Don’t over think it!

I’ve been giving my riding technique a lot of thought recently. I’ve tried to get my weight distribution just right to get the perfect balance of front and rear wheel grip. The problem that’s occurred to me is that on downhill banked corners I’ve felt uncomfortably far forwards on the bike, with my head above the front axle rather than over the handlebar stem. On a flat corner this has been fine but when heading downhill it didn’t feel right.

Today I thought I’d ride a few laps of my local hill, Healey Nab for training. The mainly purpose built mountain bike trails have a good circuit with around 200 feet of climbing per lap. In fact it’s possible to make many different circuits around the hill by using alternative climbs and descents, as I did today. It’s only a few minutes ride before I’m off the tarmac and onto the dirt, along the side of the Leeds/Liverpool canal. This was a vastly important transportation system completed in 1816 and running for 127 miles from Leeds in the centre of the country to the west coast port. It’s glory days were fairly short lived since the inception of much quicker railways after 1830. Although the canal was still in use in World War 2 the commercial traffic was just about finished by the mid twentieth century. Fortunately the entire length has survived as a fantastic leisure resource. Plenty of people live on narrow boats, year round,whilst many others use boats for relaxation. After the short stretch on the canal I climbed the hill.

The ground was quite dry in the open but under the trees later there was a small amount of mud. I climbed to the summit where a rider was repairing his Ebike, an electrically assisted mountain bike. He’d broken the rear gear change mechanism and was shortening the chain to loop around a single rear cog in order to get him home. I rode the top loop which drops down the opposite side of the hill before rising back to the top. A fallen tree was blocking the trail but a makeshift rock feature has been constructed over it. I stopped on this first occasion to check that I’d be confident to ride it but it looked easy enough so I rode it on my subsequent laps.

The new feature looks daunting when you approach but it’s easy enough to rise 2 feet as you rollover it.

On my first descent of the western side of the hill I turned onto one of the black graded options. I was thinking about a slightly unfamiliar trail and had no problem with thoughts of the balance between front and rear wheel grip. The bike felt great and I rode with more confidence than on some recent rides, but why? The answer is a simple one. I’d been over thinking it! I know what body position to use and if I just maintain that stance the bike rides fine, without me pushing my weight too far forwards. I completed 4 laps in total taking different option of route and noticed that I was pushing my hips forwards rather than my torso, at times. This seems like a good way to get more weight on the front wheel without my head protruding too far forwards. I’ll give it some more thought and testing to see if I’ve discovered something new!

It was only on the final lap that the Ebiker had left, hopefully having made a suitable repair. An Ebike is good when it’s working but if you have to push it home it’s a boat anchor! I’m enjoying riding Healey Nab at the moment but I’m worried that the surface will become unrideable in wetter weather. Much of the old climb was destroyed by tree felling this spring and the new alternative uses unimproved ground with no dry, hard surface. I’m hoping to ride again on Thursday.

A bleak wasteland which was once forest. Only spindly birch trees have been left standing but they are vulnerable to the effects of the wind.

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