My last ride has left a big impression on me. I only rode locally but instead of timing my ride or parts of my ride I just concentrated on how the bike felt. I’ve ridden for so long that I don’t really expect to develop any new trail skills. I ride in the same way as I’ve ridden for years. I use my arms and legs to absorb many of the undulations and bumps, which gives more effective suspension than if you sit on the bike and let the suspension do all the work. I lean the bike into corners, especially tighter ones, rather than leaning my body like you do on a motorcycle on the roads. I put some pressure down onto the handlebars by keeping my torso fairly horizontal when cornering. This increases the weight pressing on the front tyre and so increases front wheel grip. During my last ride I repeated corners and sections of trail to study the effects of different amounts of pressure applied to the handlebars to find the ideal balance of front and rear wheel grip. I don’t think I’d been getting it wrong but by really concentrating on this point I think I learned something of real value. It’s that balance between front and rear grip. If you get it exactly right you can go faster round the corners or just make sure you get round at a good speed but safely. Today’s mission was to take this extra experience to my current favourite downhill trail and slither around quickly.
After May being the sunniest month ever recorded in England something was bound to change. We’ve had a rainy period but mainly it’s been light rain with dry spells between showers. The ground is damp but not particularly muddy so the trails are quite similar to last month when I was sliding around due to dust! I took my familiar mainly off road route to the village of White Coppice and was finding the trails busy with walkers. It seems to be the effect of the Coronavirus. With shopping centres still closed or heavily restricted and the advice not to travel too far for exercise everyone seems to be walking locally, instead. I hope that people continue to enjoy our countryside when things go back to normal but hope they don’t discover some of my favoured, more obscure places! I rode the harder, technical side of the river to Brinscall Woods and barely saw anyone. I climbed the fire road through the woods and up onto the moor towards Great Hill. My plan was then to ride down into the woods, along the top edge and down to the bottom. I’d then climb back to the top of the woods and repeat the drop to the bottom.
The first part of the downhill was a little slower than it has been due to the damp. Further down a twisty section was rather slimy so I had to take some speed off. I’d also dropped my tyre pressures to 25psi and was wondering if I could feel more tyre drag than usual. This proved interesting to me because back at home I found that my climbing, where tyre drag would have held me back, was about as fast as I’d ever done! Any feeling of drag can only have been psychological. Perhaps I was doing too much thinking! Into the woods and along the top I struggled over the first rocky hump but kept the bike moving through dogged determination. Before the top of the next long downhill section, pictured above, I pulled to the side to allow 3 horses and riders to pass. Then it was my favourite part of all. A narrow trail twists and turns through the woodland. It leaps over piles of stones and skirts around trees. I concentrated on my body position and resultant downward pressure on the handlebars to get the balance of grip perfect. Near the bottom I slowed and said hello to 2 younger mountain bikers who were building a small jump yet, somehow, set my fastest ever time by a single second, for the last third of the descent, according to Strava.
I rode back up the woods and raced down the exquisite segment again, stopping for a brief chat with the 2 riders. Despite my lower tyre pressures I was still setting some very fast times on my return towards Healey Nab for a final downhill delight. I’d love to ride the Alps or California but I’m eternally grateful to have such fulfilling riding straight from my house.