Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley


Posted by Matt | September 1, 2010 | 16 comments so far

Over the past month I’ve been conscious of a growing weariness to mountain biking as the relatively high number of miles (for me at least) has gradually accumulated. It’s nothing so profound as the ennui I’ve experienced in the past, but it’s worth recognising all the same.

The problem with riding a lot is boredom. After all, the routes stay basically the same and this takes its toll over time. This year in particular has seen me riding regularly off-road to work, into Redhill via Alsation, Headley and the North Downs Way. It’s a great mile-munching route but despite the odd occasion—such as when I saw the girl doing yoga—it’s proved very repetitive, since there’s no easy way to vary the route choice.

On top of that, if you’re riding a lot you also have to accept that there will be times when you’re riding on your own. This is not something I enjoy, although it is good preparation for Dusk til Dawn. Being able to get into your zone for an hour at a time without the entertainment from chatting to a companion is great for that. But mentally it’s a lonely road to ride and you have to be quite strong to deal with that; it’s not just the pain of riding flat out for an hour, it’s the pain of boredom and isolation.

What I’m saying is that sometimes you need a break. Mountain biking as a sport can wear you out physically – most obviously when broken bones are involved. More often than not though the things that stop people riding are far less tangible of which I think boredom and lack of motivation are the key things. We aren’t designed for repetitive work, as our experience in the workplace shows.

Some people try to jump start things with challenging themselves further, faster, scarier. Learning to properly jump or corner a bike are skills that can save you time and again. The downside is if you get it wrong it hurts, a lot.

Other riders like to push themselves to ride what I would frankly describe as scary stuff. It’s a great personal achievement that I would like to have for myself but the downside is if you get it wrong it hurts, a lot.

For me, I find I push myself to go faster uphills, especially if I’m on my own. The downside is this hurts, a lot; but at least you can’t fall off going uphill!

Still other riders like to buy newer, shinier, blingier, niche-ier kit in what I often suspect is a similar attempt at staving off the ennui that is forever hovering out there waiting to pounce. The grass may not be greener but it certainly looks more interesting, which is why I have three bikes for a start!

The truth is as riders we’re all a mixture of these things, and the emphasis shifts to one end of the scale or another depending on the individual. I’m not getting at anyone, I’m just suggesting we’re all trying to solve the same basic issue.


It’s a terrible thing to acknowledge when we live in such a great mountain biking area isn’t it? But I reckon there’s no shame in it.

There’s one solution that seems counter-intuitive and that is to rest. By which I mean step back, try and forget about bikes, try and forget about constant exercise, perhaps do something that has nothing to do with bikes at all like solving a pressing work issue or starting a personal project that’s been nagging you for ages. Whatever it takes really, just step away from the bike.

I’ve recently tailed my riding off, due to a family holiday and various other commitments that have got in the way and I think the rest has done me good. My August mileage has definitely been lower than recent months and I’ve missed a few weekend rides as well and may well miss the odd one over the next month or so.

I’m hoping the rest will pay off in a renewed interest in riding. The signs so far are patchy; yesterday’s ride with Jem, Colin, Lee and Keith was spot on for me, a relaxed canter with good company. Today’s ride to work not so much – a painful, mental challenge although incidentally the morning sunrise was stunning.

I’m also due to start trying my hand at riding the Dark Side in the next few weeks which will turn things on their head again. That goes back to the new kit/novelty approach to re-energising I think; will it also spawn a new cycling wardrobe?!

To sum up, my tips for combating the dreaded riding fatigue are:

  1. Recognise there’s a problem
  2. Try and work out what’s causing it – physical, mental or both?
  3. Don’t be afraid to stop – it helps you physically, allows you to break bad habits and takes the pressure away, as well as providing some perspective
  4. Re-start when you’re ready and try to break away from whatever was causing the problem before

And if all else fails, get the credit card out!!

Filed under Tips in September 2010


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 16 comments on ‘Rest’

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  1. paul901 says:

    Matt, this is why I really enjoy both on and off road, it’s the counterpoint they bring together. It means that whilst one can appear to have the same routine on the outside, work or life habits can see different emphasis from week to week.

    However, where your head is at usually seems to make the biggest difference.

    Example: I cycle 4 days a week as you know. Initial goal was to ride into the pace of the Moles, this has been goal enough. Three months in and I’m happy but not content, I always thought it would take 6 months and I am spurned on by seeing and feeling the improvement so my head is focused until November. I have used my insane love of climbs as the target to help and I do believe that goal setting is important. I don’t know what it will be when I have done a few years off-road as some of you have.

    I know some don’t get road riding, it is seen as monotonous with aspects of technical trail, fun descents and mixed riding absent. I don’t know what a wise old competitive head like Tony would say but personally it has always been endurance training, zoning out mentally and letting the mind wander in silent riding as a deliberately healthy thing, sheer grit at times plus a difficult to explain satisfaction of smooth pedalling, the bike seeming to disappear underneath you as you cut through the air in poetic silence. Quite simply I get fidgety if I don’t get out for the road rides for my ‘meditation’. You have to develop a different mental space for it. This extends to turbo training seen as a chore or torture by many. I quietly say to myself it says more about the individual than the activity when faced with these sort of mental challenges.

    We’re out there for fun though so we have to mix it up. Danielle said to me a while ago that you should mix up the groups you ride with, don’t always ride with faster people. I found that good advice and the slower rides are when I become aware of progress.

    Having said all that rest is important. When I spent an unexpected 8 days off the bike in late July I had already been thinking about a rest. I am a firm believer that you train in cycles (pun unintended). One example might be 1st week steady, 2nd week harder, 3rd week really hard, 4th week back off. One could pick seasonal goals which some of you have no doubt done for a few years. I would also be interested to know what current competitors like Adam and Darren find.

    It sounds like you have hit a wall and I suspect you have done all of the above so I am not sure what the answer is. In many pastimes this happens after a few years and mentally we have to go back to basics. I am wondering if you need to fall in love with the simple motion of pedalling again. This happens to me every time I ride my Roberts, I wonder if we all have one particular bike or type of ride that helps similarly when we hit the wall.

  2. Colin says:

    Good call paul re falling in love with pedalling again.

    Perhaps that is a prompt for us to get the Wey/thames towpath ride organised? Would be great on the crisp autumnal mornings we’ve been having.

    Maybe even a good opportunity for a combined Moles/Femoles ride ?

  3. StevenD says:

    I think we could have a good idea brewing. My favourite rides that are a pleasure ‘just for pedalling’ are the ones I do with my 11 yo daughter. These are at nature reserves, along the thames path and disused railway lines. The latter being our favourite as it is easier to find cake stops. So I would like to throw ‘any disused railway lines’ into the mix for a Moles ‘social’.


  4. paul901 says:

    It’s not just me that likes the scenic slow rides then. I add my vote for a Cake Stop Ride, some sort of route allowing folks to bail out after 20 miles and others to continue given the pace and trails would be deliberately mild, even lunch could be worked in, we have so many country pubs and could dleiberately park at and use a pub as the start and finish point.

    When I did the Skills Course I am sure the July hot sun helped and Holmbury Hill looked fabulous but the Volunteer lunch and the company made the day much more than just the riding.

    This sort of ride would work for moles and femoles alike as Colin says, it really ought to be done annually, biannually or preferably quarterly on a fixed date and we try and work our diaries to it. Holmbury would make a good one as the fire roads are perfect for this sort of ride, Steven’s offer of deer-jousting between brewery visits in Bucks would make another, I like the idea of the disused railway lines too.

    Maybe this is the sort of mix you need Matt.

  5. Andy661 says:

    having finally bought my good lady a rather smart Scott hardtail a group tow path/fire road ride would be really nice before the weather turns.

    Failing that i’ll try and link us up with a Femoles ride but don’t want to overdo it first time out 🙂

  6. Matt says:

    For some time now I’ve liked the idea of a gentle saunter into town via the Thames towpath, starting from Hampton Court although it’s possible to start farther upstream.

    I’ve no idea how far it is but the idea of riding right the way to the South Bank for a drink or a bite to eat, then heading back is appealing.

    My suggestion would be a weekday in September when it’s quiet, I don’t think we could cope with a 15-strong ride group as per normal but with a few riders it could be fun.

    Guess I’ll have to tweak up my Muirwoods freak bike. First place to start is the hub bearings, can I just walk into a bike shop for these? Then, probably flat bars – the front end is a bit high…

  7. turnerguy says:

    Too late to plan now probably – but there could have been a mass ride of moles up to London for this Sundays Sky Ride…

  8. DaveW says:

    To be bored with mountain biking is to be bored with life itself!

    Yes if you have been training hard and not resting then you need to rest. XC racers often train hard for 3 weeks and then rest every 4th week.

    Other than that my recommendation for the boredom is to shake things up a bit. You will have noticed how I sometimes go off on a ride with another group and/or in another location. Sometimes I even ride on the road (shock horror!).

    StevenD recently offered to lead a ride in his local area recently.

    Swinley makes a nice break from our norm, as does Tunnel Hill area. Aston Hill is great – I’ve only ridden the downhill/push-up tracks which are really good, but apparently there is a good XC route too. Then there is Woburn Sand, Rogate and of course Esher Shore. Even riding in the Surrey Hills from a different start point makes a nice change. e.g. meet at Holmbury Youth Hostel, or Starveal carpark at Leith and take in some of the trails we never have time to ride when we start from Bocketts.

  9. StevenD says:

    @Matt and anyone else with children, here is an IoW day out I had planned with my daughter, but then a wedding came along (also on the IoW) so we canned it in favour of something more grander. Obviously check everything in advance.

    Note: bikes allowed on hovercraft and trains foc. Car to Portsmouth, hovercraft to Ryde. Tour Ryde at will, go the Ryde Pier get on the train to Smallbrook Junction. Transfer to the IoW Steam train service to Wootton, visit Butterfly World and the Owl and Monkey Havens, then return. Or stay on train from Ryde and go to Sandown to visit beach (they do a great all day breakfast on the pier) maybe ride along the disused railway line to Alverstone, and then return via Lake or Shanklin.

    A good one for a nice day when the kids are off school.

  10. James Pro says:

    Agree with Dave above. Lets have a game of football.

  11. Matt says:

    LOL at James and DaveW! And very useful comments from everybody.

    I guess I’m saying that I’ve been suffering a sense of ‘same old, same old’ for a while and that having had some time off over August (or at least a step back from continuous riding) is a good thing. I’m not completely cured but definitely feel better for it and reckon others could benefit at times.

    I’m certainly not stopping riding but the varied suggestions here suggest there’s more to riding than the tramp up from Bookham to Ranmore! I reckon these are well worth exploring.

    On a related note, I reckon that stepping back to 7 or 8 tenths riding rather than riding to the max at 10/10 all the time (whether that’s speed or technical depends on the individual) gives a better chance to feel the flow which I feel is ultimately more enjoyable.

    As Paul said, it’s when you step back you see how far you’ve come.

  12. Dandy says:

    The cure for boredom is to find a different bone to break every 6 months.

    After the obligatory 4-6 week lay-off you get to go through a 2 month endurance building phase, followed by a 2 month rediscovering skills phase, then the final 2 month, “I’m really enjoying this phase” before over confidence results in the cycle staring all over again.

    “Simples”, as they say.

  13. paul901 says:

    and during the initial 4-6 weeks you experiment with painkillers, laxatives and malt whiskies.

    Maybe time to drive to a different start point, one or two cameras in tow and intermittent riding between team relays down and up a selected climb a fire road and back or just dirnk coffee, ride a bit, drink more coffee, ride again.

    Ah well, after D2D everyone can OCD over the 2011 tyre or light ranges released to occupy the time.

  14. Dandy says:

    Have just sampled the dark side, and completed a few laps of Richmond Park on my, ahem, road bike.

    Ribs held up ok, though they protested if I used too big a gear up the hills. As I normally avoid grinding big gears anyway, it looks like I should at least keep my fitness up during my enforced absence from mtb’ing.

    Time to experiment with the diet now; should I crush the Co-CodaMOLE into the port and use wholemeal crackers (extra roughage) with the stilton?

  15. StevenD says:

    I say drop the codeine and take your beloved for a romantic weekend in say Eindhoven which is 2.5hrs by car from Calais ;);)

    I too took a short ride today, on the road, on my MTB. Like you the top of the hills hurt but chest and back although very sore held up better than expected. However I also bruised my right thumb and my god did that hurt. I felt every bump in the road.

    Physically picking up the bike remains a problem so I am going out for another slow, gentle ride tomorrow morning. This weather is too good too miss, but real offroad is going to have to wait a bit longer.

  16. Dandy says:

    Strangely enough, and we’re straying heavily off topic here, I spent over a year in Eindhoven back in 1990.

    Not the sort of place I’d go to for a romantic week-end though. Maastrich could be more romantic, if memory serves correctlly.

    Did spend some interesting times in the small, but colourful, district of Eindhoven though :-0

    Moving swiftly on, glad to hear you’re able to turn the pedals too. We’ll get fit just in time for some fine autumn mornings out on the hills, and we’ll have no issues with motivation after an enforced absence.

    (Says he, neatly returning to the thread)

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