Keep the bike clean tonight

As a dedicated British mountain biker whose job dictated the number of daylight hours I got to see, there was nothing worse than that dismal day in October when the inevitable happens… The clocks change! Suddenly those blissful post-work snippets of evening sunshine were torn away from my grasp bringing the whole rig moral of charging lights, getting the waterproofs out and generally battling my way through the darkest (and coldest) part of the year, both literally and mentally!!

It was at this exact point three years ago when I thought time to try something new. Scratching around for ideas with Bianca (Bee), my equally active girlfriend, it became apparent that climbing was ideal. Not only did it give us an indoor, warm and far more pleasant alternative to cleaning mud off bikes in the snow at 8:00pm in the back garden, but having had a couple of lessons, it was obvious that it was also something that we both really enjoyed. After spending a good amount of time on the wall, with exhausted arms and surprisingly tired brains, we left smiling and hungry for more.

To Bee’s dismay, I then inevitably roped in as many of my mountain biking mates as possible and every single one was as hooked as I was. The evening winter rides were rapidly becoming replaced by hours on the climbing wall.

It was only on our third or fourth trip to various climbing centres that we discovered bouldering, wow, no ropes! This literally doubled the amount of climbing time within our session, not only that, it seemed to give a better workout as you could attempt much stronger manoeuvres due to the reduction in route length. Also, there’s no more “we can only go in even numbers” or standing at the bottom holding the rope, result!

After a couple of weeks progressing, getting tougher hands (my smooth, wimpy office hands needed a bit of that) and training on the fingerboard, it was clear that both my upper body and grip strength had massively increased.Ironically, it turns out that the mountain biking alternative had improved my bike handling, I was able to put more force through my arms and chuck the bike around with more ease and I dare even say “style” than before.

The biggest difference, however, was the now distinct lack of “arm pump”, a phenomenon all too common to many mountain bikers and motocross riders when the forearms literally swell and grip strength all but vanishes. This was so noticeable when I went to the motocross track, I could now literally hang on for twice as long without the all too familiar and frustrating “pump” kicking in.

Whilst I still love riding my bike(s) and do so whenever I get chance, I can’t help but feel that bouldering has completely changed my life; not only is it incredible training for the mind and body, it has now even become my livelihood, thank heavens for changing clocks and cold winter nights!

Sam Gladman


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