Changing trails.

After the driest spring on record in England we’ve had a very wet period. The temperatures have dropped from nearly 30 Celsius a couple of weeks ago to only 13 Celcius (55 Fahrenheit) for this morning’s ride. It is also windy now but the good news is that this will help to dry the soaking wet trails. I thought I’d ride up Healey Nab, my nearest hill, to ride a few laps which is not only good fitness training but would also allow me to see how the recently restored trails are running in wet conditions. I rode along the bottom of the hill close to Black Brook, which drains the higher ground to the North East, in order to climb the north end of the hill. On a road section before the climb I was overtaken by a group of road riders as I gained speed from a standstill. Road bikes are way easier to ride on flat or descending roads but don’t have the same advantage on climbs. Tyre drag is undoubtedly less from the narrow, high pressure tyres but as the speed falls on climbs that advantage lessens. I was climbing at the same pace as they were until the gradient began to flatten. It’s amazing how having someone to follow affects my pace. Naturally I climbed the road slightly faster than I’ve managed before. I think my last fast climb here was when I rode my 24 year old Proflex bike, determined not to let it seem less capable than a modern bike. Cycling is definitely psychological as well as physical.

Back off road I climbed to the trails which circle the hill and found that the newly emerged climb to the top, which has been made by the tracks of forestry machines, was very slippery. I couldn’t keep it going on the steepest part and couldn’t release my foot quickly enough from the pedal to which it was clipped. I rolled on my side where, fortunately, it was damp rather than muddy. The rest of the way was easy enough to climb but I noticed that there were no tyre tracks the way I went. It seems everyone else is riding the narrow ribbon of trail around the old quarry. This may cause conflict with walkers in the future but I only saw riders today.

The view from the trail head towards Great Hill
Winter Hill has more than twice the height of Healey Nab and is the site of radio and TV transmitters.

I nodded to a couple of riders at the trail head at the summit and rode the top loop. Yet another of the spindly birch trees has fallen across the trail and will need removing. The red graded decent was OK until the newly made part which has not yet had it’s surface improved. It was semi liquid mud and I was going too fast. I somehow held on until I reached firmer ground. Improvements will be needed before the winter, or even in summer if we continue to get the rain! I rode 4 laps in total, taking a variety of climbs and downhills. On my final climb I tried desperately hard to get up the ascent where I’d fallen over on my first climb but still ground to a halt in the mud. I enjoyed my ride and it’s certainly good for fitness but I am longing for a return to dry conditions. I’ve learned something useful from my experiment to see how I recovered from short, hard efforts. I can now give it 100% for a short time , knowing that it’s the total amount of work I do that will exhaust me. It doesn’t seem to matter so much whether I do the work at a constant, more sedate pace, or with short, sharp bursts of energy. Of course if I do a lot of short bursts I’ll use my total energy sooner, so it may not be the best policy for a really long ride but today I only rode for around 90 minutes so didn’t reach my limit of stamina. I was happy to find that the open ground on the way down from the hill has already started to dry with a little sunshine and strong winds.

On the way back I followed Black Brook along much of it’s course and thought it would be a good ride to follow the stream from it’s source at Great Hill to the confluence with the river Yarrow. I’ll need things to dry up for that ride so I don’t think it will be my next outing.

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