Every day’s a school day.

I may have left school over 40 years ago but I’m still learning. I suppose we all are. Today I thought I’d try another one of my mountain biking targets set in January, a lap of the healey Nab red graded trail in under 11 minutes. Last time I rode it in anger I was on my classic 26″ wheeled Whyte PRST4. It was fairly dry but perhaps not perfect and I managed 11 minutes 34 seconds, a time I was happy with. I knew I could improve on this. Last year I managed 11 minutes 12 on my similar Whyte JW4 and 11minutes 31 on my Boardman. I considerd this proof that the old school Whytes were faster with their narrower tyres, run at a higher pressure, radical linkage suspension and slightly lighter weight. The PRST4 is the lightest of all so was today’s weapon of choice. At the top of the page is a view of the bike overlooking the hills around Parbold where I spent most of my childhood.

First, though, I made sure the tyre pressures were right. 42psi in the rear and 38 in the front to give the right balance betwwen grip and drag. I didn’t see another rider all day today. I used a mixture of road and off road to get to the start of the lap and felt fresh, only noticing the effort on the final tarmac climb before the track across a field an into the woodland which tops the hill. I took a short cut to the start to avoid another decent and climb and stopped at the trail head. This is not the start of the segment in question but it gave me time to compose myself and think about a few details of the lap. Today would be a serious attempt on my target so I wanted to use all my energy by the end. I also needed to consider the more technical parts where it’s easy to lose speed. I thought about the parts where it’s easy to let gravity do the work but you gain precious seconds by putting the power in. Yes, as I said in my last post, a lot of mountain biking is in the mind if you want to maximise your performance.

I mainly rolled down to the start on the gentle downhill but committed immediately when I turned the corner into the start of the lap. It seemed easy climbing the slope back to the highest point and I kept the speed up on the next rocky but fairly level route before an easy left hand turn into the first downhill. Work is currently being carried out to add  a bit more excitment to the trail and I came across a new jump. It’s just ahead of a left hand turn and I would question it’s safety, especailly for the less experienced or people like me who encounter it for the first time at full speed! I got through it OK but did shave a bit of speed off for the next series of corners. I took the section of  7 jumps without touching the brakes and was onto the lower part of the route. It undulates and has steep slopes both up and down. I began the longest section of climb and started to notice that I was breathing heavily, spinning the pedals without feeling like I was getting much power in. 10 years ago I could ride this lap feeling like I was giving it plenty of power all the way round. I’m not as fit as I once was. I could have ridden the lap in it’s current form in under 10 minutes back then. The lap is shorter than it used to be since so many riders have taken short cuts to gain advantage. On the final climb before the dip to the finish I knew I’d pushed too hard too early but rallied for the last few turns. I kept as much speed as I could on the fast last part and my stopwatch said 11 minutes 15 seconds. I didn’t expect the GPS app. Strava to be any kinder to me and found when I got home that it gave me 11 minute 16 seconds


Twelfth fastest ever out of 611 riders. Not bad, beating my previous 14th place. I need to give it a bit more thought next time and pace myself better, then I think sub 11 minutes and a top ten position should be possible. Such a big effort didn’t encourage me to ride any more laps so I went down towards town and home. I stopped to take a few photos.

My bike at the trail head and Freddie when I got home. He was enjoying the garden which is starting to look very nice.


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