Do you always need a reason to ride?

I’ll also be featuring a picture of weed growing at the side of the trail!

Today I had time to ride but where and for what purpose? The rain early in the morning was biblical but by midday the roads were dry, due, I’m sure to the strong breeze. I knew the trail would still be really wet, possibly with standing water and in these conditions it’s easy for me to fall back on Healey Nab with it’s purpose built trails. I’d rather be sliding around a natural trail than railing round a banked corner, something I’m admitting to myself in recent months. I thought that Birkacre, which I used to test my new rear tyre on my last ride, would be the best local option but just riding round until I was tired hardly seemed exciting. So I told myself that I’d ride 5 laps of the “figure of eight”, which in these conditions would take around 40 minutes plus the ride there and back. This sounded a lot more enticing. A trail ride with around 75 serious corners. A hint of danger and the excitement of sliding around on the very edge of control. Nice.

Maybe you don’t need a reason to ride but I thinks it’s better to have one. It could just be a ride to maintain fitness or to enjoy nature though at the moment it seems like nature has given up on summer. Still, this is England. Next week anything could happen! I went via a familiar route and rode the “Drop to Birky” downhill with no drama. I decided, because I’m working tomorrow and didn’t want to exhaust myself, that I’d only ride 4 laps continuously and take some photos on the fifth. The circuit has 2 high points, one of which is just a place to turn around and start the trail. In the picture below this is where the red line is furthest left.

birkacre1

My “figure of eight” circuit is nothing like a figure of eight on a map but it does have 2 downhills and 2 climbs so it’s like riding 2 loops.

After a short straight it’s a downhill left/right. The left was slippery and the right is long with a big rain rut. I was in my element straight away!

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I was hopping from side to side of the rut!

The speed picks up before having to scrub it off again for a sharp, downhill left over a steep drop. Then across a grassy area and into the woods for a twisty section which was really slippy. Down through 2 more corners to the sharp turn at the lowest point which climbs on the exit. I tried to remember, keep the body low, elbows out, lean the bike, not your body, head over the handlebar stem. I had unclipped my right foot, the front slid, my foot kissed the ground, pushing the back wheel out and letting the front grip again. It worked, I stayed upright. The photo at the top of the page shows this corner. This is the first half of lap one! The next part was a long climb to the other high point, an equally good downhill with a fabulous 3 corner combination I’ve eulogised about before and a climb back to the start. So now the weed picture.

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You may have been expecting ripe buds of cannabis but this is himalayan balsam. A pernicious weed which plagues our area. It isn’t unpleasant to look at but outside it’s natural environment it dominates the native plants, taking over large areas of ground. Towards the second high point of the circuit it lines both sides of the trail. The seeds explode from the seed pods, spreading it for quite a distance. It needs years of pulling up every last plant to eradicate it.

I climbed 1,173 feet in 9.38 miles and enjoyed a good ride despite the wet conditions. I may start to target a time for 5 laps of the circuit over the coming months. It’s great to have so much on the limit action in a short time. Strava shows that my times were getting slower each lap. I kept the same level of effort up for the 4 laps rather than increasing the effort gradually as I would have done in a race. An interesting challenge awaits.

 

 

 

 

 

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