a listen on YouTube or Spotify (account needed) and also available to download on Apple iTunes.