You are hereBlogs / jp's blog / Painting a target on your back.

Painting a target on your back.

jp's picture

By jp - Posted on 03 August 2015

I love my weekend rides on the local singletrack loop. For me, it’s Old Man’s Valley in Hornsby. I usually combine it with some fire trail/ road segments and hill climbs to get in a solid 3 hour ride early in the day, then spend the rest of the day with my family. I love that feeling of fatigue in my legs all day, as a reminder I “got it done” early.

Now I have to confess I am a mamil - on the trails I wear lycra, and I tend to be quite colour-coordinated. I just find lycra comfortable to ride in and pretty good value for money. And since I buy it in sets, it all matches. Or maybe I’m just a bit OCD… either way, when it comes to choice of riding gear, each to their own I reckon. But there is another aspect to hitting the trails in lycra.

The vast majority of weekend riders at OMV are in their 30s or 40s, wearing baggies and t-shirts, on trail or all-mountain bikes, and just out for a bit of fun. It’s not all about serious race training - it’s about having a good time and trying to stay fit. And of course dropping your mates.

But I've learned that if you turn up wearing colour-matching lycra, you might as well paint a target on your back.

Those who know me will know that I’m not the fastest guy out there. I go OK on climbs, but my technical / downhill skills are at best average. I like to push myself, and I love training hard, but I’m certainly not breaking any records out there. Now and again you’ll see an elite rider covered in sponsor's logos at OMV, and I love to see how fast they zip around the trails. But that’s definitely not me.

So with all that in mind, here’s how Saturday morning played out.

I started with about 2 hours of road and firetrail riding, and arrived at the OMV trailhead with about 800m of climbing in the legs so far. As I approached the trailhead I rode through a group of 6 or 7 mountain bikers of various shapes and sizes, all about to start their first lap. I nodded and said "g’day guys", then ducked into the single track just ahead of them. So there I went, a skinny guy in matching lycra setting the pace... A few of them nodded as I passed them, and the clicking of cleats into pedals echoed like rifles being loaded for a kill. By the time I hit the second berm the valley had filled with the sound of 6 or 7 chains slapping against chainstays and 2.4” nobbys skidding through loose corners. It was on.

The first section of OMV is mostly downhill and a little techy in places, and the guys at the front of their group were good riders - they had the skills, experience, and long-travel bikes to smash this section.

So here’s where I start with my own little mind games. Sure, if they catch me, I’ll pull over and let them pass - I’m no trail hog. But I don’t want to get caught. And I think I can smash the uphill bits. So I frantically push my skills and short-travel bike to the limit to stay ahead, and sprint every flat section in an attempt to increase the gap to second. I occasionally glance back to make sure I’m not holding anyone up… then get back on it like the rabbit in cross-hairs I have become.

Eventually we hit a small uphill and I make my final sprint to escape the pack before we reach the clearing at the bottom of the valley. Through the clearing, I continue up the hill to the next section of trail, slowing a little to catch my breath, while the group stops for a brief chat, a drink and a laugh. Quite possibly completey unaware my existence, let alone my imagined victory. Or were they regrouping to plan a second pursuit on the next lap? I didn't hang around to find out...

I finish the short trail climb and enter the next section of single track just ahead of a fresh-faced guy about the same age as my son, on a top-of-the-range dually. I nod and say g’day, then it’s back on the gas again for this section as he loads his cleats into his pedals.

Of course it doesn’t always play out this way - there are plenty of faster riders than me out there. And that’s a good thing. After all, it’s by riding with people who are faster than ourselves that we improve. I’ve been lucky enough to do many training rides with @tristania over the last year or two, and that has made me a better rider.

Maybe this is all in my head, or an excuse to wear matching lycra. But if the target on my back result in a few "mini races" on the trail, maybe it's a good thing? It's a lot more fun than hill repeats and intervals!

See you out there Smiling


beetle's picture

Beating me by a second for 2 Flings in a row , trust me,you have a big target on your back JP.....
Lycra all the way , I'd better watch my back too

jp's picture

Well, technically I beat you last year, but you really rescued me half way through Bailey!

adski's picture

Nice metaphor. The games the mind plays…

jp's picture

Thanks Adam - yeah, it's amazing what the mind comes up with when you're out riding solo for hours on end. Maybe I need to find some more riding buddies to keep me sane.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Best Mountain Bike