Within a reasonable riding distance of my house, most riders would say that the closest to an MTB paradise is the area around Winter Hill, which is often referred to as Rivington, after the small village at the foot of the hill.
To the north of Winter Hill you can do a high level route to Great Hill, part of which I rode on my last outing. To the south east is the Smithills estate with its long single track descents. I could name plenty of other good sections of riding but for over 20 years I’ve thought that the descent at the side of Wilderswood is the best riding of all.
There’s some risk, as I mentioned in a previous post, but the reward is a thrill that many a mountain biker would go a long way to experience. Today I planned a longer ride than usual and ended up doing 14 miles. I would have taken in Healey Nab towards the end but I had to fit in some of life’s usual tedium before the end of the afternoon. My route was a road ride of under 20 minutes to Rivington then climbing the Japanese gardens to Rivington Pike which is a distinctive round hill top with a monument on it.
There was no snow today, these are online photos. The last part of the climb is steep and I was battling a brisk southerly breeze. From the top you have a choice of descents and I chose the most difficult. It has a mixture of gravel and bedrock on a steep descent. The drop offs are over 2 feet high in places and if you approach timidly you could get thrown over the bars. You need to keep some speed up but not so much that you run out of control. Further down deep ruts cover the ground after many years of walkers, bikes and rain which scours the surface. I had one emergency braking incident but survived it with little drama. My Strava time for the segment was 45 seconds compared to a fastest ever of 19 seconds! I’d never take a risk like that. Middle aged bones don’t heal as quickly!
Then it was on to the highlight of the ride. The track down the right side of Wilderswood. It’s quite a long descent, taking over 2 minutes. After a sprint from the start on stony ground you’re into a series of fairly blind corners. The speed builds as it opens out but then the ground becomes rougher again. You can use the rain ruts to get you round a few corners but if anything goes wrong it could be painful. I took a moderate level of risk and I was loving it. I missed the tightest route on a sharp corner and lost a second or two. You’re then into a straight with some seriously pointed rocks up to basketball sized. The big ones are best avoided!
A drop off through a narrow gap had me slowing to reduce the risk but I picked speed back up on the now wider track. It twists around and has some difficult cambers to throw your wheels off line. The last few hundred yards had me reaching 30 mph on a gravel surface. My Strava time of 2 minutes 17 put me in the top 5 % of fastest times ever and the second fastest time by anyone in 2019. I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter that much. I just need to enjoy the speed, keep it pointing in the right direction and stay upright. But once the adrenaline kicks in it’s hard not to pretend it’s 20 years ago when I was quite a bit faster.
Would I like those days back? I wish I had my mate Mark who we lost to cancer 3 years ago. I wish we still all went out riding together on Tuesday and Sunday but I still love the sport and, of course, you have to keep going forwards with your life. Mountain biking is as good as it ever was in many ways and now I’m older I can find plenty of excuses for not being as fast!
I’m planning on riding Healey Nab on Sunday for my next outing. If you’ve enjoyed reading why not click “like”?