Today I thought I’d ride a long, by local standards, downhill mountain bike trail which I’ve only ridden in it’s entirety once before. That was on the 20th April and it took me 15 minutes and 27 seconds. I had to slow for walkers and dogs a few times on that occasion but I don’t imagine these things cost me much time.Unfortunately there are 5 obstacles which need to be overcome by dismounting, rather like a cyclocross rider. They are 2 stiles and 3 fallen trees. There are several other fallen trees but these can be ridden round. The attraction of this trail is it’s scale and a big variety of different surfaces, rocky, grassy, loam, logs, roots and broken down stone walls are all in the mix and there’s no part of the trail which lacks interest. This length of time might pass quickly whilst watching TV, working, reading and suchlike but on a bike at speed it’s completely absorbing. No other thought than the ride was likely to enter my head as I battled my way down.
First I had to get to the top at 1,252 feet. I rode the usual way to White Coppice and noticed a family walking along the river bank so chose the opposite side of the river with it’s undulating, technical trail. I powered through the hardest, steepest section without stopping or putting a foot down and then climbed up Brinscall Woods on the gravel road. I considered the even steeper climb to the moor but didn’t want to put in the massive effort required. When I reached the open moor the wind was coming from a north easterly direction and was helpful. Later it must have been swirling around the hills and was very much against me, making the climb to the top of Great Hill hard work. I took a picture on top.
Behind the stone cross shelter is a stone slab track on the first section of the downhill. Also visible is the curvature of the Earth we all call home.
I clicked the stopwatch and set off. With the ground being so dry I chose to ride to the right of the stone slabs and found it fast. It’s an exciting start as the trail twists and turns, jumping over rocks and tussocks of vegetation. In fact on the app. Strava this roller coaster is called “YeeeeeeHaaaaa!” I rode my fastest ever time on this segment. It wasn’t my intention to try to beat my previous time but as I went down I knew I was working at it. I took an unusual choice of line and was faced with a drop off. I knew what to do. Don’t get nervous and lift the front wheel to drop onto the rear wheel, or flat on to both. I was through but I really must take less risks by thinking about which way I’m going and not just how quickly I can get there. I braked a little at the next section with it’s savagely pointy rocks, I really didn’t want a puncture or damaged tyre or even wheel. After that is a gravel section on a gentle gradient but there’s speed aplenty. The wind seemed to be in my favour. It must take a couple of minutes until you reach a left hand corner and need to brake for it. Then it’s off the side of the gravel track on to a fabulous segment with many twists and turns, rocks and a delightful ribbon of sinuous peaty single track. I again set a best ever Strava segment time here.
Over the second stile and I messed up the tricky hump of rocks, losing a good few seconds as I stopped and struggled to get going again. After an undulating trail and the 3 fallen trees the long descent of Brinscall Woods is probably the highlight. It has everything. Constant high adrenaline riding through woodland and the foundations of abandoned farms. It drops steeply about half way down across the fire road and over some rocky drop offs is a Strava segment where I was second fastest ever by a single second. I wasn’t thinking about this at all but got a good surprise later.
I’d improved my time by 2 seconds and was crowned King of the Mountains for the third time in 2 rides! The segment certainly is “Better than going straight down”! Along the bottom of the woods following the river I was pushing the pace and clicked the stopwatch as I reached the concrete bridge.
The peace and tranquility is such a complete clash with what I’d spent some time doing. I’d dropped around 750 feet and was amazed at my time. 13 minutes 50 seconds was 1 minute 37 seconds quicker than last time. After crossing the river it’s a fairly flat trail to the back of Healey Nab and I was tired climbing to the hill top. The newly cleared trail is excellent and I noticed on my way down it’s bumps and undulations just how much my arms and legs pump up and down. When I got my first mountain bike even a suspension fork was an expensive luxury. Your only suspension components, apart from the tyres, were your arms and legs. Even when we got suspension forks they only had less than 2 inches (45mm) of travel. Later our early rear suspension would be 3 or 4 inches with a fork of 3 inches. You still had to mainly rely on your own resources. I think that the modern demand to have more suspension travel than the 140mm front and 130mm rear of my Boardman is often driven by riders who rely only on the bike, not on themselves. What I was doing was keeping my body level, in a fairly head down position, and using my limbs to allow the bike to rise up underneath me. This was giving me an extra 6 inches (150mm) of “suspension” so I didn’t need to demand that from the bike. Instead I could have a bike with suspension which doesn’t bob around whilst pedaling and doesn’t feel out of control or vague. A lot of riders who’ve started in the current long travel era could learn a lot with just a little coaching. I sped down the hill and home after a tiring but very fulfilling ride.