How can you know you’re getting fitter?

I like to feel fit. It’s a life affirming thing to feel that you’re in a good physical position. I also know that it gets harder as you get older and through mountain biking I’ve measured some deterioration! It isn’t something to be too sad about and failing to accept the inevitable march of time won’t do you any good. On a bike the time it takes to cover a part of your ride, or perhaps your whole ride, is the ultimate arbiter. I’ve always timed myself and have a good memory for such trivia so can still remember segment times from years ago which are of no particular interest to anyone but myself. I used to, and sometimes still do, time short sprints, usually with a downhill tendency. This helps to get your line choice and cornering speed as good as you’re going to get it and sprinting is good for power, especially in the legs. Longer circuits and whole rides need a different approach. Pacing yourself to only reach exhaustion at the very end. If you’ve read much of my blog from last year you may know that I tried hard to lap a circuit on a local hill in under 11 minutes. My best time was 11 minutes an 8 seconds on 22nd May. Unfortunately the wet summer meant I didn’t get another chance to beat my target because I would have stood no chance on the constantly wet ground. The circuit needs to have a good few days of baking in the sunshine to make it fast which is something we didn’t get. I didn’t think I was getting significantly fitter last summer but could surely have improved by a measly 9 seconds but in the autumn something changed.

I’ve already answered the question in the title. You know you’re getting fitter, on a mountain bike at least, because your times for various segment start to drop. In the past I only had a stopwatch to witness any improvement but I can now get information overload from Strava. The app. follows you around by GPS and measures your time over segments which yourself or other users have set up. For quite a while I’ve been finding that my times on plenty of familiar segments keep improving and today my Strava page looked like this.



That’s 8 personal records in one ride! Too many for a single screenshot. I was riding my Boardman FS Pro bike, which I don’t think is as fast under most conditions as my 16 year old Whyte JW4. It was breezy so at times this may have helped and I made sure that my training was valuable by putting some effort in. I took a road route to Brinscall woods because the heavy rain has continued where I climbed slightly quicker than I’ve managed previously up the steep stoney trail. Up a short section of tarmac I again set a best time and didn’t feel fatigued by this. Climbing to the top of Great Hill at 1,250 feet was hard going because the gravel road is now a river bed. The cross wind didn’t help at first but became a tail wind as the trail got steeper, as it had on my last attempt. My time for the climb and descent was 30 minutes and 40 seconds but it can only get faster. I was almost blown to a standstill if I stopped pedalling on the way down. My target is to beat my time from last year and with better fitness I should manage it. However it requires a big mental effort to maximise performance for around 22 minutes so it’s not just a physical challenge. I’ll also need to keep the work up on the downhill to get a good result, keeping the speed up on the frightening parts..

I took the usually excellent downhill at the top of the woods but today it had turned into a river which exactly followed and hid the trail.


The trail was hidden by a temporary stream!

I decided to ride a trail back to White Coppice then stick to the road on the way home. Healey Nab is now having the larch trees cut down and access is difficult. It was a good ride, especially when I consider the shocking weather we’re enjoying. I still felt fresh enough when I got home having covered 14.69 miles with 1,306 feet of climbing.

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