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I stand at the bottom of a trail. Despite the beauty of the wider country that surrounds me – I started the day descending a frost-covered col, alpenglow hitting high peaks, a perfect ribbon of trail steering us through chilly air into the wooded valleys below – my spot isn’t exactly picturesque. Scrappy tarmac and a concrete culvert. Scrubs of foliage provide me with a little shade, but as midday approaches I can already feel the sun intensifying on my neck. And yet, there I stand still. Rooted to the spot. I strain to listen for the telltale rumble of tyres on loose rock… hollow chunder, scraping of a locked wheel through an ancient trail, the odd squeal of hot brakes, and whoops and hollers from the most vocal of riders. It’s impossible to relax fully, but I grab bites of a not hugely inspiring peanut butter and Nutella sandwich before returning to the task at hand – the small timing box dangling from my wrist while I busy myself doing not very much. And there I stand: one small part of a much bigger thing, ears pricking up as sound tumbles down the hillside heralding the first rider as they appear through the foliage.

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Now, how did those lyrics go again?
Sanny and Dene head out on a pre-dawn mission proving that winter shouldn’t be a barrier to fun.
They say variety is the spice of life – how hot do you like your spice?
Jason Miles takes a good long look at himself. With his eyes half shut…
Amanda takes a few days to ride and decompress in Denmark. Along the way she finds food, friends, trails and adventures, but most of all, she finds balance.
Adam Batty welcomes back a lapsed member of the mountain bike club to enjoy the views.
Chipps gets soppy about a scratched old pair of pedals from the last century.
Nigel Page and Chipps strap on luggage and join forces again. This time to ride a completely made up North/South traverse of the Lake District.
Three contemporary steel hardtails made by hand in the UK from 18 Bikes, Shand and Stanton. And we mean made, not just assembled.
Price: £900.00 (frame only) From: 18 Bikes, 18bikes.co.uk
Price: £995.00 (frame only) From: Shand, shandcycles.com
Price: £699.00 (frame only) From: Stanton, stantonbikes.com
You might want to get your tiny violins ready at this
Mark and Vic look at a different way of getting to play in the mountains with bikes. By train.
Emma and Carly show how much fun you can have by being badly prepared and under-equipped in France’s bestknown mountain bike event.
Andi catches up with Damien from Production Privée, the enigmatic Andorran bike and component company.
Sometimes alcohol and high spirits can get in the way of a race to the point that some people let themselves down a little. So much so that we’ve toned this one down, to hide the guilty.