I love this time of year, there’s that expectant feeling in the air that we get with spring; a combination of the knowledge of sunny days to come and the combined sexual tension of the animal kingdom.
Every sunny day seems to be the first footfall of summer, only for the next storm to shatter our hopes! Generally the weather has been gorgeous but the air is still sharp and if you stray from the warmth of of the sun and into the shadows of the forest, the air temperature is still low. Throughout the mountains, the plants are starting to spread and flowers are starting to poke through last autumn’s leafy carpet. In another couple of weeks the forest floors will be teeming with green leaves and scented plants, and it will take an effort to recall the tingle of cold air on the inside of my lungs.
Now is the perfect time for trail building. Without their secrecy preserved by the dense foliage, all the hidden trails are visible and ripe for the finding. The temperature is perfect for working hard outside, not too cold to spend a full day outdoors and not too warm for the trousers and long sleeves required to protect against the pricks and scratches from the more aggressive shrubbery. It is a great time to be in the mountains as well, with that special air quality we only get at this time of the year; the cold temperatures keeping the humidity very low and bestowing crystal clear visibility.
Spring sees me, the preparing mountain bike guide, putting in miles to rid my legs of their winter lethargy, and industriously digging, sawing, packing and testing new trails in the woods. All the mountains and potential lines that I spotted last season and, without time for exploring, carefully noted, are waiting there for me. Of course, some of them turn out to be empty, or start like a new relationship, full of promise and mystery, only to peter out in the bitter recriminations of dead ends, thorns or impassible rocks. There are the others though, the special ones, that run and run, surpassing all expectations in a beauty of bends and gravity. And of course all these trails need to be checked, tested, mapped and recorded which, for me, is the best part. There’s something so very special about spending long days clearing a path in the mountains, not to forget the evenings thinking about it and nights dreaming of it, only to reach the climax as you point your bike downhill and ride the curves, letting gravity show you the hidden energy of the trail for the first time. There are these new trails to be found and tweaked but there are also all the old favorites to be checked and cleared of the blanket of leaves, branches and trunks that the winter storms have pulled over them. All of last season’s trails, which have sat, largely unused, just waiting for the returning touch of the sun and supertacky rubber.
These days are the repayment for the long months of my first winter as a mountain bike guide, cold days spent organising the year ahead from behind a computer screen. And with the spring comes the new bookings, like snowdrops poking through the grass, meaning new people to meet and share all these trails, and the beautiful Basque Country, with.
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