Seeing nature from the saddle.

I’m glad I rode my bike yesterday since today it’s raining. Still, the garden needs the rain since we’ve had a very dry period. The soil was hard and starting to crack which can’t be good for the plants. Everything is starting to bloom now and it’s a pleasure to be outside. I worked on Thursday and Friday, attending to other peoples gardens for money, then on Saturday morning I did some work in our own.

In the afternoon I dared to suggest to my wife that a bike ride might be a good idea. After a short time she softened her initial hard stance and within the blink of an eye I was upstairs to get changed. It was only ever going to be a short ride so Healey Nab would, once again, be my only option. To add variety I decided to ride some unofficial old school trails which are natural and haven’t been purpose built for mountain bikes. On the approach to the hill is a factory and on the access road a grey squirrel almost ran in my path, turning at the last possible moment and scurrying into the vegetation.

I took the steep way from Black Brook valley, which I knew to be a Strava segment. I wasn’t going to tire myself out this early in a ride but did want to improve my dismal standing on the list of 219 riders. I put some effort in up the first steep part. The gradient lessens then steepens again up a twisting part, which is a high speed thrill on the way back down. A large rock, about 6″X6″X12″ in size was laying in the middle of the path. I could have ridden round it but knew the potential consequences if I left it there. I jumped off the bike and moved it well off the track. I hope the rock had simply become dislodged from the surface though there have been some deliberate attempts at the setting of deadly traps by illiberal walkers in the area. The walkers need to remember the mass protests of the 1930s which granted them the right to walk on ancient rights of way which landowners were closing and destroying. In 1967 cyclists were granted the right to legally ride on bridleways shared with both walkers and horse riders. Unfortunately since the existence of mountain bikes little has changed, so we often have to ride in a technically illegal way.

The incident cost me about 20 seconds but I still ended up 54th out of the 219 riders. 20 seconds less than my 4 minutes 12 seconds would have seen me 36th. One day I must have a go at a full out climb to see what I can do. I took a route to the trail head which only used a short part of the red graded climb, instead taking a left hand turn down a steep bank onto an undulating piece of single track. It wouldn’t be too exciting normally but a fully grown roe deer leapt across my path just a few yards ahead. In the sunlight it looked a very similar colour to my dog, Freddie but about 20 times as tall!IMG_20190520_112922

I reached the trail head and decided to do a fast run around the top loop. I recently set a second fastest time ever at 1 minute 30 seconds, seven seconds behind the fastest but didn’t expect to beat that time. Later I found that the Whyte JW4 had allowed me to equal my own second fastest time of 1 minute 40 which begs the question if I could be faster on the Whyte, with maximum effort, than I managed on the heavier Boardman, with it’s fatter tyres. Riding down the red route I came upon the maintenance team, making a new series of jumps. It was at the place where I almost got caught out the other day. The first jump was followed by a right hand corner but now that corner has been straightened out and a second large jump has been constructed. At speed it may form a double where you need to take off from the first hump and jump the gap to land at the other side of the second. Dangerous! Hopefully they’ll leave an escape route so you can avoid both features. I offered my services but they were just about finished so didn’t need me today. I continued down the trail but then rode part way back up and turned off round the perimeter of the old quarry which is called Grey Heights. Before the current trail system was made it was a favourite to ride the fast, twisting single track back down, then a long exciting downhill which could take you most of the way to the bottom of the hill. This time I decided, since there were no other riders around, to ride the single track then cut across on to the red route climb, which is possibly the best decent around. Since it’s intended for climbing the trail rides like a natural one, when ridden the wrong way. I was getting tail slides as the rear tyre just couldn’t match the grip of the front. It could be that the Continental tyre on the rear is just not as good as the Maxxis on the front but it could be as simple as too much pressure in the rear. I’d set the pressure high to reduce drag for my previous attempt at a fast lap. I need to experiment. I did a couple of spectacular two wheel drifts so went back to the top to do it again! I was loving it and still had the fast final down hill to Black Brook. A good, short ride in the bone dry conditions. My next ride may be a lot wetter but I’m hoping to do a long one up Darwen Hill.



  1. Barry says:

    Hi. Glad to see the JW4 is still going well and setting fast times. I put my back out a few weeks ago and am struggling to walk, let alone ride! Really missing my bikes now but hopefully be back out there soon.
    Keep up the good work.


    1. kirkmtb says:

      Get well soon! I hated my few times when I couldn’t ride.


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