Riding on a hot day.

In England we don’t often suffer from heat. Today it’s likely to reach 27 celcius or 81 farenheit which is hot by our standards, particularly in the north of England where I live. I had no special plan for a ride today until I saw the picture which appears when I access the app. Strava.

It shows my Whyte JW4 at the source of our local river, the Yarrow, so I instantly decided to go there. It would be a trail ride though some sections would see me putting more effort in for the thrill of the speed. I could have accessed the source of the Yarrow in several different ways but it would always be reached close to the middle of the ride. I concocted a quick plan to ride to White Coppice at the foot of Great Hill in order to climb the very steep slope most of the way towards the top, where I’d take a short cut at a lower elevation to the summit, onto a stone slab path which crosses towards Winter Hill to the south. The sun was bright and the sky virtually cloudless at 8.30 am when I set off. The ride would need very little use of the roads.

I used the route I usually choose to White Coppice. With dry ground it’s about as short and quick a way as possible. The climb up Great Hill proved to be a less beneficial choice. Last time I tried this climb I was fairly pleased to only need to push the bike on a couple of short sections but today, since I didn’t want to exhaust myself early on, I was off the bike far more. I’ll just have to accept that I can’t ride a hill which I could ride the whole of 25 years ago. After the first, very steep part, I only needed to push the bike for one more short segment before riding the easing gradient and found myself at the summit of Great hill at 1,253 feet above sea level. That’s right, I’d been lost in thought on my climb and forgotten to take the short cut! Riding can be totally absorbing, making anything else in your life irrelevant. Still, it wasn’t a bad place to be on a sunny day.

The stone slab path I’d take towards Winter Hill, with it’s TV transmitters.
The view towards Darwen Hill to the right and Pendle Hill, a reputed haunt of witches, in the hazy distance.

The reputation of Pendle Hill as a haunt of witches comes from the trial of 1612 where 12 local people were accused of 10 murders by the use of witchcraft. One died before being tried but of the remaining 9 women and 2 men only one was acquitted. The other ten were executed by hanging.

The next section of my ride was across a stone slab path which was laid some time in the 1990’s by dropping the slabs with a helicopter. It’s not a comfortable ride and you definitely benefit from having both front and rear suspension. Suspension is usually more about improving a bike’s performance over rough ground but here it’s more about stopping the jarring discomfort of the sharp edged slabs. Looking at Great Hill, with it’s distinctive humped top, you’d swear it was the highest point on the ride but the trail undulates over Redmond’s and Spitler’s Edge where it reaches 1,288 feet. There are some breaks in the slab path including a couple of high speed, high thrill drops and the inevitable climbs which follow. One of the climbs is particularly savage. It’s not only because of the gradient but also the surface of pointed rocks, hard packed onto the ground. I almost stalled at one point but gave it 100% to keep going. Near the top of the rise I was nearly caught out again by loose stones and sand but having come so far I knuckled down to the job again. After a steep descent I joined the track which follows the embryonic river. This was the best, most exciting part of the whole ride. Ruts, rocks and drops are scattered over a wide trail. You have to chose a line and hope it’s the right one. My average speed on this downhill part was only 12.9 mph with a maximum of 19.9 mph but it feels like 10 times that speed on such challenging ground. My time today was 90th fastest out of 697 riders and 5th fastest in my age category. I had to slow towards the end for some rather deep mud. When I rode this section last winter it was virtually impossible to keep going in either direction. I rode up as well as down on that occasion.

Next came a fast gravel road where I averaged over 20 mph on the trail which rises as well as falls. Gravel bikes have become very popular in recent years but I don’t think such a bike would be suitable or safe here. There are a few rougher sections which you’d be unwise to take at full speed on narrow tyres and one little drop where you really need suspension to get you safely over rocks and ruts, scoured by rainwater. 2 gates break the flow before a steep drop into Lead Mines Valley. At the first I spoke to a rider of about my age. He was riding a hardtail and had come down the gravel, having joined it from another way, not the exciting one I’d chosen. 2 cows were blocking the stile so I encouraged them to move. I’m not exactly Dr Doolittle but I saw no reason to be spooked by 2 young females. Fortunately they obliged. The trail got steeper before another gate where a very steep downhill provides as much speed as you could ever want. I was concerned that there might have been walkers on the trail so I had a legitimate excuse to use the brakes and not let bravado win the day. Strava has me as 17th fastest of all time on this segment out of 852 riders. I can’t remember riding it so quickly previously but today was only my 3rd fastest time. I can see from the data that the app. started to time from before I climbed over the gate, including this length of time in my result. It’s a shame because I would surely have improved my position today, if that’s of any importance. This is an annoyance of Strava which often seems to make mistakes.

I was now close to the first reservoir which the river runs through and followed fairly close to the course of the river back home. There were some exciting sections of my ride but also some long parts where the riding wasn’t the best. I did, however, get some good training done in beautiful scenery and felt fulfilled at the end.

Please feel free to like my blog or leave a comment. Andrew.

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