My year with the Downrock - discovering the importance of these machines, not only for physical, but also mental health!
Wow! It’s been nearly a year since that giant box, containing my new favourite bike arrived! It was March 2020, things were starting to head south globally (but we didn't quite know it) and the UK was a few short days away from Lockdown 1.0... With the country confused, little understanding of the magnitude of what was occuring globally, me and head mechanic Danny tore into the box containing all the parts, and the beautiful Downrock frame Curve had just shipped us. Beginning the rather exciting build process and keeping ourselves out of trouble for a few days! Made all the more exciting by it being Spring, days were getting longer, weather was getting warmer, riding was getting easier and ignoring the impending doom of a global pandemic things were looking up… Except, how can you ignore a global pandemic... That’s right, you can’t!!
Danny got the frame in the stand and began the careful process of piecing together the complete spec Curve had sent me, a little different to the usual luxury road bikes Danny has in the stand. The Downrock was a new challenge, luxury nonetheless, but a new kind, and luxury that likes to party. Danny’s years of experience meant that despite it’s slightly alien appearance alongside the other bikes in the G!RO workshop, he undertook the build with his usual meticulous fashion, showcasing his incredible attention to detail and the finished product was as dialled as ever! Unbeknown to us, it was just days before lockdown 1.0 hit, and life as we know it would be about to change. In the following days, it became an impossible situation to ignore and an unprecedented change to everyones way of life, one we’re still battling through nearly a year later... As we rolled that bike out the workshop that day, for it's traditional #NewBikeDay photoshoot, little did we know just how important this machine would become to me over the next year.
Throughout the many lockdowns we’ve now lived through, in what seems like a very long past year, riding has been the one constant we’ve been so fortunate to enjoy. Whilst G!RO has had to open, close, reopen, move to takeaway only, close and once again reopen, riding has remained largely unchanged, for me anyway. Group rides have been compromised and we’ve certainly all missed a good old fashioned Sunday social, but whether it’s solo, in sixes over summer or now pairs, we’ve still been able to hit the road and pedal. We know the benefits of exercise for physcial health, and as a society are becoming increasingly aware of it's benefits to your mental health as well. Cycling is certainly good for the soul. I've spent much of my year on the Downrock seeking sanity in a springtime sunset, or autumnal sunrise out in the Surrey Hills, which has proven to be a real saving grace throughout the Covid crisis. These benefits span beyond the constraints of a particular bike of course; It could be a rusty old hybrid, or it could be a luxury road bike, regardless you'll find benefit in just getting out there!
For me the Downrock has been a key protagonist in this soul searching, positivity pursuing narrative of the last 12 months. As I had previously alluded to in part one of the Downrock diaries, it had been the perfect companion for revisiting trails and tracks from my youth, enjoying time away from the road and expanding my skill set on tricky and technical terrain whilst catching up with mates from various times in my life! Throughout high summer, this continued, hitting the dusty berms and snaking my way down the steep Surrey Hills singletrack, with plenty of head clearing cross country mileage in between, thanks to the versatility of the Downrock! Moving so much of my mileage off road became a no brainer with this bike, a post work sunset chases with the camera became a favourite way to bookend any weekday; weekends were just an endless hunt for fresh and exciting trails to fly down, finishing up with a few pints (usually takeaway - consumed on a grass verge in a sleepy Surrey village) maximising the long light evenings. Below are some of my favourite images that capture the above, in my opinion, perfectly! Some captured by me - others by mates of mine!
As I am sure you can understand, there was nothing more I looked forward to this summer than loading up on supplies and heading out for long days of joining the dots of various locations, tracks and trails, slowly mapping the incredible network of off road riding we have here in Surrey in my head. Sometimes riding with a few of the off road converts from G!RO, other times meeting old school mates in the woods for a brew and some trail reps, sometimes just a head clearing solo loop! If you’ve got the off road bug recently, you can follow some of the longer routes I did here, or check out some of our local loops from G!RO here. Perfect for anything from a gravel bike to mountain bike - these loops all start and finish at G!RO and can take anything from an hour, to five hours! The Downrock and it’s versatile setup mean it’s helped me enjoy all of them. It makes for a fine, although a tiny bit slower (thanks to it's super slack party loving geo), cross country bike. Tackling technical climbs and dieseling along flats, knowing you’ll reward it with some death defying descents at some point in the journey. Time spent riding the Downrock seems to fly-by, especially when compared to how slow the last year has felt otherwise. I've learnt a lot from riding this bike and it's helped me become a better, fitter and stronger rider whilst also restoring the romantic thoughts of cruising through the woods as the sunsets through the tree, a feeling that can become a little lost in the blur of training and having abuse hurled at you from traffic on the road!
As this year has dragged on and the difficulties continue; I’ve been quick to reflect on the riding I had done, absorb the importance of finding this light in a somewhat dark year, and, not taking the positivity of riding my bike, for granted. The Downrock being the bike in my garage providing most, if not all of the good vibes here! It’s kept me fit, strong and healthy, in both a mental and physical sense and helped me push back the pursuit of mileage and watts, in favour of rooting out the wild and raw thrill off-road. It’s been great for the soul, valuable for the headspace, plenty of which needs freeing up at the moment, especially as summer drew to a close. The days shortening and weather deteriorating, eating into that precious riding time. The reduced riding you could squeeze in becoming all the more important. Fortunately, the Downrock is equipped to love rain, mud and even snow.
Here at G!RO, we’ve all become off-road enthusiasts over the last few years. Throughout winter, in a pre covid life, we had a dedicated crew getting up before sunrise to tackle our BELGIE loop regardless of the conditions, often tackling the fabled claygate sheep dip in sub zero conditions (involved being submerged to at least knee deep water 5 mins into the ride). This ride and the route resonating with so many out there! Whether it be a complete conversion to fully off-road riding, or a scattering of it between road rides and zwift sessions to keep the morale up; ‘off-road’ is a very broad umbrella, one the downrock sits at a rather extreme edge of. However, the general quiet of nature and the ability to escape scary Surrey roads are key selling points for us on the off road lifestyle, whether it be on gravel bikes or full enduro sleds! Furthermore, the off road pace of life is slower, and as we bring this blog through to the present day and the ongoing battle through winter now, this is all the more poignant, especially as a benefit I’d previously overlooked. Even when caked in mud, you don’t get as cold out on the trails, sheltered from the chilly breeze by the trees and not ripping around at 30kph keeps your extremities from becoming painfully cold and keeps your core toasty, especially with the full body workout of ragging a hardtail down the trails. It made for an all round improvement to my winter riding schedule, as even with my scandi blood, I absolutely hate the cold!
Interestingly, this series started as a way to share cool photos and share the child like joy of rediscovering the discipline of mountain biking thanks to the Curve Downrock... However with the shadow of covid hanging over us all throughout the past year, it's turned into a more poignant reflection on the value I've found rediscovering a passion for riding, being immersed in nature and just getting out for a fun bike ride in the hope it can be used as small inspiration to get after the same feeling, and battle through the year that keeps on giving! Apologies if it has turned into another somewhat rambling piece about a ‘weird’ year… But I hope in reflecting on positives in an otherwise tricky year, it can provide some value to anyone out there whos managed to get this far. It’s something we feel is very important at the moment here at G!RO and we're passionate about sharing the value of connecting over these ideas with the ambition to both inspire and positively influence our community to keep doing these things and do more of it…
We want to share how simple it is, and how significant it can be - just like our recent Belgie and Brew video and blog, and we hope that it can inspire you guys to get out there and find your happy place, or maybe you already have - using nature and your bike, allowing you to connect with mates and find as much positivity as possible as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times. Thanks for reading.. Jamie.
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