It’s easy to call a ride great when you ride Great Hill near Chorley in Lancashire. The weather has been amazing. Dry with cloudless skies. This time last year we were enjoying the coldest of springs. I think it broke records. The problem with the weather in northern England is that we often have the Jetstream lying across us. The Jetstream was only really understood in World War 2 when aircraft were flown at high altitudes across the Atlantic ocean. Since then we have found that it is the most important factor in our weather. If it’s to the north of us we get weather like the Mediterranean. If it’s to the south of us it’s more like the Arctic. We’ve had weeks of dry, mainly sunny weather and the trails are now bone dry. Things could change. Between 2007 and 2017 we only had 1 decent summer. Global warming was something we were aspiring to, not fearing. Last year, after the cold weather until the beginning of May we had the hottest summer since 1976.
Today, Good Friday, was a perfect mountain biking day. I had decided to ride Great Hill but didn’t want to try to repeat my glorious ride a couple of weeks ago when I beat the best time of this year on the Strava segment “Great Hill out and back”. I beat it by 1 second in 22 minutes 19 seconds. This was an event I’ll be boring my great grand children about, if I’m ever so blessed. I wrote about it in a previous post entitled “The World’s longest second”.
I was never going to try to repeat that time, though it should have been possible since the trail is drier now than it was then. I thought I’d just ride up the hill by a long route and come down the short way. The first challenge was to ride from White Coppice to Brinscal woods without a foot down. I made it again but still need to do it in the opposite direction. After that it’s a long climb to the top of Great Hill. It’s only technical in a few places but today I thought I’d try an alternative, more direct approach up Brinscal woods. It’s very steep and I had to walk for 3 sections. It was massively hard, not helped by a modern bike. 10 years ago we got 30 gears with a very low lowest gear. Now we are only using 1 chainring at the front instead of 3 and have lost 2 gears at the bottom and 1 at the top. This is OK on a manicured trail centre ride but on natural trails things are not so good. It cost me a lot of effort to get up the hill and I could feel the effects of the hard work as I climbed.
On top I took some pictures. It was a bit hazy and I don’t think I could see anything over 20 miles away.
The picture at the top of the post shows Darwen Hill with its fantastic riding and a tower which commemorates the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. The last picture shows Winter Hill with its TV transmitter. The ride down is fantastic. Ever changing surfaces and enough gradient to keep the speed up. It requires full concentration and plenty of pedalling even though it’s down hill. Fortunately there weren’t too many walkers, despite it being a Bank Holiday. I slowed for walkers, especially if they had a dog. I’m a changed man compared to 20 years ago when speed was everything. It’s better this way. At the bottom of Great Hill my rear brake lever had become solid and the pads were scraping. It had over heated! At a stream crossing I dipped the caliper in the water and successfully cooled it down.
Back over Healey Nab and the trail was running quickly. I took the black route for its berms and jumps. When I got to the open field down towards town where there is a Strava segment called “Froom Street downhill” I found the gate from the woods was open. It was just too much temptation. A free head start. I was feeling the effects of 90 minutes of riding but put some effort in to the bottom where a family with 2 small children held the gate open for me. I got back home to find that out of 447 riders my time was 3rd fastest ever. At 57 years old I shouldn’t be too disappointed with that. However a bit more effort could see me as number one.
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