If you’ve read my blogs before you’ll have noticed that I ride Healey Nab a lot. It’s only 15 minutes ride away and has a series of man made MTB trails as well as some good natural riding. Last year I rode the red route in 11 minutes 12 seconds and one of this year’s targets is to ride in under 11 minutes. My task today was to set a fast time and see how much I need to improve. The trail conditions make a big difference to your lap times. In the winter I sometimes took over 15 minutes to complete a lap, trying quite hard. We haven’t seen rain for well over a week so the trails were bound to be fairly dry. I rode to the top of the hill and found that the trail was riding quite fast. Maybe it will get quicker as more people ride it and smooth is out, compacting the surface.
My timed segment is more about pacing yourself than sprinting but there are parts where you have to put much more effort into to keep the speed up. Once you lose speed it takes a while and a lot of energy to get it back, so it’s more economical to use your energy up a short, hard section if you preserve a few more miles per hour. You need to concentrate on your pace for the whole riding time or you’ll find your time suffers.
Me at the trailhead after my lap.
My weapon of choice today was my Whyte PRST4. You wouldn’t expect a 15 year old car or motorcycle to be faster or more economical than a modern one but mountain bikes are developing with the desires of many riders. Plenty of people push their bikes up the hills so only the downhill performance matters to them. Suspension has got bigger and tyres have got wider as well as having a bigger diameter. All the extra rubber on the trail is bound to cause more drag. This is exacerbated by running the bigger tyres at lower pressures. You may get more grip on the corners but you pay for it on the climbs. Obviously you spend much longer climbing than you do descending so on a circuit like today’s a modern bike won’t be as quick. OK a cross country race bike may be the fastest of all but an older full suspension trail bike is closer to that than most modern bikes.
So it was riding to the start and committing. At first you climb to the trail head up a gentle but at times rocky slope. Despite a days gardening work yesterday my legs were feeling good. A flatter, rocky section comes next, followed by about 2 minutes of sinuous downhill. You lose height slowly with 2 short uphill segments. Although you’re heading downhill it helps your speed considerably if you still hammer the pedals, where possible. This is particularly important before each of the climbs since you want the momentum to give you an advantage on the way up.
Next is a section of 7 jumps. You can impress any bystanders by jumping high but if you want speed this spectacular approach is not the right way. The best way is to hit the jump with extended legs and allow the bike to rise up under you. On the back side of the jump you can extend your legs quickly again. This pumping action is translated into extra forwards motion, meaning you’ll ride the section quicker. The trail undulates for some way after the jumps and some skill is required to keep the speed up. Then the biggest climb starts. You have to keep the effort up but not over stress yourself or you’ll slow down before the end. Some trees have fallen down near the top and there is no route which is obviously the best. I’m not sure but imagine I could have saved a few seconds with a different track than I chose today.
Another short downhill follows then a twisty climb takes you back to the trailhead. There are plenty of chances to cheat here and take short cuts. I resisted! I’d only have cheated myself. A kink to the left and a high speed series of curves takes you back to the start point.
11 minutes 34 sec. I’m happy with that and think that I’ll achieve my target as the trail improves. My time was second fastest of the year on the GPS app. Strava and 14th fastest of all time. My personal best from 9 years ago, when the trail was first built, would have put me 7th. This shows that I’ve slowed down a bit with age but fortunately my enthusiasm has not diminished. Please feel free to leave a comment or like my post.