Smooth pedalling and the whirring of big tyres of asphalt changes significantly when I take a turning onto an unmade road. The crunch of gravel takes over, the white noise of it filling the silent forest and my pedalling takes on a more bouncy cadence from all the bumpiness of this loose track.
Taking another turning the trail deteriorates into potholes and ruts, this is mountain biking now. No narrow tired machine is going to last long on this logging road. Holes, dry puddles and the detritus of felled tree extraction cover the trail, which then stops suddenly around a bend.
The turning area at the end of this track is clearly as far as the loggers wanted to go, but my map is still showing the same line on it that it was when I took the initial turning off of the paved road.
A cursory look around shows me a footpath leading in the right direction.
I glance at my map for the fifth time since I stopped here, trying to decide if it’s worth continuing with this way or backtracking the 5km to the last turning and trying to find a way around this…
Am I lost?
To be lost implies that I have somewhere that I need to be, a time limit, an agenda.
None of these things affect me like they might someone else, a person who’s perhaps on holiday and needs to get to their accommodation for the night, or has to be back in work in a few days time, or has a partner or family waiting for them, or is just scared of not knowing where they are, all the time…
I remember going out for a bike ride when I was aged 10 or 11, where I grew up in Oxford.
There was a place we used to go to a ‘pick your own’ fruit farm, and one day I decided to ride there on my own, and as usual with me, without telling anyone where I was going.
I had looked at a map, which I didn’t take with me, I remembered the route there and thought I would just follow the signs back to Oxford to get back.
This however didn’t work out so well. I got to the place, which seemed a whole lot further than I remembered in the car (funny that!), and I got a bit further around the loop I had planned and got scared.
I lost confidence in myself and had to phone home to find a way back. Speaking to my dad from a phone box, I had secretly hoped that he would come and pick me up, but he just said that I wasn’t far from a main road back to town with a cycle track along the side, and it would be easy to get back on my own, in time for dinner.
So after a few more hours of pedalling and uncertainty I made it home, lesson learned, and I haven’t looked back since…
So, am I lost?
I could phone my dad again :
‘Hi dad, I think I’m lost’
-‘Well you’re somewhere in Sweden, what would you like me to do?’
I’m not lost, I follow the footpath, it gets a bit vague as it’s not really a footpath, more like an animal track, but it’s still going in the right direction, and sure I’m a bit worried that it’ll just stop in a swamp, or an impenetrable forest, but if it does I will just turn around and go back.
I know where I am, I’m right here, in the woods in central Sweden. I’ve ridden my bike all the way from Oxford to get here, and I took all those turnings consciously, so I know how to get out of I have to, I could even just reverse the route in my GPS, it is, after all, that got me here in the first place.
But the track doesn’t end, in fact, it’s quite good fun. It’s relatively smooth, fairly flat, and anyway I’m on a mountain bike, in the mountains and this is what I’m here for
After a few more kilometers of single track, it becomes a rough logging track, just like how it ended on the other side. And from there it turns into a well-maintained gravel road and I can continue on my journey, of not being lost, on my own, in the forests of central Sweden…
So being lost really is a state of mind.
It’s down to how you perceive where you are at the time. What you did to get there.
Sure if I was blindfolded and dumped out of a car in the woods with no map, GPS or phone then I probably would be lost, but that’s unlikely to happen…
What we think of when we think we’re lost is more likely that we’ve just taken a wrong turning and we could either reroute to get where we want to go, or just go back and take the right turning. A bit like in life.
Don’t be lost, be confident in where you are. It’s easy in this day and age.
Sun’s out, guns out
With summer well under way, we have to be careful about protecting ourselves from lengthy exposure to the sun.
Were you aware, however, that most sun creams are a catastrophy for the environment?
According to research, between 6000 and 25,000 tons of sun cream end up in our oceans every year, killing off coral and phytoplankton in less than 48h.
Chemical vs mineral
2 types of sun cream exist.
The most common, chemical, penetrates the skin and takes around 30 minutes before offering any protection. It also poisons marine life (and us of course at the end of the food chain) and is directly harmful to our health.
Mineral sun cream creates a layer directly on the skin, immediately creating a barrier and presents no danger to either nature or ourselves.
Nanoparticles and endocrine disruptors
Chemical creams can disrupt our endocrine system and for several generations.
The choice isn’t straight forward either as both types of cream can contain nanoparticles. These particles can penetrate deep into the body, even passing through the protective blood-brain barrier..
So how do we choose?
Mineral based creams are of course the prefered choice, but it’s knowing whether they contain these nanoparticles. Some bio brands such as Ecocert ban their use and as for other brands, if the manufacturer has gone to the effort of not using nanoparticles they’ll advertise that fact in bold! Otherwise you know what to expect.
That well established advice
We’re all aware of the obvious solution, limiting our exposure to the sun. Ride in the cool morning hours and there’s usually no need to apply cream, but if you’re out all day, there is the option of anti-UV clothing, such as super lightweight arms with UPF50 etc.
It isn’t so complicated, and cheaper in the long term!