Shand rider Scott Cornish, based in the stunning resort of Chamonix Mont Blanc, will be sharing with us his ‘Deconfinement Diaries’ during the coming weeks, detailing life under Corona restrictions. Scott and his team mate finished in a strong 2nd place in the recent 2020 Atlas Mountain Race on his Shand Bahookie. Being a physio, endurance athlete and clinical bike fitting specialist, Scott will provide an interesting take on life under lockdown. And lets face it, as lockdown locations go, there’s worse places to be than Chamonix-tough gig Scott!
The deconfinement diaries
Today was like being a grounded child who had been let out to play for the first time in a very long time, giddy with excitement, getting to roll with some other big kids. Here in France, the strict outdoor activity restrictions have been lifted, with most sports being allowed, but still only permitted within a 100km radius of your home, for the next month at least. With almost half of that radius being across closed borders from here in Chamonix, it limits any extensive bikepacking adventures, but still leaves scope for some creative rides within the boundaries and a chance to discover previously unridden routes.
Typical though. After 2 months of near perfect blue skies and warm weather, que a drop in temperatures and a forecast of rain for deconfinement day. Not to be undeterred by a little damp weather, the Shand Bahookie was getting out, come rain or shine. It had impressed over the rough terrain of the Atlas mountain Race and I was eager to test its metal along the valley’s rocky, steep singletrack. Rigid of course.
Away from bikepacking duties, it would have seemed a good time to have changed the 2.4 WTB Rangers out for the race light 2.25 versions for speedier riding, but having spent 6 days on the higher volume 2.4s, I was used the extra grip and lower pressures they afforded, despite their added weight. Besides, the larger tyres just looked more befitting of the Bahookie. And it is about how a bike looks.
Those first few km were an odd feeling, venturing beyond the confined distance restrictions of the past 2 months and without a completed attestation, demanded by any gendarmes who were policing anyone outside. As the sensation of being able to ride with effort without fear of retribution returned to the legs, I was thankful for E3coach.com’s turbo training sessions to maintain some level of fitness.
The two mates I met up with were both on fullys and gave my dropped bar mtb a quizzical look. Heading out, it was refreshing to see people out once again enjoying the trails, running, riding, playing with their kids, yet it wasn’t the flurry of bodies I would have expected. Beyond the main town, we had the trails to ourselves, barely coming across other riders, picking out all the choice singletrack which dropped off the crest of each climb. Having spent most of my time riding the Bahookie in its designated guise of loaded adventure bike, it took a few moments to tune into its now, lightweight agility through narrow wooded singletrack, picking very deliberate lines along the rocky trail, whilst my fully mates chose more direct ones. I’ll fit some suspension eventually, but for now the Bahookie was teaching me to be more attentive to how I held myself and weighted the bike. A lesson that was probably much needed. I have been really surprised at just how well its matching rigid fork dampens trail feedback, combined with the WTB 2.4 tyres and it’ll pack some speed along rough terrain.
It was a trip down memory lane, trails we hadn’t ridden since October last year, some of the classic lower valley flowy singletrack, forgetting just how rock strewn the south side trails get! No issue for the Bahookie though, just having to weight the bike differently over an mtb when climbing the steeper trails. The valley trails are short, sharp descents and climbs, but perfect for a first day back outdoors, getting a feel again for the Bahookie, giving a new ride sensation along well ridden trails. It wasn’t a big ride, but a simple relief to be able to get back out on bikes with mates, even though we know that society isn’t going to return to a sense of normality for a good while yet. Not being able to stop by Chamonix’s best coffee house on the way back for coffee and cake is testament to this, open for half days only! Which is now duly noted.
That inner child is super keen for more, excited to discover just what the new toy can do. Over the coming days and weeks, I’ll be venturing higher and further on the Bahookie, as restrictions allow, as I continue the deconfinement diaries.