A bigger ride.

Despite some doubt that I’ll now be able to do a my 47 mile ride any time soon I thought it would still be a good idea to try a bigger ride today, after another longer than usual break. At least we can still ride in England. In France and Italy no leisure rides are allowed due to the Covid 19 virus. We’ve had a few dry days with sunshine and wind so I imagined the trails would finally have started to dry out, at least in the open. I planned my route in advance and made only one change to my plan as I rode. My idea was to ride to Lead Mines Valley and climb a long, gravel road towards Hordern Stoops where the road between 2 villages reaches it’s highest point.From there I’d take the remote trail over Redmond’s Edge to Great hill for a fabulous downhill trail.

I took a road route to the south side of our local hill, Healey Nab, crossing the back of the hill on a gravel road. After climbing to the high point the track drops over humps which are there to divert rain water. They make perfect, high speed mountain bike jumps and add plenty of excitement to proceedings. After a short time back on the road I took the path along the Anglezarke reservoir. I got up the first challenging climb easily enough, my 2.4″ wide Continental Trailking rear tyre  gripping well but after an interesting ride on a mixture of different surfaces, I spun the wheel on a tree root on the next hard part. There was maybe a bit of dampness on the roots and I probably chose the wrong line. After more undulations I took a tough climb to a layby where no cars were parked, today. The ground is strewn with evidence of canabis smoking. The canabis industry needs to stop supplying it’s product in single use plastic packaging!

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The view across the reservoir from the layby. In the distance are the hills near the village of Parbold, where I lived for most of my childhood.

A short road climb was followed by a dirt road which drops and twists into Lead Mines Valley. The surface on the descent is loose gravel and it provides little grip. After a bridge over the stream the trail climbs steeply at first but then has varying easier gradients climbing ever higher. The wind was blowing strongly from the east so was right in my face at this point. It was hard work and all I could do was tuck to reduce the wind resistance. I remembered a ride I did a while ago trying to follow our local river, the Yarrow, from it’s source. I rode down from my target of Redmond’s edge on a very wet trail and decided to see if I could ride up the same way rather than wind around to get to Hordern Stoops. It would be a tough climb in the summer so today I spent sometime pushing the bike. The ground was so soggy my tyres weren’t rolling over it but rather digging their own trench. As I met the track over Redmond’s Edge the trail turned northwards and the strong breeze started to help me at last. I climbed a tricky, steep section onto the path which is made, for most of it’s route, from large sandstone blocks which were dropped using a helicopter.

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I barely met a soul before Great Hill. The slabs make this way rideable all year.

I was expecting the path to be uninteresting but with the wind behind me and the sun shining I really enjoyed it. Previously parts of the path had not been improved and in today’s conditions would have been very muddy. I don’t know how long ago the work was done but now, where there are no slabs, a raised, hard packed trail has been completed. I really picked up speed with the wind mainly behind me and came to a drop which I couldn’t see over the edge of on approach. I sped over the top and dropped down a rocky chute before a challenging and equally rocky climb. There were only 2 places where the slabs are stepped and I had to lift the bike up. The gradient steepened towards the top of Great Hill.

I recently read a Facebook comment which described my next downhill as one of the very best in the country. This is where I changed from my original plan which was to go half way down then turn towards Brinscal Woods. I’d mused about dropping the whole way down to White Coppice as I rode along Redmond’s Edge and remembered my last attempt at this. I felt it was a bit dangerous on the final drop which has some big rocks and considerable drop offs where the trail goes down vertically and you just have to fly off them. The problem that time was that I was approaching the drops too slowly because there were a lot of walkers. Today had been so quiet that I didn’t think I was going to have the same problem so committed to going the whole way down. Also I had a fully following wind by now so knew it would be exciting. I’ve ridden the first section several times recently against a strong head wind but today I felt like I had an engine. The dry trail helped, as well. In today’s conditions is was delightful. I had to stop at a stile then had the rest of the way unhindered. After the stile is a steep drop with a choice of rocky or twisting through tussocks of grass. Then it’s a very fast  stony section where I’ve had several punctures. I battered down some steps into the hardest section. It’s rather like a section of moguls on a ski run. Big humps of grass and pits. The pits were full of water and mud today and were a bit too much to ride at speed. The excitement built again with very fast, more open sections, then it gets rougher and rougher as it twists and turns downwards. Into the part with the biggest drop offs I just kept the speed up so I could fly over them. It was well worth the slight feeling of risk.

I took in Healey Nab on the way home but little has changed. It’s still blocked by felled trees and masses of twigs with deep tyre tracks cutting across our trail network. I was a little surprised when I got home to find I’d only ridden just over 17 miles with 2,097 feet of climbing. Nevertheless it was a very good ride in improving conditions.

 

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