For some reason I decided to enter the ‘Military Challenge’ Mountain Bike Orienteering event yesterday. This was despite not even owning a mountain bike (I borrowed one from the cycle club at work). What I hadn’t bargained on at the time I entered was that there would be lots of snow on the ground! Things started to go wrong even before the start. I had not brought my normal cycle jacket (well, it’s Christine’s actually) as the zip broke but what I had forgotten was that my cycle gloves were in the rear pocket. Luckily I did at least have another pair of gloves with me.
I pedalled off to the start and was a bit surprised to be given 6 maps (I had rather rashly entered the 25km medium course after some goading from Christine). The start was on top of a spur and I’ll freely admit that I wheeled my bike down the steep snow covered single-track path that weaved through the small conifers. Once I did get going I then managed to drop my compass (it was tucked in the side of the Heath Robinson map holder that I had constructed to attach to my handlebars). I saw it go but despite only having a 5 metre section of track to search it still took me about five minutes to find it again in the snow. The navigation was easy enough not to need a compass – I just didn’t want to lose it!
I managed to get through the first three controls without too much difficulty. I did briefly wonder what the high wall on the route to number three was all about until I passed a road called ‘Broadmoor Drive’. I was a bit indecisive on the route from 3 to 4. The maps consisted of a mixture of orienteering and OS maps and I wasn’t sure whether we were permitted to use the footpaths on the OS maps. It was whilst I was making a detour back to the road that things went drastically wrong: the left crank fell off! I found the screw but the small toolkit I was carrying wasn’t going to help me re-attach it. I walked my bike out to the road and asked a passing family for assistance. They directed me to a bike shop just 10 minutes walk away!
Thanks go to the guys at Berkshire Cycles who put the crank back on but they warned me that it was deformed by this point and I shouldn’t ride on. They were right and I made it back as far as Upper Star Posts before it fell off again despite my attempts to only use the left pedal lightly. This time the screw was lost to the snow and I just ran back with the bike with the crank in my hand. (Running with a bike is considerably easier when there is no pedal to get in the way!)
So, my first MTBO event was not exactly a great success but it was a lovely day to be out with the sun shining on the snow. Getting ready for the event was a bit of a faff – all the usual orienteering gear plus everything for the bike as well. My makeshift map board worked reasonably well although I think you really do need one that rotates. Trying to work out which path to take at one of the massive Star Posts junctions is very difficult when the map isn’t orientated. At £35+ that’s not something I’m going to buy in a hurry though so perhaps I should just stick to two legs in future!