At my age (57, if you must know) maybe I should have calm weekends with a little mountain bike riding. One of my other passions, however, is scootering. I have a 30 year old Vespa scooter and plenty of people around my age like to party at weekends like we’re still 19. It’s impossible to really capture a good scootering weekend in words. The constant laughter at the most stupid things, the drinking, the music and the friends old and new that you meet, makes for an intoxicating combination. Last weekend was an especially good one at an event called Modafest4 situated north of Preston, about 20 miles away. After 2 nights camping I arrived home on Sunday exhausted and have felt a warm glow as I’ve reflected back on the events of the weekend. I hope I’ve got a good few years of such madness left in me but I fear that the scene may be less resilient than me. It’s dominated by participants who would have to be described as middle aged and attracts relatively few younger people.
So there was no chance of any mountain biking at the weekend and I’d worked on Thursday and also Friday morning. Today was my first chance since last Tuesday to get out and what I needed was a recovery ride. What I chose, however, was something a bit more ambitious, since I’m working for the next 3 days, then on Friday setting off to support our son at an agricultural show. He is an apprentice farrier, (someone who shoes horses). He will be making horse shoes in a competition. It’s an ancient craft and is taught in Britain to a higher standard than anywhere else. When he’s fully qualified he’ll be able to go anywhere in the world with his skills. My own selfish concern is that I’m not getting out on the bike as much as I’d like and although I’ve said before that I’m not training for anything in particular I still have 2 of my years challenges to beat, so I don’t want to lose fitness.
Today I planned a route in my head which would take me to the top of Great Hill and down by an old favourite descent through Brinscall Woods. I covered 16.25 miles and climbed 1,523 feet. I used a familiar course on the way out and arrived at White Coppice to take on the challenge of getting to Brinscall Woods without a foot down. The bracken has shot up in the last week with the mixture of rain and sun. So much so that it wrapped around my front wheel and forks at one point and threw me over. It was a gentle landing. I remembered that I’d once read that brushing against bracken can cause skin cancer though I’ve never heard that claim since. I’ll try to do a bit of research to see if there’s any more information. I actually always wear leggings when I’m riding anyway because even when you’re not getting stung by nettle and lacerated with brambles you still get a lot of irritation from brushing past summer vegetation. Today was 26 celcius and humid but it was more above the waist where I felt the heat.
Apart from the fall I made it the rest of the way without a foot down and climbed the gravel up the woods. After a short, steep section of tarmac it was back on the gravel, grass and rock with various amounts of roughness to the top at 1,247 feet. A lot of youths were out walking. They moved aside for me and were all polite. I knew I’d need to repay their excellent behaviour by not endangering their lives on the way back down! It was good to pick up some speed on the exciting first section. Unfortunately I then had to stop to get over a stile before continuing on a rockier part where it’s easy to get a puncture. Modern tyres with a bigger air volume seem to be much better than tyres of 20 years ago and I got through to a smoother section, slowing several times for the young walkers. I kept feeling tempted to change my planned ride. There’s just so much choice from Great Hill. You can go down the very classy, higher risk drop straight to White Coppice or carry on to the fabulous moorland track to the top of Brinscall Woods where I was faced with another choice. Left or right? Left is another great downhill through the trees, dropping over eroded roots, dipping and twisting over the ever changing ground. I started to regret my choice to stick to my original plan and turn right, when I failed at the technical part early on then was faced with about a dozen fallen trees to clamber over. A lot more have fallen since last year and no one moves them in this fairly remote location. I’ve mentioned before that up to the 1920’s this woodland was used for a number of small farms, the ruins of which can still be explored.
The ground was eventually clear of trees and the downhill here can be good but was a bit too slippery today due to the ground still being wet. I dropped onto a gravel road for a short distance then a sharp right to a steeper track which goes down to the goit, a straightened river from the old lead mines. A Strava segment here is called the “Brinny Downer”. I won a trophy for being in the top ten fastest ever. 33 seconds saw me in 7th place out of 308 riders. I’m sure in dry conditions I could take 3 seconds off to become King of the Mountains. Riding along the side of the goit an impressive roe deer was startled and ran off in front of me. It stood about 5 feet tall to the head. After a couple of hundred yards it jumped into the water and leaped into the woods on the other side.
I started well on the return to White Coppice. A tree root, which had made the first climb hard, has recently broken off, making it much easier but a little later, at the hardest part I just didn’t commit enough and ground to a halt. Riding towards the back of Healey Nab, my final hill, I started to feel seriously tired. The climb almost finished me and I didn’t start to recover until I got home and rested. It serves me right for having outrageous weekends at my age.
Above is a view of the canal which I rode along for the final part on my way home. At the top is a picture of a well known piece of grafitti, also along side the canal. I see the name “Shirley Animal” is used to name another Strava segment. I’ve no idea who it refers to!