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Can you really experience the culture of a country while racing through it? Kristi Stump finds herself pondering such things, when perhaps she should be concentrating on not crashing.


Shortly after the first feed station, I passed my teammate as he’d stopped for the hundredth time to take photographs. I dropped into a steep, sketchy singletrack, realising immediately that I’d forgotten to unlock my suspension after the last road section. But I was already on the first big rock ledge and it was too late for adjustments. I ungracefully threw my weight back just enough and just in time, yelling ‘big drop!’ to Steffen. A few seconds later I heard that terrible sound of bike metal scraping across rock and started praying to the African gods that my partner was still in one piece. I ran back up the trail and was relieved to find him standing, but, strangely, taking off his outer shorts. “Are you OK?” “Yeah, yeah, all fine. But these baggy shorts have to die - they keep getting caught on my seat.” Meanwhile blood was dripping down his chin, so I asked him to show me his teeth. He smiled widely – fortunately teeth were all intact, but his chin opened up like a crevasse. “Don’t do that again”, I said, and started digging through our first aid kit. Chins are almost impossible to bandage, especially with four-day stubble, but I did my best, grateful that this was seemingly the extent of his injuries. He straightened his handlebars, did a quick brake check, and we were rolling again.

Wake up call.

All was good again, so I relaxed and let my mind wander – thinking this was one of my new favourite places to ride, how overdressed I was now in the afternoon sun, and wondering how far it was until our next food stop. Suddenly Steffen stopped and asked: “Where are my shorts?” “In your pack”, I answered. He stared at me blankly and I felt slight panic. “Do you remember what happened?” I asked. “Ugh, no.” “But you know where you are, right?!” “Yeah, sure… we’re in Lesotho, but it’s like I just woke up on my bike… this is so weird.”

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About Singletrack

Editorial: Chipps wonders what comes after the corner after the next corner. International Adventure: Soviet Singletrack: With military restrictions lifted, singletrack trails are waiting to be discovered on the very fringes of Russia. Column: A Glamorous Job: Jason Miles reveals that riding your bike a lot doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. UK Adventure: West Is Best: Pete Scullion goes wild camping on Scotland’s west coast, in the depths of winter. Bike Test: One Click Ponies: James Vincent tests out three bikes from Bird, Intense and Sonder - available to you at the click of a mouse. UK Adventure: Trail Hunter - Peaky Blinder: Tom Fenton seeks out some of the Peak District’s lesser known trails in the White Peak. Group Test: Packing Light: Antony de Heveningham checks out frame, hip and back packs in search of a bag that carries just enough for those local rides. Interview: Staying Ahead, Being Last: Rachel Sokal chats to Olympian and British Champion Annie Last about staying motivated, and cake. International Adventure: Finding Perspective In Lesotho Kristi Stump ponders the gap between her own challenges and those of the people she encounters during the Lesotho Sky stage race Column: Seduced By The TV Remote: Steve Longdon misses the days when we used to ride up hills under our own power and peel our own oranges. Wait, what? International Adventure: Internal Struggle Tom Johnstone nally makes the trip of a lifetime through Iceland’s remote interior. International Adventure: No Mercy In The Mountains Chipps takes a rather taxing holiday in the Pyrenees. Perhaps a change isn’t always as good as a rest… Last Word Barney Marsh admits he’s not getting any younger or fitter. At least he can do something about one of them.