I put my hand up and admit it…. Every year I swear that I’ll do a better job of riding through the winter and arriving in the Spring feeling fit and strong. Every year however work, 2 young kids and the British winter conspire to have me arriving at the end of February feeling a bit slow and a bit uneasy about the work ahead to get back up to speed. Luckily I have an advantage to getting myself back in the right headspace for the season to come.

Every year in late winter, Saddle Skedaddle gathers around 80 of our cycling guides from around the world in the Lake District of Northern England to share knowledge, refresh skills and undertake continued training in all the aspects of delivering great cycling holidays. For me this is also the opportunity to share tales of escapades undertaken over the last year, and gather ideas for adventures to come.

Getting a large group of passionate mountain bikers together in one place creates an amazing atmosphere. While coming from incredibly diverse backgrounds the common language of biking means that there are no cultural divides evident, and once out riding together it is all about getting muddy and having a laugh.

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends and thinking that a brand new dream bike is necessary to have a good day out, but I love spending the day riding with guides in their 60s on ‘retro’ Orange hardtails, whippets on superlight XC race bikes and those rocking fresh from the box full-carbon enduro bikes. All riding together and enjoying the same trails! Showing a load of non-UK riders around a little slice of the Lake District is a great way to remind oneself how brilliant our little corner of the world is. The bridleway network is much maligned, but actually an incredible asset to the riders of England and Wales.

On top of this I’ve taken on an annual download of driver training, first aid knowledge, trailside mechanics, group management and all the multitude of skills that we put to use every time that we take customers out on to the trails. Guiding for me is all about learning new things and stealing ideas from all the great people I get to work with.

After a week in a giant country house with riders from as far afield as Japan, the Azores, Spain, Italy and just-down-the-road-in-exotic-Penrith we were all raring to go for the 2018 season. I’m excited about some upcoming expeditions and have that little bit of extra motivation to get on the turbo on a few of these dark evenings we have left!

Matt Cain

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