…..though the legs come into it as well! After my success achieving a target set in January in my last ride I thought I should have a go at one of my other targets. This one I haven’t ridden successfully for many years. I first rode it in 1998, if memory serves and for a number of years afterwards I expected to be able to make it to the top more often than not. It’s a long climb from Pike Cottage which has a dog kennel for boarding your dog when you go on holiday (not my dog, he comes with us) to the top of Crooked Edge Hill which has 3 cairns at the summit. Confusingly the cairns are universally referred to as the 2 Lads!
At the bottom are a set of steep steps which are completely unrideable so the challenge starts from the top. First, though, I had to get there. I rode 4.5 miles to Rivington Barn, where a wedding was taking place. Then the climbing starts in earnest. Trail improvements have made the first sections easier than they used to be and I was taking it easy to conserve energy for later. After a fairly steep 380 feet of climbing a gentle downhill section loses you some height before the final 320 feet climb. The climbing is steeper here with lots of rocks protruding from the surface. The most difficult aspect is the rain ruts which can easily grab your front wheel and stop you dead. There are 2 particularly steep challenges but I must admit they have become easier as time has gone by and I dispatched them both without problem. On, then, to the final climb. It just gets steeper and steeper. I found last time I tried that the foot worn path is too steep so I diverted to the left on a rougher but lesser gradient. The rear wheel lost traction and when it gripped again the front wheel reared up and fell sideways, summersaulting me backwards about 5 yards. The following picture shows the scene after my failure.
As you can see I almost made it. My front wheel had reached the final brow of the hill. I began to question whether age had caught up on me. I just didn’t seem to have the power to keep the bike moving forwards. I tried the section again with a similar result. Reaching the top of the hill I turned around for a somewhat cautious decent of the fast track. I enjoyed the ride but was riding my Whyte JW4 classic MTB so had to be more careful. It’s 15 years old and I chose it today over my contemporary bike because it has an old school 30 speed transmission hence has a significantly lower first gear. It’s light and feels somehow more frail than my Boardman FS Pro. It also has only 100mm of suspension travel at each end compared to the140/130mm of the Boardman. So although I felt it had a better chance on the climb it’s not so good for downhilling.
I took some pictures of the view from the top.
It’s a near panorama with the rounded hill of Rivington Pike on the right.
The next part of interest was the superb downhill segment to the right of Wilderswood. A classic which I used to ride in sub 2 minutes. Today I recorded my fastest time since I started using Strava to log my rides. 2 minutes 16 seconds was one second faster than I manged previously on the Boardman but analysing the ride later I found that on the first half I was around 5 seconds slower today. I saved time on the faster, more open second half. I can only imagine that it was another old school feature of the Whyte which helped. The smaller, narrower tyres have less drag on the surface and drag increases with the square of speed, so the faster you go the more significant the drag is.
I won’t be giving up on todays challenge. Towards the end of the ride, on more relaxing terrain, I started to think that my problem had not been just a lack of power but that I hadn’t attacked the steepest part with enough momentum. Next time rather than approaching slowly, trying to save energy, I’ll just go for it with maximum effort, acceleration and speed. I’m tempted to try again on Sunday.
I finished the ride over Healey Nab for a final, glorious decent. At home I looked at my Strava data and found that the Whyte had allowed me to set many personal bests on all kinds of segments without, seemingly trying. I was right about those tyres!