Should I be doing this?

Today I rode a natural trail from home to Rivington Pike but realised at one point that I was taking a big risk. I wondered afterwards if I should be giving safety more thought and stop riding some of the things which were routine for me 20 years ago. I started today’s ride on a road route then took the gravel road over the rear flank of Healey Nab. It has humps to direct rain water on the final, downhill part and is good fun for getting some air. I feathered the brakes for safety at one point but on the whole I don’t think it’s dangerous. After a short road section I took the trail which follows the side of the Anglezarke reservoir. I mentioned a while ago that I’ve rarely ridden this trail for a few years but it’s quite entertaining so it might become a regular again. It has a couple of tough climbs but I was determined to beat them, which I did.  More dirt and gravel took me to Rivington village and a bigger climb to Rivington Pike. The hill looks too rotund to be natural, rising as it does from rolling moorland. On top is a stone tower which was built as a hunting lodge in 1773. There is no access to the interior now. The site was one of the beacons where fires were lit to warn of invasion. On 19th July 1588 it warned of the approach of the Spanish Armada.

rivvy pike

I climbed by one of the easier ways. Some of the trail has been smoothed out for easier access in case of fire. 2 years ago several fires were lit but described as “wild fires” by the media. Most of the arsonists were caught! They also set light to Healey Nab in examples of copycat stupidity. The summit is at 1,191 feet or 363 meters. The last part is rough and steep but in today’s dry conditions it wasn’t too hard. It was on the descent that I took an unacceptable risk. Over the years erosion has left some big rock steps in the steep, gritty surface. On the left hand side the steps are not as big but I found myself right in the centre and just decided to go for it. I saw the biggest step of all and made sure my weight was right back over the rear wheel. I was going a bit too slow to fly off the drop and my front wheel went down steeply. The rear followed, compressing the suspension right to the bottom which then caused the rear of the bike to bounce up as I took the next drop. I was OK but it could so easily have been different. Going over the front and landing on your head on a big downhill is about as dangerous as mountain biking gets. I’m still thinking whether I’ll want to take this risk again. Even if I stick to the easier left hand side will I get enough thrill to justify the risk? The rest of the way to a level, gravel road is very rutted and can easily throw you off by steering the front wheel in a direction the rest of the bike isn’t heading! I made it down.

I could have tried my target to get up Crooked Edge Hill without stopping but thought it would be too long a ride so I headed for the track to the right of Wilderswood. This descent is responsible for stopping my mates and I from riding Darwen Hill every Sunday. From the first time we rode it we wanted it to be part of every ride and through 1997 and 1998 we rode it dozens of times. I was the only one, as usual, who timed myself down and became completely obsessed. I started with a time of  2 minutes 26 seconds but chased that down 2 minutes and 1 second. The 2 minute barrier had me putting others in danger, including a horse rider. Soon afterwards I damaged a car and realised that it had to stop. With a closed trail I would have carried on and think I would have done 1 minute 50 or less on the shorter trail we have now. I used to take a longer route because I liked the corner and with no Strava the time only mattered to me. The current Strava KOM is 1 minute 54 and today I managed 2 minutes 18 with little effort at going  fast and an eye on safety. At the top of the page is the start of what is still a truly great downhill. The surface varies all the way down. There is some tight single track worn into the ground making tiny natural berms. Some more open corners strewn with loose rock follow. The final part is a twisty gravel road with little visibility ahead. The danger didn’t bother me back then!

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Looking back to the Pike from Wilderswood. The pale diagonal line is the dangerous trail I described above.

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Today was warm but hazy. The Lancashire plain disappears into the greyness.

I rode back to Healey Nab by taking a superb trail onto the road to Rivington village then reversing the outward ride. I was feeling the effort on the final climb to the top of the Nab and enjoyed the red graded descent then the open field and Froom Street downhill. The wooded parts still have some damp but the open areas are nearly dry meaning an exciting, high speed last section. I climbed 2,115 feet in 19.56 miles.

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