A Weekend with the Fuji X-H2S

When I switched camera systems to Fuji back in 2018 I thought that my sports photography days were in the past. However, I really enjoyed photographing the British Downhill Series at Llangollen last year, and a few other mountain bike races since. The only problem was that I felt I was being held back by the autofocus on my Fuji X-T2. When Fuji launched the X-H2S camera with a stacked 26 Megapixel sensor and improved autofocus my interest was piqued. Especially as they announced it with a mountain bike video! I did have some reservations, as the camera was aimed at hybrid (stills and video) shooters and hoped that Fuji would have carried over the new technology to the next X-T camera aimed at photographers. Instead, they went for a higher resolution, 40 Megapixel, sensor. My ideal camera would have been the sensor from the X-H2S, in the body of the X-T5, but sadly Fuji have not made that (yet!), so I have to choose between the high resolution stills model, or the fast hybrid camera. Luckily Fuji UK free 48 hour test drives, so I would be able to try both options. I decided to test the X-H2S first and booked the loan in to coincide with the first round of the Racers Guild Winter Series Downhill race at Cannock Chase.

My first reaction on unpacking the camera was that it is a chonky beast – I had not appreciated how much bigger it would be than my X-T2. After failing to attach the supplied strap, I threw on some Peak Design tethers, so I could use my Peak Design Slide strap. The strap lugs on the X-H2S are much better than on the X-T bodies which require metal rings between the camera and strap (or anchor in my case), it is only a minor point, but one that made me warm to the X-H2S. On my lunch break, I quickly dialled in some settings, and went for a walk in my local woods, to try and test the autofocus on some squirrels. I did not have much time, nor were the squirrels cooperating, but I did get a glimpse of what the subject detect autofocus was like. However the first real test was in the evening when Owen was at his karate dojo – Henry and I went to a nearby park. Henry was typically reluctant for photos, but I managed to grab a few shots with my 35mm f1.4 prime lens fitted to the X-H2S. This lens is known to be slow to focus, so I could not come to any conclsions about that, but chasing Henry around the play ground was a good test for the handling of the camera – such as quickly switching to a slow shutter speed for the photo on the roundabout. Upon getting the files in to Lightroom I really liked the Nostalgic Negative film simulation, which is not available on my previous generation Fuji cameras.

The race was on Sunday, but we also had a fun plan for the Saturday – Owen and I were going on a boys mountain bike trip with my friend Partho. The original plan had been a trip to one of the “top ten XC trails” with Partho, which was one of my goals for the year. However, Owen needed to come with us, so it changed to a boys trip to the Forest of Dean to keep the driving time down. Then we realised that there was a big event on there, and plan C formed – a return visit to Sherwood Pines for Owen to try and meet his goal of a 20km bike ride.

We rode the full length of the red-graded “Outlaw” trail, which was not quite long enough for Owen to meet his goal, so we added on another short loop, starting on the blue-graded “Maid Marian” trail, then rejoining the last few sections on the “Outlaw” trail. Before heading out for the second loop, I swapped my hydration pack for my camera bag, to get some shots of Owen and Partho on a new section of the blue trail. I chose a berm, with good lighting, set the X-H2S to 15 frames per second high speed shutter, activated the “bicycle” AI focus mode and called for Owen, and then Partho to drop in. I felt like I got good shots of them both railing the berm, then quickly packed up my bag and chased them down the trail. It felt great to be riding at my pace on a fun section of trail, even if I had a heavy camera bag on my back. As I caught up with the others Partho even managed to get a photo of me airborne over a jump.

We completed the loop, and celebrated Owen achieving his goal with some lovely brownies that Partho had brought with him. The excitement only lasted until we were back at home and I had downloaded the images to Lightroom: none of the eleven frames of Owen were sharp, and only one out of seven of Partho were sharp – the one above. The shutter speed, 1/500th of a second, should have been fast enough, so it could only have been missed focus. Disappointing when I had such high expectations for the autofocus on the X-H2S.

Not feeling fully convinced with the autofocus on the X-H2S, I decided to also take my X-T2 with me to Cannock Chase, just in case it was needed (thankfully, it wasn’t). After walking down the track I found a good corner to shoot from, but again, the AI autofocus was struggling, so I started going back up the track to try a few more angles. For the last few runs of practice I was shooting head on, as the riders came down a long chute – and the AI autofocus was working well. It seemed that it needed to see the rider for a bit before tracking then – maybe this is something that I could have tweaked in the advanced settings, but would need more time with the camera to be sure. Another option would have been to disable the subject detection autofocus and to just use a single focus point, like I would have done on the X-T2, but in the heat of the moment I did not consider that option.

Now knowing how to play to the camera’s strengths, I stayed at the bottom of the chute for the first race runs. The photos were nicely in focus, and I had been able to get a shot of most of the riders. However, they were not what I was hoping for, they were lacking in dynamism, execept for the riders that were jumping.

For the second race, I went back to the first corner I had scoped out. I had come up with a plan to work around the autofocus limitations I had experienced earlier – I would switch the camera to manual focus (I missed the SCM focus switch from the more traditional Fujis) and pre-focus on the exit of the corner. The 15 frames per second burst mode would allow me to pick the sharpest frame. As well as being better for photography, there was more of a party atmosphere at this corner, as it was towards the end of the track, next to the biggest drop. Riders were finishing their runs and gathering around this area to watch the faster racers coming down on their runs. Once again I was reminded just how fun it is to watch mountain bike racing in person, even at a grassroots level, the fact that I was able to photograph it was the icing on the cake!

When I got home, I had some issues importing the files to Lightroom, I do not know if this was a hardware or software issue on my MacBook Pro, or anything to do with the Cfexpress Type B card used in the X-H2s. I tired importing both from the card reader Fuji had sent with the camera, and by connecting the camera directly by USB, but both had issues. It is something that I would need to investigate more in the future, but I would not rule out the camera based on this. As I understand it, the Cfexpress Type B card is part of the reason that then camera is so fast in use, but I thought that it was worth noting the import issues. Otherwise, I was happy with the image quality, it is the quality I would expect from a Fuji X camera.

My preconceptions of the X-H2S were that I would love the autofocus, but hate the handling, I was wrong on both counts. I was underwhelmed by the autofocus, although I expect that with more time, tweaking of the settings and learning how to work with the camera I would be happier with it. Experienced camera reviewers believe that the autofocus on this model is pretty much on a par with Canon and Sony’s high end cameras, so will have to trust them on that. After initially thinking that the camera was huge, I grew to appreciate the size and handling – I even managed to forget to take a camera strap with me to the bike race, so held the camera all day – I am not sure that would have been as doable with my X-T2, which is a much smaller body. I was shooting in shutter priority mode all weekend, but adapted to the different “PASM” controls easily – I thought this would be a deal breaker for me, but I think I could manage.

Although I am yet to try the X-T5, the X-H2 has overtaken it and is now top of my wish list for my next camera. However the reason I use wish list is that there is a big price jump from the X-T5, especially when you consider the need for a Cfexpress Type B card and that there is no “kit” package with the 16-80f4 lens available for the X-H2S. However, my main takeaway from the weekend is that I probably need to prioritise a new telephoto lens, rather than a new camera body. When I bought my Fuji 55-200mm lens I liked the compact size and versatility, but after a few years I am coming into its limitations – the autofocus could be better and I either use it at the wider end or maxed out at 200mm for wildlife, where it is not really long enough. So an upgrade to the Fuji 50-140mm f2.8 lens is in order, and my aspirations for wildlife photography will have to be put on hold. 50-140mm is the Fuji equivalent of the 70-200mm lens that I used on Canon for many years and is the go to focal length for sports photography. So even though my expectations for the weekend went out of the window, I still feel like I have come out of it with some clarity on what camera kit I will purchase next.

Cannock Chase with Partho

One of my goals for 2023 is to get out for more bike rides with Partho – we are aiming for at least one a month. Yesterday we got out for another ride at Cannock Chase, and it could not have been any different to the wet and muddy ride we did there last month. The sun was out and the trails were unseasonably dry – we had a great time!

Rather than pushing ourselves to do the full Monkey Trail red-graded loop, we cherry-picked some of our favourite sections and hit them a few times – including Lower Cliff. On our second run down we both got caught by a faster rider, so when I pulled over to let him pass I grabbed my phone from my pocket and captured this photo of Partho on the way down – his smile sums up what a fun ride we had!

Trip to Buxton to see Martyn Ashton’s Bike Party

Martyn Ashton is a legend of mountain biking, so when I heard that he would be giving a talk about his career I had to go. My friend Partho was keen to join me, and as the talk was at Buxton, in the Peak District, we decided to make a day of it. As we were not taking bikes, it meant that we could take my MR2 Roadster for the drive – so of course we went via the country roads.

Enroute, we stopped at The Roaches, a rocky area between Leek and Buxton, for some photograhy. We had a rough plan of walking up to Doxsey Pool, which is allegedy bottomless and inhabited by a mermaid. However, the directions we were following were somewhat vague, and we parked in the wrong place, so walked up Hen Cloud instead. It was really windy at the top, but the view was good. Even if the light was not great for photography. It was good to break up the drive, and we both want to return another time and ideallly do the walk we orginally planned and hopefully with better light!

On the drive in to Buxton we passed Flash, where I remembered stopping on a breakfast drive a few years ago. We had some time to kill in Buxton before our dinner reservation, so took a stroll around the Pavilion Gardens and past the Crescent and spa – it seemed like a nice town worth going back to. We had a great Mexican dinner at The Lone Star.

Martyn’s talk was great – the first half covered the moment up to his lifechanging accident in 2013 – I remember reading Mountain Bike UK magazine in the late nineties, and Martyn was always in it, so it was good to head some stories from that first golden era of mountain biking. It ended with Road Bike Party – including a viewing of the film, for those in the audience without a six year old child who regularly asks to watch it! Martyn shared a lot of still photos, which I always prefer to videos, but the one I found the most powerful was that split second before his accident, the bike about to hit the bar he was landing on. The second half of the show covered his long recovery and the second-half of his career, and the rise of adaptive mountain biking – a truely inspriational story.

After the talk, it was time for the long drive back to Coventry, however I love roof-down drives on a warm summers evening and I had one of my best drives in ages, on mostly empty roads. It was a late night, but well worth it!

Henry and Daddy Day

Since changing jobs and working full time again, I have missed my Fridays off with Henry, but we ended up with a Saturday to ourselves and made the most of it! We started off with the Ready Steady Riders Super Saturday at Birmingham BMX track. It has been a while since Henry last went, and both his riding and attitude have improved considerably. He was happy to just keep doing laps of the balance bike track, the only wobble he had was when the bigger kids went for their session on the full-size BMX track – however, once we had agreed that he could do the big track session on our next visit he got on with riding the balance bike track. With only three other riders it was a good session and they all rode well together. Henry only stopped to pester me for snacks! At the end of the session, they were invited to join the group on the big track, who were being filmed for the Commonwealth Games, Henry looked a bit nervous at the top of the big ramp, but did not hesitate to drop in, in fact, he did not even wait for his name to be called! As the light was good I brought my camera kit along and got some nice photos.

After the bike track, we went to Sutton Park to meet my friend Partho, and his dog Otto. Otto is a miniature dachshund and Henry’s “favourite dog”. Henry often asks to see photos of Otto on my phone. Otto seems to like Henry too! Henry was so good holding Otto’s lead, they looked so cute together walking through the park – everyone walking past commented! After a solid hour of riding and a long walk, Henry was starting to flag towards the end and needed carrying, but it was nice to be out in the park. Then, having worked up an appetite we grabbed some lunch at the pub. Henry was flagging by this point and even got to the second stage of tired toddler – the mad half hour. Otto loved having an excitable Henry to play with and it was so cute watching them play together, however, I knew it was time to get Henry to the van for a nap. Before we left, Henry had just enough energy to get into Partho’s car, sitting next to Otto. He asks to do this every time he sees Otto in the car – Henry is a stickler for routines and sitting in the back of Partho’s car with Otto is another one of his favourite routines.

By the time we got out of Sutton Coldfield, Henry was fast asleep in his car seat after a very busy morning! It has only been two months since I started working full time, but he seems so much more grown-up than when we last had a Daddy and Henry day out. It is hard to believe that he will be three next week!

Back on the Snowboard

Back in the days before I started blogging, snowboarding was my life. I rode loads but had reached a plateau and grown-up life took over. I then discovered mountain biking, which gave me the same buzz as snowboarding, but with much less hassle and that became my sort of choice, and I have only snowboarded a handful of times in the past ten years. Although I had made a point of watching all of the snowboard competitions at the Winter Olympics.

Part of the story behind me getting back on a snowboard was that Partho and I were booked on a mountain bike “jumps and drops” course with Skillsloop, which was cancelled due to Storm Eunice. So we happened to be at a loose end when Rich asked if we fancied going to the SnowDome with him – sometimes these things just come together! Fortunately, the snowboard fashion of the noughties was for baggy kit, so it still fitted!

Walking down the stairs to the changing area at the SnowDome felt familiar, but it was not until I was at the top of the travellator and ratcheting up my bindings that I was sure the muscle memory for snowboarding was still there. Dropping in for my first run, with a traverse on my toe edge into a heelside turn, felt completely natural. Like I had never been gone. You could say “like riding a bike”! I had a slightly nervous wait at the bottom of the slope waiting for Partho (on skis) and Rich (also on a snowboard) to finish their runs – but when they joined me we were all smiles. Partho was noticeably faster on his second run, beating me to the bottom, but ending up on the deck to avoid taking out someone at the bottom. Resisting the temptation to spray him with snow, I went back up the rope tow to try to meet Rich halfway up the slope, but he was also quicker on this run.

We spent the next few hours doing laps of the slope. If I got a clear run I would hit the small kicker ramp and try to get some air, but was generally taking it easy and just enjoying being back on a snowboard. Strangely it felt like some of the best riding I have ever done, maybe it was a combination of no expectations and a familiar slope or the fact that I am a lot fitter these days, thanks to regular mountain biking. I would be interested to see how I fare on a real mountain with much longer runs.

It was especially good to be riding with some of my oldest friends, in the old days snowboarding was something that I mainly did with my brother, so it was great to be able to chat with Partho and Rich on the lift or to watch them riding down. Afterwards, we also went out for lunch, which felt like an extra treat in the week!

I am certainly not going to leave it another five years before I get back on my snowboard, especially now that my best friends are keen to join me. Maybe it could even lead to a trip to the Alps, which is not something that I would have been expecting to write even just a few days ago…

Belated Birthday Ride at Cannock Chase

Today I had a great bike ride at Cannock Chase, with my school fields Ali and Partho. After a similar ride at Hicks Lodge last year I hope this is going to become a tradition! As you can see from the photo, we had pretty decent weather for December, unlike last year, which was cold, wet and horrible. The last few weeks have also been cold, wet and horrible, so I dressed for that and ended too warm. Having received a winter jersey (from Partho) and some winter gloves (from my brother) for my birthday I was keen to try out my new kit – both are going to be good for riding through the rest of the winter.

We only had a few hours, so rode the first four sections of the blue graded “Perry’s Trail”, before switching to “Follow The Dog”, a red graded trail, at the bottom of “Cardiac Hill”. The last time I rode “Follow The Dog” with Ali, “Cardiac Hill” almost lived up to its name – but this time Ali made it all of the way to the top without any drama! Partho was also riding well and is definitely getting fast on the downhills, whilst still being faster than me uphill. I was also happy with my riding, the shorter loop than usual meant that my legs felt fresher so I could focus on technique, especially towards the end of the trail.

Cannock Chase is my local trail centre, but since “Perry’s Trail” opened earlier this year, I have been riding there more than ever, both with and without the kids. They have now also got a “bike play” trail, which will be perfect for Henry as he learns to ride his pedal bike next year.

HKT Winter Defiance Handbook

Five months of challenges to stay motivated, inspire others, have some fun and f*ck winter

Over the lockdown in 2020 I started listening to the HKT Podcast and really enjoyed the mountain bike chat, with a side helping of current affairs. Davi, the host, predicted that this past winter was going to be rubbish for a lot of people, with potential lockdowns on top of the usual winter weather – he was not wrong! So on World Mental Health Day he released a list of 250 challenges, to give the “podcast family” something to focus on over winter and keep them motivated. This sounded like a great idea to me, so I downloaded it as soon as it was available.

The challenges were split into the following groups:

  • Riding challenges (50) – I must admit that I took a look at the list of tricks and feats of endurance and thought “no chance”. However, without specifically trying, as I thought it was way out of reach, I did manage to complete the “ride 100 miles in November” challenge. The only other riding challenge I completed was to “organise a ride with an old friend” – Partho and I rode at Cannock Chase the day after the challenge started. I have known Partho for twenty years, so he must count as an old friend! We both also rode with Ali for my birthday and I have known him for even longer!
  • Fitness challenges (50) – again, I was not so keen on these, but thought that some of the smaller push up challenges would be doable – I made 10, but struggled to get to 25 although I did not do enough practice. I had also intended to dig out my trainers and go for a run to check off some of the shorter running goals, but with limited free time, the bike always won out.
  • Random challenges (50) – there were all sorts of challenges, from litter picking to writing a poem and even getting a tattoo! The challenge to “bake a cake from scratch” prompted me to bake Jen a carrot cake for her birthday – Jen makes the best cakes, so I felt pressure to deliver! The cake was a success, not as good as one of Jen’s, but definitely edible.
  • Podcasts to listen to (25) – I am a newcomer to podcasts, so liked the idea of recommendations for others to check out. I enjoyed the few that I listened to from the list, and have more saved for future listening, whilst working on bike in the garage or driving my van.
  • Books to read (25) – the only books I seem to read are bedtime stories to the boys! I started reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield Amazon affiliate link but have not finished it yet. I really should as there is a podcast episode to go with it.
  • Movie night (50, spilt between action sports and mainstream movies) – this was the group where I was able to tick off the most challenges, often helped by the boys. Even with Despicable Me 1, 2 and 3 being one challenge I could have ticked that off multiple times, as the boys, especially Henry love the minions. I watched a few films with Jen and also some new riding films, from which I added my favourite music from the soundtrack to my MTB music playlist on Apple Music.

The challenge I am proudest of is “spend fifty hours learning a language”, I chose PHP, and specifically the Laravel framework. I doubt a programming language was the idea of this challenge, but the real goal was taking the time to learn a complex subject. A decent chunk of the fifty hours was spent making a web application, running on my Mac through Docker, to track my progress on the challenges. I find that I learn best when I am working on a project and an updatable list of challenges seemed like an ideal project to learn on.

In the end I found that I had not completed as many challenges as I would have hoped – only 15 out of the 250, but although the challenge has officially finished, I will still refer back to the lists of moves/podcasts/books when I am looking for inspiration for something to watch/listen to/read. The main thing though was that it gave me something to focus on over the winter, other than work or homeschooling.

2020 Goals Update

2020 has been a funny year, with parental leave and coronavirus lockdownI have only been in the office for four days. You would have thought that with all this time at home I would have been able to make good progress on my goals for the year…

Get my weight down to 85kg

All this time at home has meant mid-afternoon cake most days, so despite not really eating out for the last few months I have not lost any weight. Getting a takeaway from Basement Browns (the best pizzas in Coventry) this evening probably won’t help – but it is ten years since Jen and I went on our first date (and had pizzas), so can be excused!

Reinstate my mid-week cardio session

Until Owen started back at pre-school at the start of this month we were getting out for lots of bike rides – but I could hardly call them cardio sessions! Some of the rides have been whole family rides, with Henry on the front of my bike. I did have a great midweek ride last week though – twenty kilometers around my local trails.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Strength workouts, and to some extent yoga, have definitely fallen by the wayside since I started working from home. I am so tired in the evenings, that I cannot face a workout. I did do some earlier in the year though and this has reminded me that I need to restart.

New blog server and theme

I have migrated my blog to a new server and created an automated workflow to reboot the AWS EC2 instance I run it on if the blog goes offline. The new theme will have to be a job for the second half of the year.

WordPress custom stories project

I did start looking at how I could switch up the order WordPress arranges posts when viewing by tag, but have not yet had time to try and code anything up. I did find a few plugins, but they did not do exactly what I wanted – which makes me even keener to build my own.

Become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

I passed the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam in April!

Build an iOS app

I have decided to put iOS development on ice – partly because my aging iMac cannot run the latest Xcode, but also because I want to concentrate on WordPress and web applications. Hopefully the logic/structure of the web application I am working on with transfer to an iOS app further down the line.

Tidy my desk

I tidied my desk during Henry’s naps when I was on parental leave, but since I started working from home my desk is overflowing – with at least two computers on it, multiple external hard drives, cameras, phones, and paperwork. I think I may have to reclaim my old office from Henry.

Tidy my garage

Tidying my garage is one of my top priorities now, it has got so messy that I cannot get my MR2 out! I recently completed a full strip-down and service on my Orange Four and I have another bike to build up – but a tidy garage will help with that process.

Ride more with Partho

Coronavirus has definitely put a stop to this one! We had a great ride at the Forest of Dean in February, then did not get to ride together until the end of June – just a blast round Partho’s local trails in Sutton Park, followed by a road sprint back to the van. Our trip to Wales was canceled, but we will be back there at some point. We have got plans to ride in the Peak District over the summer, which should be fun.

As it stands, Partho has got a 59 kilometer lead in our annual “who can ride the furthest” challenge – I had been leading for most of the year until Partho put in a few big road rides.

Do some night photography

Another one that has completely fallen by the wayside – hopefully I will get a chance to do this if our family holiday to the south coast goes ahead.

Fix up my radio controlled MX-5

This is one goal where I am almost overachieving… Before the end of January, I got the little MX-5 working again, and Owen and I took it for a spin. I have since repaired the body, but am yet to photograph/blog about it. However at the start of lockdown I treated myself to a Tamiya Lunchbox (a radio-controlled stunt monster truck van) and new radio gear, the build was fun, but as with the MX-5 I am not fully happy with the bodywork – hopefully, it will be appearing on the blog soon. I also managed to buy a 1:10 scale MR2 body, unfortunately, I do not yet have a radio control car that it will fit on, nor is it a common size. So I have got a few eBay searches saved for a suitable chassis.

Outside of my goals, I have replaced my BMW with a Volkswagen Transporter van, which has been a great purchase. I have also learned to build bike wheels, in anticipation of building a new hardtail mountain bike. Hopefully with lockdown starting to ease and things returning to a “new normal” I will be able to make progress on my remaining goals and be a bit better at posting on here, as I have a bit of a backlog to work through…

Instagram Best Nine 2019

I enjoyed doing my Instagram Best Nine 2018 post earlier this year, so thought I would do one for 2019 too. Like last year I used the bestnine.net app to rank my Instagram posts from the year by likes.

Here are the individual posts with some more detail:

My best friend, Partho, finally bought himself a mountain bike, so we took our bikes over to Cannock Chase, to give it a shakedown. I love riding my bike, but riding it with a friend is even better!

I went to Llandegla on the May bank holiday. It is one of my favourite trail centres and worth driving for an hour past Cannock Chase! I fitted some purple parts to my Orange Four for 2019 and really like the new look.

Baby Henry was always going to be a popular post! He looks so small in these photos!

Ten days after Henry was born Owen and I were meant to go for a Little Rippers  MTB Facebook group ride at Hicks Lodge, but Owen struggled, so we came home and I went out on my bike. And fell off – on a drop off that I have ridden loads. I guess my Instagram followers liked me falling off!

We were more prepared for this Little Rippers MTB Facebook group ride at Cannock Chase – I had the Mac Ride fitted to my hardtail and Owen had new wheels, with pneumatic tyres, fitted to his Strider! Jen and Henry came along with their running buggy. I really enjoyed the day, and I’m sure Owen did too. He rode really well, trying some tricky sections of trail on his balance bike. My lasting memory from the day is when I was tucking Owen into bed that evening he told me he was going to dream about having a pedal bike.

Owen loves his #supersaturday sessions with Ready Steady Riders, and sometimes I bring my Fuji camera kit along to shoot some photos of him. This week the light was particularly good and Owen was riding well!

This was the first day when Owen used his Strider as transport, rather than just on a bike track – it was by far his longest ride at the time. I rode some of those trails yesterday and they are so muddy and flooded in places – definitely not passable for a balance bike!

I love photos of me and Owen riding together! My Mum came along to the pump track to wrangle Owen, so that I could ride too. She was surprised at how fast Owen was riding, but managed to grab these photos of us riding together.

This post ends the same way it started – with a photo of Partho on his mountain bike! This time at Sutton Park, his local trails. Being able to get out on the mountain bikes with Partho has made for my favourite rides of the year – we have already agreed to get out more together in 2020!

International Ride MTB Day 2019

International Ride MTB Day did not start with a mountain bike ride, nor did it start with our usual trip to Birmingham BMX Track for Ready Steady Riders #supersaturday. Instead Jen ran Coventry Parkrun, and I took the boys to spectate. The previous evening Owen and I had fitted new wheels to his balance bike, so he had to do a few laps of the skatepark to test them out – all was good! So good that whilst waiting for Jen at the end of her run, Owen learned a new skill – riding down hills with his feet on the footpegs.

After we got home I was planning where to ride my bike, and I asked my best friend Partho if he fancied joining me. He did! Due to injuries (his) and babies (mine) this would only be our third ride together this year, we were slightly restricted for time, so arranged for a quick blast around Sutton Park.

I usually ride on my own, or with Owen, so it was great to catch up with Partho on the ride from his house to the park, it certainly made the road section and the cimb up to Four Oaks Gate fly by. From there we dropped into a fun chute, bringing us back out at the bottom of the steepest part of the climb. Repeating climbing sections sucks, but this piece of trail is well worth it. Rainwater has carved gullies in the trail, so you have to pick a line and commit to it. There are also some small drops and tree stumps to hop over, a really fun section of trail.

After climbing back up the hill, Partho took me for a tour of the trails around the perimeter of the park. On our previous ride there, we only covered a small corner of the park, so it was interesting to see more. I was surprised at just how different the scenery looked when we crossed under the railway, the south side seemed much more open. It was also hillier than I expected, although the trails were not as exciting as the first section down from Four Oaks. I started to struggle on some of the climbs, I am unsure if it was the bike (I still need to fettle the suspension), not having eaten enough lunch, or simply that Partho is faster than me, but nonetheless is was a great way to spend the afternoon! Bike riding is fun, but it is even more fun with friends.