Riding to the top of Great Hill in the West Pennine Moors is always a treat. Today I saw a Facebook post from one of my scooter riding mates, “Midge”. He said he was cooking breakfast at the ruins of Drinkwaters farm, halfway up Great Hill and gave an open invitation to anyone who wanted to join him at around 10.30 am. I needed no more encouragement than that to get out before 10 am. Everyone else would walk up but riding seemed a much better option to me.
I used a mixed route to White Coppice and it was very muddy in places. I saw Midge’s van parked at the cricket field so knew he was on his way up to the rondezvous. I think that the climb straight up the hill from this point is too hard for me nowadays and the wet conditions on the ground would make it even harder. I really must have a go at it in dry weather to see how I do. The alternative was to ride to Brinscall woods, up Edge Gate Lane, then up the gravel road to Great Hill. I used the less interesting easy side of the river, again because of the conditions. The climb up the woods is a lowest gear affair but didn’t feel too hard today. There were already quite a few walkers out on the hill but all you can do is say a cheery “good morning” and keep the speed down. Mountain biking could be described as illegal on a lot of our well used trails but it’s tolerated by almost everyone. As I understand it riding a bike on a footpath is a civil offence, not a criminal offence. The police have better things to do. Only the landowner can bring a case against a rider and I’ve never heard of this happening. I always make sure I’m polite and friendly so as not to muddy the waters.
I approached a group of walkers from behind, just before our meeting place and shouted “Get out of my way, you’re blocking the path!” It was, of course, some of my friends. Since they hadn’t yet set up the stove I said I’d ride to the top of the hill and catch them on the way down. There were far too many walkers to pick up any speed on the way down and I stopped for ten minutes for a chat, refusing a sausage sandwich. I rarely eat whilst riding because I rarely ride for more than 2 hours. It’s usually only after a couple of hours that you’ve used up your main energy source of glycogen and need to replenish it with food. I’ll have to give food some thought for my 47 mile ride in April.
A rag tag bunch of ne’er-do-wells at the ruins of Drinkwaters Farm.
I set off down the hill but the number of walkers was definitely increasing. I overtook two riders on the final stretch of gravel before the woods. I took an earlier turn into Brinscall woods where I had to climb over a gate. The trail was well enough defined and turned out to be a fantastic twisty, rooty single track joining the trail I’m more familiar with. It extends an already great trail and I’m sure it will become a regular choice. Adding to the joys there were no walkers here. Riding back to White Coppice I caught up with one of the riders I’d overtaken earlier and had a brief chat. He was going a bit too slow to ride along with so I carried on towards Healey Nab for a final flourish. The trails are running well and have dried up a lot after a week without rain. I chatted to another rider at the trail head on a Merida full suspension bike which he was riding for the first time. I presume it was a Christmas present. If it had been mine I’m sure I’d have ridden it on Boxing day. The red graded downhill was better than it’s been for a while now it’s a bit drier.
I set 3 personal records on Strava even though I hadn’t tried to achieve this. I felt good and fresh even at the end of the ride. I’ve said before that I’m surprised that my fitness seems to have improved. I don’t seem to have changed anything in my riding. Maybe it’s just the psychological effect of having a target to aim at in a few months time.
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