Only 3 days into the year and I’ve managed 2 rides already. Today I started by the same route as New Years day but soon realised that the ground was far wetter than it was 2 days ago. After the first off road section I decided to take a slightly longer road route to White Coppice because the off road way around the side of some small reservoirs had a very muddy area last time, which I thought would be impassable today. My objective was to ride the excellent single track downhill in Brinscall woods which I had discovered last ride. I say “discovered”. I must surely have ridden it previously but can’t remember it. The gravel fire road up the woods took considerably more effort today, due to the wet surface, than it had 2 days before. When I got to the top I decided to ride up the downhill segment to check it out, rather than ride the tedious tarmac climb of Edge Gate Lane. There were several times when I couldn’t keep it going over wet roots and through deep mud. I reached a fork where my newly found trail went to the left and my old favourite to the right. I followed the old way first and would then turn round at the fork on the way down to ride to the top of the new trail. I soon realised that the old route is a classic. My new alternative cut off quite a section of excellent riding which I then rode down towards the fork in the trail. It was terribly slippery but I was reminded of it’s potential in drier conditions. The new trail which I next rode up doesn’t have nearly as many twists and turns. Riding down it was good today since it was less slippery but the old route will still be a better choice for most of the year.
The new trail about to enter the woods.
Brinscall woods replaced a number of small farms in the 1920s. The trees in the picture below are around the foundations of an old farmhouse.
The bike was slipping and sliding underneath me on the single track. I carried on down a slightly wider trail where the surface is hard packed stone, which runs right down to the river. When I got home and looked at the record of my ride on Strava I found that I’d set a third fastest time. Not just my third fastest but the third fastest ever! Colour me shocked. I did let gravity do it’s work on the lower part but how could I have done so well in the worst trail conditions I’ve seen all winter? I’ll have to try to improve my position when it’s bone dry. Second place is 11 seconds faster than my 1 minute 49 seconds, which is quite a big challenge.
I decided to try the technical side of the goit, a straightened river, for my return to White Coppice. It was so muddy on the approach to the first challenge that I was already grinding to a halt. Later, at the hardest part of all I found that 2 large trees have fallen over the trail.
The section which follows was hard enough already. Now it’s impossible.
This means that one of the targets I set for myself last January won’t be possible to repeat this year. I rode from White Coppice to the woods and back without a foot down but I doubt that the trees will be cleared any time soon. This means that I’ve now decided to have only 2 targets for 2020. Firstly to ride the red graded circuit of Healey Nab in under 11 minutes, having managed 11 minutes and 8 seconds this year before the weather turned too wet, when it was supposed to be summer. The second is to ride the entire 47 miles with 6,500 feet of climbing of the Mary Towneley Loop in the Pennines. I’m hoping to try it in April, if it’s dry enough then. Todays wet trails emphasised how important dry trails are for speed and ease over long distances.
I rode back over Healey Nab having enjoyed my mud fest.