‘You can do this, Ed, after all, it can’t get any worse like last time… when you broke a load of ribs…’
I muttered to myself as I tried to psych myself up, my knuckles whitening on the handlebars of my mountain bike. My breathing quickened as I craned my neck to test out the straps of the helmet on my head. I could feel beads of sweat form under my arms and I again muttered to myself that I was glad I was wearing another t-shirt underneath so no one could see how unbelievably nervous I was.
It was now or never.
I took another peek, shaking, down the SallowVallets Hill and I just had to suppress a disbelieving laugh.
Down this innocent looking steep hill, there are a range of trails with berms, rock steps and other features of all sizes and forms. Immediately, I had a flash of that fateful day in Finland when I found myself in a serious accident three years ago where I rode off a six-foot ledge at the end of a VERY steep hill, without a helmet may I add, and landed on a road front tyre first before being catapulted off to land on a side of a kerb thus crushing quite a few of my ribs in the process. Oh, and the darn bike landed on me as well. The bike annoyingly still worked afterwards whereas I was just broken.
See more: When I broke my ribs in Finland
Well, I’ve got my helmet on this time.
So, as my biking group started to push themselves off the summit of the hill we spent nearly two hours of pedalling up through beautiful trail sceneries of the Forest of the Dean (found on the border of Wales in Gloucestershire) with expert tour guides with PedalABikeAway, I nearly jumped off my bike and about to refuse to go down this hill. It’s one minute fast ride down the hill. So, in my panicking head, two hours uphill cycling and one minute ride downhill means a really fast experience that will surely get my adrenaline spiking to never seen before proportions. It just didn’t make sense.
Isn’t what this I signed up for?
Those two words would have broken me out in a cold sweat in the last three years. So, why did I decide to do this?
Face my fear.
I often pride myself for my fearlessness. Ask my aunties. Every time they see me doing a challenge, whether that’s bungy jumping, throwing myself out of a plane at 15,000 feet, dangling off a rock at great heights to get that great selfie or zip-lining over a kilometre over a valley at 888m high, they complain furiously to my Mum, who would shrug her shoulders and say that’s how I am. (You wouldn’t believe what they said about my caving experience in the Forest of the Dean later on)
But getting back on a bike and ride down a trail, off-road, down the side of a steep hill, that has twists and turns, trail bumps and no barriers to rest against? That was one of my biggest fears.
So, I’m damned if I ever let myself a fear stop what ever I do.
Come on, where better than to face it head on than in a hidden adventure destination in the UK that is the Forest of the Dean?
Let’s do this.
Remembering the techniques shown to me my the PedalABikeAway guides, lowering my saddle, standing up on my pedals, I edged slowly to the tipping off before I shot down.
This is it.
I’m going to do this.
Adrenaline coursed through my body and my worries dissipated away as I became truly focussed.
Screw you, fear. You’re gone.
Then I pushed off.
Honestly, I don’t remember much about the ride down. That’s why i had my trusty GoPro with me to record every moment. I had it mounted on my shoulder so you can see my expression as I sped down. (It’s pretty hilarious, but I do watch this back with my hands on either side of my face in horror at the attempt I just did.)
But I do remember is that my fear returned halfway down when a rock bump dislodged me from my saddle up into the air, my hands frozen with shock as it flew from my handlebars. It seemed like an eternity but it was in fact a second, then I landed back on, wobbling the bike. I had to stop for a breather for a quick second. (That’s when the GoPro video turned itself to the side.)
But the main thing is that when one of the guides came over to check I was okay and give me encouragement, I felt so much more motivated to get back on the bike and finish the course.
So, why wasn’t I screaming with joy when I got down to the bottom and instead just carried on with a nonchalant look as you can see in the video?
Well, you didn’t see what was going on inside of me while we pedaled back to the site.
‘WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST DO?! WHY DON’T I HAVE BROKEN RIBS?! DID I JUST COMPLETE THIS?! OH WOW, THAT WAS IMMENSE! AMAZING! COULD I DO IT AGAIN? HELL, YES!’
It wasn’t until when we actually sat down for lunch (more on that later) when I realised that I actually did face my biggest fear. I stopped over-analysing, sat back in my chair, and felt a huge grin just plaster over my face.
I knew I could do it again.
I no longer had to be afraid.
I can feel invincible again.
I can be me, again… finally.
And that’s why, this would be the beginning of a journey of self-discovery with adventure, outdoors and community spirit in the Forest of the Dean and Wye Valley. And I want to share that with you.
With me, you’re in for a ride…
I just want to say a huge big thank you to everyone at PedalABikeAway for giving me the encouragement and much-needed support to get me back mountain biking again after three long years of walking wilderness. You can find out more about them and discover your love for mountain biking in one of the best spots of the UK here:
Can’t wait until the next instalment of my Forest of the Dean/Wye adventures in the UK? Why not follow this hashtag – #DeanWyeBloggers on any social media channel and discover what we actually got up.
This article has been produced as part of a blogging series in partnership with the DeanWye Tourism Board.