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Squirrel!

Spring has moved into early summer (it is the solstice next week)Squirrel! and the woods have lost their spring freshness.  Nevertheless, they are still very much bursting with life, nicely illustrated by a squirrel* running across that path in front of us this afternoon. We were surrounded by the sounds of adult birds declaring their territorial boundaries and by the young calling for food.  It is only a month until the summer holidays, so it is time to start getting in a those extra kilometers to get the fitness level up to the necessary level for the mountains of Spessart where we are heading for.

*I took the photo on the left a couple of weeks ago (in Germany), obviously on a mountainbike trail there is not usually time to get out a telephoto lens before the animal in question scampers off.

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Spessart

In Spessart there is a well-signed network of mountain bike routes, 'Bikewald'. SpessartTo be honest, I was a bit dissapointed with them. The easier (blue) routes are very nice if you have children with you, for example route 33 starting from Gräfendorf both has impressive scenery and they have made a good effort to include some technically difficult parts (which are short enough that children can walk up).  But the more difficult routes (red and black) are mainly difficult for having a lot of hills, some of them steep, but unfortunately a huge proportion of the route is on gravelly fire-road through the woods.  Those are mostly very broad, with a horrid gravel surface to cycle on and often going on in a straight line for many kilometers. 
Klaas Bergfeld's site about north Spessart (www.bike-park-nordspessart.de) on the other hand has some really nice routes.  A lot of singletrack, and when they are forest roads, not the great wide motorways of the official route (though that might be due in part of different forestry managment policies of Bavaria (Bayern) compared to Hessen).  I had some great rides following his tracks and can thoroughly recommend them

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Flowering heather

It is over thirty degrees outside, which is really too hot to be out on the bike, Flowering heatherbut nevertheless the spectacular flowing heather in the lowland heath here and lack of people in the woods (too hot even for the holidaymakers in the cottages and camp sites on the Veluwe) meant that it was worthwhile. 'Underfoot' it was also optimal, there has been enough rain the past weeks that it was not one big dustbath, but the hot weather of the past few days caused the top layer to dry out.  So despite the heat, I whizzed around one of my usual routes ten percent faster than I normally do.

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Water off a duck's back

Of course it is normal that whilst you are out on your mountainbike that you get wet and muddy.Water off a duck's back  Nevertheless there is no reason why that should not be a bit minimized.  The spray of water coming off your back wheel is a case in point; is it really necessary that you get a wet backside when going through puddles? Completely Waterproof clothing is not much good in the summer as you get far too hot and indeed today I took off my jacket after a few minutes, despite heavy rainfall.  I had seen that water resistant shorts existed, so when I was in England a few weeks ago got a pair from the Specialized concept store in Harrogate. My local shops do not have so much of that sort of wet-weather gear as a lot of people here seem to think that rain is a reason to stay inside. The shorts cost about half of what I was expecting to pay  - according to the helpful assistant, they had made too many, which I suppose means that not everyone sees the point. I am hoping they will be good both for warm wet weather and also on top of long cycling trousers in the autumn and winter. The shorts are made of nylon and coated with some sort of hydrophobic substance, but with a rather open weave (presumably like that, so that they are not too hot).  Today there was some serious rain before I set off, leaving all the paths submerged in a several centimetres of water.  Ideal testing conditions.
How did they do?  In short, I was pleased.  Indeed, the spray from the wheels and rain from above splashed off them like water off a duck's back.  Naturally, after a half hour or so on continuous wetting, they let some water through, but seeing that would normally have occurred within one minute of setting off in such conditions that was not bad. Of course I will have to see how the coating does after a few washes, but certainly as they are now, they are well worth having.

Photo: Statue by Edward Hore, 'Duck'.
'African Art' statues can been seen whilst mountaibiking through the Renkumsebeekdal.

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Airborne

I often go mountain biking in the woods around the Ginkelse

Airborne

Hei

de and normally, other than the wide tracks in the sand left by the tanks carrying out

exercises on the heathland, there is not much to remind you of its history.  But this is the location where the paratroopers landed in the second world war, with Operation Market Garden, leading to the battle of Arnhem and 'the bridge too far'.  A historical site. Yesterday was the 68th anniversary so there were the usual celebrations and commemoratio

ns. By the time I cycled past this morning, there was not so much to see.  Fresh wreaths on the memorial, a few tents, and some fences left that had not yet been cleared up. I thought that was it, but a half hour later, the distinctive rumble of old aircraft came overhead and a couple of waves of small old planes (spitfires?) flew above my head. A reminder of the events of nearly 70 years ago that played out in these woods where I cycle so often.

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Muddy legs

Yes, it's time for another muddy photo.

Muddy legs

  It has rained a lot in the past week and although it was dry and sunny today, that means that the woods are full of spectaucular damp bits that look like they might be just a bit on the wet side, but can be a good half meter deep. One was as deep as my wheels! At least all the mud earned us some impressed looks from passers by as we cycled home!

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