I’ve quoted from the movie “Point Break” in my writing in the past, as in the title of this account. The movie centres around surfing but it could perhaps have been written about mountain biking instead. Surfers and mountain bikers often seek that ultimate ride. Just as a lack of the right waves may hamper a surfer, wet ground, rain and wind can count against a biker. Today was a little windy, with a stiff breeze blowing from the west, but that wasn’t going to seriously affect my ride on my current favourite, long downhill.
In 1997 and ’98 I mainly rode with friends and we found another downhill so exciting that we wanted it to be part of almost every ride. I was the only rider who timed my efforts and I became obsessed with getting faster. I bought clipless pedals to get more power in. My shoes attached to the pedals via cleats on the soles and I still use the same type of system. I gained 2 seconds on the descent and by the summer had reduced my time to 2 minutes and 1 second. I was taking unreasonable risks to beat the 2 minute barrier and put my self in danger. More importantly I was putting other innocent people in danger. I won’t recount the several incidents but they were enough for me to realise that the madness had to stop. I’ve ridden the hill occasionally over the subsequent 20 odd years but never with the same fierce determination. I don’t remember any other downhills which have had me so captivated until I pieced together a route from the top of Great Hill and down through Brinscall Woods, just this year. The dry weather has been a blessing and made the ride superb on several occasions, today being one such.
It’s a good climb to the top of Great Hill at 1,254 feet above sea level, which is excellent for training. There’s very little road riding on the way to the village of White Coppice from where I rode the harder, technical side of the river. I’ve really got the knack of the trickiest part, a short, rocky climb. I just attack it hard and keep the pedals turning, bumping over the rocks. I got diverted to the left by a rock but kept it going and over the top. The rest of the way to Brinscall Woods is easier but still takes work and concentration. I then climbed the fire road, a very root ridden climb and chose today to ride along the trail I’d later use as my descent. Further on it’s very steep and hard work over the rough ground but I had the help of the wind. At the last hard part it was like having an engine to help me! I turned right, on a gentler climb then the trail turns left again where the wind helped me to the summit. A hard climb was rather easy!
The top of Great Hill is marked by a cross shaped stone resting place.
I turned round at the top and clicked my stopwatch. Unlike those times on my previous favourite downhill over 20 years ago, the time today wouldn’t matter. I just wanted to enjoy the ride and feel that it was smooth and safe. Still, timing a ride always seems to inspire me so I wasn’t exactly hanging around! The first section is twisty, rocky and exciting. It ends at a stile, followed by a fast and varied section with lots of sharp rocks. I’m currently using a slightly slower but smoother track to the right to avoid some of the danger of punctures. The trail then smooths to a gravel road with a gentle downhill gradient, except for one short rise. I was working hard to keep the speed up, turning off to the left later for a seriously addictive piece of trail where the wind had helped me to climb earlier. With the wind against me now it was a little less manic than on many of my recent rides but there was still plenty of speed available. I braked to a halt at the stile leading into the woodland and hopped over.
I made sure I got over the rocky hump early on and rode most of the way to the other end of the woods, lifting the bike over 3 fallen spruce trees before turning left to the best part of the ride. Ahead I could see several women on horses so knew I’d have to be careful. I stopped a few times but realised that the horses were going the same way as me so I rode back to the top of the woods to ride the section as one continuous run. I’d been stopping my watch to give me an idea of the total time, rode the whole section and gave the horses a wide berth later, where they’d stopped. The thrills continued with a tight, twisty, loamy trail, dropping steeply across the fire road. The next section is one where I’ve set the fastest time on the app. Strava, gaining me the King of the Mountains title. Since then I’ve lost it but for the first time today I really tried to get it back. I used all my experience to maximise speed. Pedalling hard wherever I could and taking it to the limit on the corners. The result was only my second fastest of my attempts, according to Strava but I think that just highlights one of Strava’s weaknesses. The 2 times faster than mine were measured over a much shorter part of the trail. It didn’t detract from the thrill of the ride! I continued to work hard along the final, flatter section to the bridge over the river.
A concrete bridge crosses the straightened river.
I could feel the effort in my legs, especially climbing the back of my local hill, Healey Nab where I completed the long downhill as a final bit of excitement.