Making adjustments.

I fiddled around with my bike before today’s ride. The gear change had lost it’s crispness and the mech. which changes gear was a little bit loose. At first I thought that the bush it rotates on was worn but in fact it just needed tightening. I also tightened the 2 screws which hold the mech. hanger in place. It’s easy to get used to a bike which isn’t perfect and do nothing but it’s definitely better to fix it before it breaks! Everything else looked OK so I set off for Healey Nab knowing that it would still be rideable despite a few days of rain. I climbed up the north end and it was OK in the open but wet and muddy under the trees.

The hill is covered in trees on the northern half which must have been mainly planted after quarrying stopped in the late 1960s. This history has left a good surface for riding with mainly thin soil, clay and sandstone. Because of the sandstone the area drains well and half way down is a natural spring where I’ve often filled up with water on a hot day. Today there was some sun and by the time I got out it was about 14 celcius. Quite cool but good for riding. I’ve just about given up any hope of a dry spell this year to beat the elusive 11 minute barrier on the full red graded trail so today was really just about enjoying the ride. I’ve thought a lot about risk taking this year. I really don’t want an injury, especially one which would stop me riding for any time so I’m looking at making adjustments to my riding for safety but still maintaining the level of excitement. I’ve mentioned it a few times recently, I love being on the edge of control. I’m a hopeless junky for the addictive drug that riding at the limit generates. Is it adrenaline or some kind of endorphin?

The adjustment I want to make is to be sure I only fall off by sliding to the ground on the low side. It’s highly unlikely in these cases that you’ll get anything more than a few cuts and bruises and I accept this tiny risk. When I think back 20 years I was a fully fledged adult running a business yet I had very little sense of danger. I broke both little fingers and once had a suspected cracked scaphoid in my wrist. I banged by shoulder hard once and had magnetic resonance treatment which healed me in days. Apart from that I got away with it rather well. When I broke 2 vertebrae in 2015 and ribs and collar bone 7 months later I knew something had to change. Since then I’ve just ridden the same stuff but been more cautious, especially in slippery conditions but this year I’ve had a couple of little scares when out riding which have made me think again.

Rather than focusing on the negative side of things, the things I should give up, I’ve tried to think about where I reach that special place that only sport can take you. That nirvana when you know that if you could be anywhere else on the planet you’d say “hold on a moment, I’m busy!” For me that moment is easiest to find when the bike reaches the limit of grip on a corner. I don’t get it on big berms (banked corners) where the trail steers you round like you’re on rails. I find it on the old school dirt surfaces on natural trails far more often. The trouble with berms is, if it does go wrong you can go over the top at speed and might hit a tree or big rock head on. In really extreme terrain you can hit something big and go over the front. Any fall from height is a bad experience and the most common cause of broken bones. Give me a loose or muddy corner and let the bike slide out from under me, dumping me flat on the ground, any day!

Today I first rode 2 full laps of the red route. Since I started from half way round the lap according to Strava it only gave me one time for a full lap which I rode at a medium pace. It took me 13 minutes 41 seconds. Not bad since there was plenty of standing water and mud to cope with. On the second lap I stopped, turned round and rode 2 corners repeatedly. They are supposed to be part of the main climb but as downhill corners they are exquisite! Hard packed underneath but slippery on top. Both turn through 180 degrees, first to the right, then the left.

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The surface is now covered in larch needles and skid marks!

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It may look like a berm to the left of the trail but you’re far better to tuck it in tighter and slide the wheels. The picture at the top of the page shows the approach to the second corner.

I hit the deck on the second corner on my first attempt! I adjusted my technique and repeated until I was happy. Then I rode to the trail head but instead of coming down the red route in the correct direction I used the climb as a downhill so did my favourite 2 corners again. The trail rides like a natural trail in this direction and it takes more skill to ride smoothly. I finished by turning off the trail and doing a final jump before setting off for home. Another good ride of about 90 minutes with most of the time spent on the dirt. Maybe summer is over rated?

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