C4I Force Development: Exercise MEN IN TIGHTS

Back in late Spring there was a bright blue sky for the first time in weeks and only the slightest hint of a breeze; maybe the mountain bike gods were looking down on us favourably and had decided to give the gale force winds and rain a rest. The more adventurous elements of C4I, who had decided a day out mountain biking in Sherwood Forest was preferable to a day in work, were en-route, laden with bikes, to Sleaford McDonald’s to pick up some of the team (put a few vital calories for the day ahead).

After numerous stops including another McDonald’s to pick up the remainder of the team (a second breakfast bap was tempting but common sense prevailed) we arrived at our final destination, the home of our national hero beloved of green tights, Sherwood Pines Adventure Trail. We soon unloaded the bikes and the separate front wheels; for some this was a cause for confusion, and the varied attempts to assemble the bikes made the process feel more like a puzzle from the Krypton Factor. Once all the bikes were assembled and safety tested by our Mountain Bike leaders we made our way to a skills area, we were shown the basics of Mountain Biking. Who would have thought there was so much to think about? Other than just pedalling, we now realised we should be constantly asking ourselves ‘am I in the right gear… are my feet level… do I need to be out of the saddle…?’.

Having mastered the basics and ridden over some logs and through the middle of a big puddle we felt ready, there was no holding the twelve of us back and we made our way to the start of the red trail. From here it got interesting with fast downhill sections littered with lumps, bumps and tree roots and not so fast uphill sections! The trail really was adrenalin-pumping stuff with the more confident members of the group pedalling as fast as they could go. After each bout of speed there would be a pause to allow us to regroup and tackle the next part of the trail; occasionally we would all catch a glimpse of wannabe ‘Bear Grylls’ Cpl Lance McMahon as he came flying past us shouting ‘Go Pro!’ whilst trying to get some extreme footage on his chest-mounted camera. The previous weeks of rainfall had led to deep muddy puddles which were great fun to ride through, or get stuck in, but it honestly seemed in some places that a wet suit and jetski would have been more appropriate than a mountain bike!

Having built our confidence up through quagmires, logs and other obstacles the trail threw at us, we then came upon what can only be described as a mini cliff face (seemed like it to me and I’m not one to exaggerate!). We were given the option of attempting the descent down this, and with some coaching and tips from our instructors everyone made it down in one piece. Now feeling like we could conquer anything on a bike the group covered roughly eight more miles of twisting and turning, braking and pedalling: trust me, it felt a lot more! There was only one man down and to make it more sweet it was the boss, Sqn Ldr Mitchell, who went over the handlebars. However, he showed he wouldn’t be beaten and was soon back in the saddle with just a little bruising to his hip and a lot of damage to his pride. With stomachs rumbling and legs aching we made our way to the café for a well earned lunch break or in the case of Sgt Jack ‘I’m not eating later on’ Daniels’, a three-course meal!

Lunch break over, no-one was in a rush to get back onto the bikes mainly due to most members resembling Aunt Sally (if you’re old enough to remember Worzel Gummidge). With one member not taking part for the afternoon due to his legs and bum being too sore, it was everyone’s relief when the leaders announced we would be taking an easier trail due to time constraints. So we headed off to the start of the blue trail and as promised this was easier, in as much as there were no obstacles, but the instructors had neglected to mention the constant gradient that seemed to never end!

We came to the first stop and it was noted that ‘Cooky’ wasn’t with the group; it was mentioned his legs had given up and he had gone back. Or so we thought… With the easier and a lot shorter blue trail completed the remaining ten riders of C4I wearily cycled to the car park to have a group photo before packing up. It was then that we noticed ‘Cooky’ wasn’t actually with us and in fact had not turned around… That meant there was a tired grumpy Welshman lost in Sherwood Forest! Just as a search party had been organised he came biking into the car park looking very red-faced; I’m not sure if this was caused by embarrassment or if he was just about ready to collapse.

With everyone now accounted for there was nothing else to do apart from pack all the bikes away and go for a de-brief of the days events in the nearest establishment, which just happened to be the local pub. Everyone, even Cooky, agreed that it had been a great day out and they would be looking forward to the next one. Thanks go to Cpl Lance McMahon and SAC Kellie Chapman for organising the day’s events and to our mountain bike leaders for the day, Sgt Matt Davidson and Cpl Ian Davidson.