Keith Bontrager used to have a marketing line that said ‘Strong, light, cheap. Pick two.’ Ive always had a soft spot for Bontragers, so I ripped off his mantra and monkeyed with it to make it my own. Rather than offer a maxim for bike design, my personal riding mantra¬† is designed to enable me to maximise my enjoyment from any given ride, before I even pull my shorts on.

It applies to night rides, and states: ‘Below five degrees, raining, dark. Pick two.’ That is to say, if all three are going on then I’m staying in by the fire. I don’t care if the Titanic Plum Porter is tasting particularly great that day, this pedalling lark is supposed to be fun when all’s said and done, and if theres more than two of the three going on at that point in time then I’m simply not game for a trundle on the bikecycle. Even if there is a promise of some kind of beverage (or cake) at some point on route. In an ideal world, all three are present and correct, but that doesn’t really happen all that often, especially through the dark end of the year.

Maybe I’m getting old. I’m sure there was a time when I wasn’t such a wuss and could sit outside a pub in the snow after a ride, sipping a GnT like it were a summer day, full of that satisfied feeling only a quality ride can provide. If I really cast my mind back, I think I can even vaguely remember a time when I would enthusiastically claim “if it ain’t raining then it ain’t training!” but despite all those rain sodden, frozen toes rides, I never seemed to get much faster… I had a brief flirtation with the idea of ‘if the weathers forbidding, then lets get skidding’ which worked for a while but the cost of tyres soon put me off that one. Maybe I’m turning all Enduroist nowadays, cos recently all I keep hearing myself say is ‘quit your yapping and lets get braaaapping!’ The irony in that is all too obvious as I wobble down the trail like a pig on stilts, but it does makes me smile. And yeah, I do kinda enjoying making motorbike noises to myself whilst tootling down the canal or jumping speed humps…

But hey! Its spring equinox, the light nights are coming back and it’s time to come out of hibernation again. As surely as the wheels keep rolling round, the seasons keep turning too, and rides wont have to be constrained to grabbing quick pootles here and there as and when the conditions fit my mantra. I might be another year older, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing… After all, the woods are a year older too and they’re still doing fine… Lets face it, nothing is getting younger and after a smashing ramble yesterday I’m kinda feeling a bit like the countryside and woods around here as the bulbs sprout up and buds start to come out… Full of promise and potential for the year to come. Already the mud is drying out and I’m spotting new bits of trail from off-piste crazy steep-narrow deer tracks at Cannock, to cheeky footpaths in the Peaks, to planning long lanes rides to distant breweries and cafes. Gotta admit, I’m looking forward to the good company, the trails and lanes and fine refreshments that 2016 is going to provide. Just so long as its light, warm, and dry. Or at the very least two of the three… Roll on 2016!