Tires vs. Shoes: a week in La Roche-en-Ardenne

As part of a yearly tradition, Kim & her friends spend the week between Christmas & New Year in a house. A week of catching up with friends, doing some activities with the kids, good food, good company and quite some mountain-biking too. Your truly, however, does not mountain bike. Yours truly does not even own such bike. But I wasn’t going to let that spoil the fun or keep me from joining the boys on their trip!

I didn’t really know what to expect and I guess neither did the others. So we agreed not to wait for each other and just follow the same route. The first few kilometers were nothing but hard, flat & downhill roads, so I was falling behind. Far behind. In fact, I’d made my peace with being on my own for the rest of the trip. But then game a long climb, followed by some heavy off-road parts. And before I knew it, I was right behind the others again.

From then on, we were basically just taking turns. While they were in the advantage on the better roads and the nice downhill parts, I was definitely in the advantage in the steep climbs, the more technical descents and the heavy mud strips. And there were plenty of those. It was tons of fun to do this together and after about 30k, we were back at the house, tired, muddy but happy.

The next evening, we decided to go for a late night run. With some headlamps on, the run turned into a really, really nice trip. We had a great time stargazing in the middle of the woods, the only light the little circles cast by our headlamps. It was wonderful.

Since the mountain bike trip had been so much fun, we decided to do it again. A different route this time. A bit shorter, but not necessarily easier. The first part was definitely in the advantage of the riders and I was falling behind again. But then came the swamp… The swamp was pretty much impossible to ride and, where I could hop between patches of grass and islands kept together by roots of trees or bushes, the others had to go through the heavy, muddy swamp. It wasn’t pretty.

After a nice patch of asphalt, where they had no problem leaving me behind (and that after I’d stuck with them through the swamp!) there was one final ascent where I managed to catch up again. We’d arrived at some crossroads we’d passed during our evening run from the night before. Close to home now, we stuck together the remainder of the trip.

It’s probably super hard to plan something like this. There’s no telling how close off-road cyclists and runners can stick together over a route like this. But it all worked out really well and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Or I could buy myself an off-road bike off course. But believe me or not, I’m not sure I’d be able to keep up with the others, haha.

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