Early this morning I started thinking about my idea to ride the Mary Towneley Loop (MTL), next year. It’s a circuit of 47 miles in the Pennines with 6,500 feet of climbing. I read some forum posts from people who have ridden the route previously and have realised that most riders complete the ride in a clockwise direction. The riding isn’t particularly technical, that is it’s not especially difficult to ride but most commentators advise that it is not to be underestimated. Most of my rides are of around 10 miles but I did ride 34.53 miles last summer round Dalby forest in Yorkshire, a ride with a good distance but only 2,395 feet of ascent. I think I’ll need to keep the pace down but I’d be reluctant to walk if riding is possible. That’s always been my way, though I do recall at least once this year when I’ve walked to save energy when riding would have been possible 10 years ago. Around 1994 or ’95 I rode just over 100 miles in a single ride, almost all on the canal bank, hence with very little climbing. I also rode a hilly route of around 85 miles, back then. I know from timed sections of trail that I’m not as fast as I used to be and don’t find this too difficult to accept. As for stamina, I’m not too sure. I’ve thought about doing an extended ride over Darwen Hill to get a good distance done before I attempt the MTL.
Darwen Hill on a ride earlier in the year.
Today started rather frosty. When I walked the dog, the ground in Duxbury woods was distinctly frozen and I started to worry that Healey Nab might be too slippery to enjoy, not to mention rather dangerous. Falling off on muddy ground is easy enough but on frozen ground it’s surely easier and far more likely to result in a more serious injury. I was surprised to find that, as I climbed, the ground was no longer frozen. It’s strange that only around 2 miles from home, in a straight line, and nearly 400 feet further above sea level,conditions were better. There was no need to exercise the additional caution I’d assured myself would be my mantra. So it was 3 laps to get some decent exercise, in anticipation of next years challenge, and a chance to enjoy the drier than anticipated trails. 4 dry days have done the trails a favour and I’m hoping for several more days without rain. The trails were much grippier than on recent rides and I even used the harder, black graded descent, on my middle lap of three, since the riding seemed safe enough.
I’m hoping to ride the MTL in April, which despite the oft quoted term “April showers”, can sometimes be the driest month of the year. I’m thinking that my best choice of bike would not me my more modern Boardman but my 15 year old Whyte JW4. It’s a little lighter and has an old style triple chainset which gives a lower gear as well as a higher gear. This range of gearing would definitely be useful with the extensive climbing which will be required.