Don’t be alarmed no guns were seen here, but they may as well have been. This is a short account of a recent training ride from Loughborough to Derby.
May the 13th (next weekend) is scheduled as my next bike race. The race is part of the Mud Sweat & Gears series incorporating the East of England XC Championships, so I really felt that despite the severe weather warnings that I needed to get a good few miles in over the bank holiday weekend.
During Fridays FE Games in Nottingham I had psyched myself up to ride over to my girlfriends house that evening and ride back on Monday evening. By the time I got home from work it was almost 6 and on a good day the ride was going to take about 2 hrs so I knew it would be dark before I got there. I got well prepared with layers of waterproof clothing, overshoes and lights, although not just any lights – two sets of high powered enduro lights on the handlebars, there should be no excuses for not seeing me.
So off I set on a quiet evening, enjoying my ride through the Leicestershire countryside down the Garendon and Cloud Trails towards Derby, there was a cool breeze and a light rain, the aroma from the endless fields of rapeseed was spectacular.
The route was one I’d done many times although not at night. It gradually got darker as I approached Derby and I’d been pushing really hard on the trail as there was nobody else about. Coming to the outskirts of the City I came to an underpass, I could see a group of about 15 people gathered in front of me, all dressed in dark hoodies and moving in and out of the shadows. As I got closer I could smell the unmistakable stench of ‘weed’, I was cautious and as I went into the darkness lighting up the subway, the group moved into my path, some with viscous looking dogs who were yelping at this unwanted visitor. Although my lights were powerful I couldn’t make out any of the hooded faces, who blocked my path. Some stood with their backs to me, other laid their bikes down across the path.
My adrenalin was already pumped with the ride, and I slowed down but not that much, in an attempt to force them to move out of my path. This tactic was somewhat unsuccessful as I found myself riding over bikes and pushing my way through these faceless people. At the time I was listening to ‘Kids with Guns’ on my earphones which seemed to be most apt for the situation I found myself in.
I ignored the abuse being shouted and half expected to look behind and see the hooded figures chasing me on their BMXs’ but they were not. My adrenalin at this point was rushing through my veins and I used this to try and propell me faster and faster. Thinking that this incident was a one off I focussed my attention on the trail and the ride. Only to be confronted a few miles later by a similar gang of hooded figures, who thought it would be amusing to block my way across a narrow bridge. In a similar attempt to intimidate I rode straight at the hoodie in front of me who was laughing and smoking weed, he didn’t move which caused me to again force my way past him again resulting an a torrent of abuse by him and his cronies.
I thanked my lucky stars and continued on my journey with a collection of strange thoughts floating around in my head. Were the kids trying to intimidate? Were they just playing around? Was I just as bad as them in my younger days? What would have happened if I had stopped? or worse still had hit one hard? I hoped I would never know the answers to these questions but the whole experience to reminded me of how ‘Sport’ can change lives and direct the energies of young people like these.
During the day these trails are filled with happy families, lovers hand in hand, people out on their bikes and walking their dogs, at night it seems the hooded youth of Derby make these subways and underpasses their territory. I will certainly think twice before making another night ride to Derby.