Last June Mike Hopkins visited from Canada. He’s one of Canada’s top free-riders, competing in Red Bull Rampage and basically travelling all over the world being pretty badass, showing everyone how cool mountain biking really is, No biggie! So pressure was on to show him what we have to offer in Britain.
To be honest I was pretty confident, expectations of what we had to offer were set fairly low, thanks to his British friends migrating to Canada from Essex and classic shows like EastEnders and of course all those miserable bastards that just like to complain. I’d tried to tell Mike there’s more to Britain than London, I guess he had to see it to believe it.
When I first met Mike I asked him “What do you think of when you think of England?”..
Simple reply; “dodgy teeth.”
How depressing is that?! Sadly, he had a point, as he said it an English guy was on telly with exceptionally awful teeth, all I could do was cringe and smile awkwardly without showing my teeth. I have nice teeth, but suddenly became aware they weren’t perfect, could probably be whiter and straighter.
His idea of Britain in general wasn’t much better either; flat, busy, over crowded, rushed, cold, wet, muddy, miserable.. the list went on.
It’s sad to say a lot of Brits agree with him, which reminds me of how lucky I am to live where I do. Plus, I avoid cities like the plague.
I picked him up from Manchester before heading to Shropshire. Last time I saw Mike was a few months ago in New Zealand, stoked he was actually here in 4D. 2D relationships get rather tedious.
Timer began, 2 weeks to show off Britain in all its glory. I didn’t do anything too different, he just finally got to do it with me, every day doing something new.
He arrived on the longest weekend, perfect timing if you’re coming to the Chidleys, we like to make the most of the Summer Solstice; riding, BBQ, beers, pump track, disco shed .. yep, disco shed, all in our garden.
TENS TIME TRIAL
Over the summer on Tuesday nights there’s an event called The Tens, it’s a ten mile time trial just a couple of miles down the road, I do it on my Mountain bike with slick tyres, but there’s a lot of serious riders. Its awesome training, couldn’t wait for Mike to give it a go. He borrowed my brothers tourer and off we pootled. Even the 6 mile ride down to the start he loved, all the little country roads and covering bigger distances quickly was very appealing. He smashed the tens, in 27:55, for your first attempt that’s a good time, sussing out the course and knowing how to pace yourself is the hard bit, he finished barely out of breath. The following day we discovered the brakes had been stuck on the entire time too, ha!
The following day was another new activity.. a Fell run! Over the summer a Fell Running series takes place somewhere in Shropshire every other Wednesday night, as a keen Fell Runner I try and do them all. They’re crazy fun (hard, depends on your level of “fun”). However, Mike has only ever been for a handful of runs, usually when I drag him out; he’s never had decent shoes to help with the terrain and the last run he went on was over 3 months ago. Although when he comes out with me he makes me feel insanely slow, it’s quite depressing, I destroy him on the descents but on the climbs he makes me feel like a snail, an old one at that. I knew he’d be good at the climb so told him to pace our friend and awesome runner Dico, however, not only did he do that he passed Dico, patted him on the back and said “Well done Dico, keep it going.” Dico could barely breathe let alone encourage someone else on. Mike had borrowed my Dads trainers, so at least he had some grip for the descent (even if they were a little too big). He lost a few places on the descent but maintained a good speed and finished 5th! Which is an outrage, I was proud but not at all surprised, made me feel better about feeling like an old snail when I’m out alone with him. None of my friends could believe it; they asked “how often do you run?” “I don’t.” was the simple response.
UK GRAVITY ENDURO
Over the weekend Mike came with me and my brother to a National Gravity Enduro in the Lake District, personally never having been to The Lakes I was stoked to share it with Mike.
Now Mike was very much in pain after the run, I guess if you don’t ever run, you better ache after destroying everyone. So he skipped riding on the Friday and had dinner ready when we got back to the camp site about 4 hours later. To be honest, Mike did not enjoy this weekend, and if anything it put him off riding all together, let alone trying out a race. The conditions were miserable and the tracks were less than fun, a bit silly really but hey. So I’m going to skip this weekend..
He did however take a couple of beauties from the weekend..
The weather hadn’t been bad, but week 2 was a little slice of tropical heaven, we had about 3 BBQs in one week.
TENS “Two up”
It was time for the Tens again, but this week was a “two up” event, new for us both we teamed up. Using the same course, we had to work together and ‘slip stream’. We decided, seeing as Mike had the faster bike (and Legs) he’d lead the entire course. Neither of us had ever done any kind of slip streaming, if we ride on the road it was always solo.
Mike set the pace, which was bloody fast for me and my little mountain bike. He kept looking over his shoulder to make sure I was there; I was there, however, most of the time you could fit a bus between us! Throughout the entire route I probably managed to slip stream him for a total of 20 seconds! It was torture, even as I write this my fingers are tapping more aggressively thinking back to how painful and infuriating it was!! I have never.. EVER pushed myself that hard before, EVER! I spent the entire time just trying to catch up with him, it doesn’t count as slip streaming someone if you can fit a bus, or a car or even another bike between you. Mike didn’t realise till afterwards that it’s only effective when the person slip streaming is right on your ass, basically touching your wheel. Every time Mike thought I was close enough he looked back and sped off again. Thankfully he couldn’t hear me, but man alive I was rude. I like a challenge but this was another level. I was lifting the front of the bike forward making it hop off the ground to try and catch him, shouting to him ”WHAT’S THE POINT?!!” With just a couple of miles to the finish he kept shouting back saying “come on Harn, nearly there you’re doing awesome.” I, on the other hand was not in the mood for his positivity and at this point struggling to even breath, was very much hating him.. now hate is a strong word which I only use if it’s necessary.. so it’s staying in.
As we crossed the finish I kept riding, I have never been so out of breath in my entire life, with each breath I gasped for air as if someone had just tried to drown me in an ocean surrounded by icebergs, and each gasp brought floods of tears to my eyes. However, as soon as I crossed that finish line, the hatred disappeared as if it had never happened, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. Bringing me to my favourite quote “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” It’s a hard one to explain, I was in a world of pain hating life, but my god did I love it. Mike and I agreed we need to work on our slip streaming technique, and he should have the slower bike next time.
TRYFAN, NORTH WALES
Mikes visit was sadly coming to an end, I’d tried to do as much as possible with him, but one thing I HAD to do was scramble up Tryfan, It’s one of my favourite hikes but I’ve only ever done it in the pouring rain with close to zero visibility.
So with a tropical clear day ahead of us we took off with plenty of water and our stoke on. One thing we have here that’s undeniable and I totally take for granted, is our history. My house is older than Canada itself. Mike loved all the little towns, the old buildings, the stone walls, the castle ruins, he couldn’t get his head round them. It certainly made me look at everything in a different light, and really appreciate what we’re surrounded by and what it all represents. I like to picture myself going back in time and imagine how it would’ve been back then, which is a pretty cool feeling.
On route to North Wales Mike was in his element, stone walls for days, castle ruins with mountains forming. We stopped in the beautiful town of Betws-y-Coed for a gander and a coffee and then trucked on. As Tryfan came in to sight I pointed it out and told Mike that’s what we’re going up. He was another level stoked, it looked awesome. I kept reminding Mike that this is where the inspiration came from for Lord of the Rings .. and The Shire is Shropshire. I’ve told him many-a-times, but he finally saw it for himself. We headed up in to the mountain, it was so fricking cool; I love that mountain, its proper scrambling. We made our way up finding the hardest and most exciting route to the top.
Half way up we heard some crazy loud fighter jets come towards us, I’d seen them before so looked up at Mike to catch his reaction as he was frantically searching for them in the sky. Just as he thought he’d missed it, Mike looked down and there they were, two fighter jets speeding through the valley beneath us. They even turned completely sideways as they meandered through the mountains. Mike looked like a little kid at Christmas, so excited, never having seen anything like it. They came by again about 2 hours later and then another cool fighter plane came through, it was much bigger, looked like it was going half the speed and was almost silent, pretty cool.
Once we reached the summit greeted by Adam and Eve we took some classic tourist pictures before a group of Canadians got to the top too. What are the chances they’d be Mikes fellow Countrymen, I was out numbered on my own turf.. and, it gets better. Apparently it was Canada day (Mike forgot), they’d carried a big Canadian flag with them to the top of the mountain.. So we borrowed it for a couple of rad snaps.
We rushed home for another BBQ which sadly brings Mikes journey to an end.
Everyone loved having him here, he fits right in with the Shropshire Mons. It’s great to see my home through his eyes, I’ve always appreciated it, but now I notice and think about things I just took for granted. It’s safe to say, Mikes impression of Britain has somewhat changed.
Until next time my furry Canadian friend .. I have much more to show you.
Cheerio old chap, See you on skype..