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James Vincent travels to Cheddar, in the West Country for this issue’s Classic Ride, hoping to find fun trails and the one true cheese.

They say knowledge is power. I say knowledge plays its part, but it helps to get lucky from time to time. I’m off to the Mendips, and Chipps has taken great delight in telling me that “last time I was there it was comedically [sic] wet and muddy, but hey, you might get a sunny frosty day when everything’s solid…” Emails about the ride bounce back and forth containing such gems as “not sure when you were thinking of but you probably know it doesn’t hold up well in the winter?”, and “I don’t think the trails will be dry until May…”.

Brilliant. Just brilliant. After the greatest summer I can remember, where dry, dusty trails stretched as far as the eye could see, it’s now the middle of December, summer is but a distant memory, and I’m in the South West of England tasked with shooting a Classic Ride on trails that don’t hold up in the wet. Splendid.

Grilling the locals.

Fortunately, I have a pair of aces up my sleeve. The first goes by the name of Box, or to his parents and the authorities, Rob Cooksley. He’s just returned from a couple of seasons spannering with Team Madison Saracen for a certain Danny Hart and has recently reopened the rather conveniently located Bad Ass Bikes, which serves as the starting point for today’s ride. What he doesn’t know about mountain biking in the Mendips ain’t worth knowing. The second ace is Rob’s mate Dave Parke, a former civil engineer who now spends his time designing cycling infrastructure for councils. The yin to Rob’s yang, the chalk to his cheese, Dave has an encyclopaedic knowledge of what’s a legitimate right of way and what trails lie out of bounds.

But all this local knowledge will be useless if the Mendips are sitting under several feet of prime Somerset mud… Well, I said it helps to get lucky sometimes and boy, did we. I’d been watching an uncomfortably narrow weather window make its way slowly to the right over the last week, hoping it would come to rest over our chosen riding day, while all around this little patch of sunshine were heavy black clouds and rain. Lots of rain. Enough rain to wake me up in the middle of the night a few days earlier. It’s only natural, therefore, that I do a little happy dance as I open the curtains and find the sun shining brightly back at me before I set off to meet Rob and Dave in Burrington Combe, on the northern edge of the Mendips, about 14 miles south west of Bristol.

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Editorial: Greasing Out Chipps ponders the strange language of mountain biking. Is understanding the code the difference between being a mountain biker and just riding bikes? UK Adventure: Glasgow’s Campsie Fells Sanny seeks out some overlooked trails within a stone’s throw of Glasgow. Why does he love them so much? Column: Jason Miles Turns out that, if you ride bikes, your neighbours think you know everything about all bikes. International Adventure: Bohemian Rhapsody Tom Hutton heads to the very-accessible Czech Republic to check out the trails and trees on a three-centre bike safari. International Adventure: Kyrgyzstan Rickie Cotter warms up for the Silk Road Mountain Race with a solo trip around this remote expanse of wild unknown. Beyond The Review: In The Bag Tom Hill writes about the aged Timbuk2 messenger bag that isn’t his, it’s Jenn’s. He’s just using it for her. Classic Ride: Grate Expectations In a cheese pun-filled ride around the West Country, James Vincent takes us on a tour of the trails around Cheddar. International Adventure: You Can’t Script Adventure James McKnight and Victor Lucas get in over their heads in the Pyrenees. Turns out this bikepacking lark is more complicated than they thought. Bike Test: So Long, Huckers Our big friendly giant, Barney, gets friendly with the three longest full suspension bikes in the world. Three monsters tested, from Cotic, Geometron and Pole. 25 Years of Chipps Chipps reflects on 25 years as a bike journalist. Does he know what he’s doing yet? International Adventure: Budget Bolognese Sanny heads to Italy to experience a comfortable adventure without a painful credit card bill. Pete’s Pros: Ruaridh Cunningham Pete Scullion chases downhill legend turned neo-enduro pro Ruaridh Cunningham around the trails of Innerleithen. Last Word Adam Batty discovers that finding riding buddies can be tricky, especially when they’re not being entirely honest.