More exploring and a change of bike.

When I washed my bike after the last ride I found that I had a broken spoke in the rear wheel. In the old days, when the brakes used the wheel rim to slow you, you’d usually know if this happened because you could feel a buckle in the wheel when you used the brake. Disc brakes mean that you may not notice a broken spoke, unless you look for one. Benji at the Bike Cabin will get me some spokes of the appropriate length by Saturday but  in the meantime it’s no problem. I have 3 other bikes. The weather has been, we’re told, colder than normal for the time of year but totally dry for over a week. When I walked the dog I noticed that the River Yarrow was very low. I planned my entire ride before I set off and stuck to my plan. I’ve ridden along the far side of the Anglezarke reservoir several times recently, always by the same route. Today I thought I’d try a trail I rode with friends, in the opposite direction, in the late 1990s. It goes around the smaller High Bullough reservoir then rejoins my usual route. After that I’d ride up the back of Healey Nab to ride the red route and then home by road.

I chose my Whyte JW4 with it’s radical linkage front suspension. It uses linkages to allow the wheel to rise up over bumps and obstacles rather than sliding like a telescope, like almost every other mountain bike fork that has ever been made. 3 of my 4 bikes now have linkage forks. I may be just trying to convince myself that a technology that never really hit the mark, is somehow better than everyone else’s choice. Or perhaps I chose an unfashionable option because I had more insight than others.

What actually happened was that I test rode a number of bikes at a certain price point and thought that my first JW4, which I bought in 2005, was better than any of the others. I was looking for the bike which would allow me to tackle just about any trail, hence needing full suspension, whilst getting up then down hill as quickly as possible. I wasn’t just looking for a bike which gave me the most confidence when the gradient turned downwards. This is a criterium which guides the choice of many riders nowadays. They’re less interested in the whole performance, including climbing. The JW4 proved to be very capable but it rides in a rather different way to modern trail bikes with their much longer suspension travel. My Boardman has 130mm of rear travel and 140mm at the front. The JW4 has only 100mm at each end.

I joined the canal near home and rode the tow path towards Adlington where I turned up to the Chorley golf club. I don’t know if the golfers would welcome my intrusion but since no one was around I was able to speed down the rough dirt road through the course and cross a road at the other side. After a short tarmac section I dropped steeply and quickly into a small valley with a bridge over the river at the bottom. The trees close to the trail give a real illusion of speed and it’s exciting. I then climbed slightly further than I’d dropped to another road. In dry weather I could have taken an off road way to the dam at the end of the Anglezarke reservoir, which I was circumnavigating, but in autumn conditions I knew it would be impassable so I chose the road instead. I stopped to take pictures from the dam.


Across the water is the woodland that I would ride next.


The hill at the far end is Healey Nab, my most common riding destination. It’s around 3 miles ride to the top, from here.

Along the reservoir starts with paths that have been tarmaced. They were still quite slippery. Around the High Bullough reservoir it turned to dirt, rising gently before dropping steeply. Rejoining my usual trail it was still quite wet in places and took some real effort to ride without a foot down or stopping. I think the longer travel suspension of the Boardman would have made things easier at this point. I made it and enjoyed the final, steep drop. I knew the ride wouldn’t take even as long as 90 minutes so I was putting some effort in to keep the speed up. Over Healey Nab I was keen to find how the JW4 tackled the new section of 2 jumps. I’d found that the rear wheel of the Boardman had been kicking up over the second, flat topped jump. When I tried a 20 year old shock this didn’t happen, which convinced me to turn the damping up. This seemed to cure the problem for the Boardman. The JW4 is a delight over jumps. The very light front fork, far lighter than a telescopic fork as fitted to over 99% of bikes, allows you to easily hoist the bike into the air. I cleared the second jump completely, landing on the slope beyond the flat top. I accomplished the same trick on the final table top jump near the bottom of the trail. This time there were several other mountain bikers stopped, watching me pass. Did I honestly whoop as I cleared the jump? How embarrassing! I must retain my dignity in future.

Looking at the record of my ride on Strava I found that I’d set a good few fastest ever and second fastest ever segment times. OK, the ground is generally dry and I’ve mentioned before that my Whyte bikes, the JW4 and very similar PRST4 , are faster in certain circumstances than any other bike I’ve ridden. However, this is not the only time I’ve been bettering my times, recently. I’ve doen similar on the Boardman. Does this seriously mean that my fitness has improved? I hope so, though it seems an unlikely time in the year to be improving. I knew by the end of the ride that I’d had a great time. Perhaps it was my faster pace that gave me a better riders high from the endorphins? I just hope the dry conditions can hang on for a bit longer.


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