High and dry.

After May being the sunniest month ever in England, June was not so good. 2 days into July and things haven’t improved. At least I’ve got mountain biking to cheer me up! I have to take weather conditions into account to plan a ride. Even if it had been sunny earlier today the ground is still shockingly wet. I decided to ride Great Hill to see if my theory, which I’ve expounded previously, held any water. My idea was that, since water can’t run uphill, it may be drier on higher ground than it is in the valleys. In the case of Great Hill the higher ground is accessed via a gravel road and later more rocky terrain, whereas lower down the hill I’d be riding through woodland which would undoubtedly be muddy. My theory about higher being drier would thus remain merely a hypothesis. With such a philosophical start to my day I could only hope the ride lived up to such haughty ambitions.

I rode to White Coppice and the open ground was wet but not too muddy. I then took the well made trail on the easy side of the river to Brinscall Woods. The climb up the woods is on a gravel fire road but I decided to try an alternative route from part way up which used some of my new favourite downhill. It was very deep in mud and I knew instinctively that the ride back down would be disappointing. I would need to think of a different descent and leave the best one until the woodland floor dries up again. I took the tarmac section to the gravel climb to the summit since I doubt I could have kept going using the off road way. The gravel road didn’t feel too bad since it seems to drain well. Later the rocky section went well and even a stretch of grass with some mud was all rideable. I stopped at the stile before the final part of the climb.

It was so misty that I could barley see the bronze age mound of Round Loaf with the naked eye.
Winter Hill was no better.

The last part of the climb was wet but with no wind was easy. On top I noticed a vague trail which I’ve never noticed this last 30 years! Maybe I’ve been contemplating the excitement of the usual drop towards the west too much to even look at this thin line through the low vegetation to the south west. I had to follow it and found it to be like a trail left by sheep. There were, however, some mountain bike tyre tracks which can only have been left today, after last night’s rain. I went a short distance then turned around. I didn’t want to end in the middle of nowhere with today’s drizzle but will definitely follow the twisting, narrow track with drop offs which I found. From the top I took the excellent section down to the stile then carried on twisting through the rocks and ruts before the straight part with its savagely sharp rocks. I knew that the times today were unimportant. I was never going to impress in such conditions. I slowed to thank a couple who’d move right to the side of the track to let me pass.

I’d been finding that my gears were not changing crisply on my last couple of rides but today it seemed worse. I pulled to the side of the gravel to investigate. I’d been screwing the handlebar adjuster in and out but couldn’t find the right compromise. I wiggle the gear change mech. but it felt fine. Checking it was tight would do no harm so I took out a tool only to find that it was loose on its bracket. After a final twiddle of the adjuster things were much better. I’ll replace the inner cable before my next ride to ensure things are perfect. Cables need to be regularly change because they become sticky especially in wet conditions.

I could see Healey Nab in a patch of hazy sunshine so headed towards it. I’d started to feel chilly during my brief stop. I took the fantastic short cut towards the top of the woods and braked early for a corner. The ground was so slippery that I really struggled to get the speed down and nearly overshot the curve. It’s become very rutted in recent times and needs a more cautious approach. When I climbed over the stile into the woodland I decided that it wouldn’t be worth riding along the top for my favourite downhill so instead I took the path straight ahead of me. It was steep and wet yet still entertaining. It took me to about two thirds of the way down the fire road which I took to the bottom. I returned via Healey Nab and tried to be cautious. Plenty of other riders were on the hill. The unimproved part of the downhill which was remade after the tree felling was especially muddy. The open, high speed descent towards town was rather frightening and I was glad I’d taken plenty of speed off before the hardest part.

It was a good choice of route in the current wet weather. Unfortunately the near future hardly looks like summer weather.

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