Muddy summer.

Those 2 words in my title sum up my experience since the beginning of June. Before that we had 3 of the driest months we’ve ever had. May was also the sunniest month on record in England but then something changed. It’s been a regular pattern in summer since around 2006. We get a good spell then later, when the weather should be at it’s hottest, we get the jet stream sitting across northern England giving wet and often cool weather. The mountain bike trails are fully soaked but I’m undeterred. If I chose a route carefully I can still get a good ride in. Sadly, after discovering some fabulous trails in Brinscall Woods just this year, I find them now to be hardly worth the trip because when they’re wet they don’t ride well at all. It’s hard to even stay on the trail as your wheels slither around in muddy ruts which had been high speed, on the limit corners a short time ago. Today I decided to go to Brinscall Woods but to ride a different downhill, which I’ve known for many years, in the hope that it would be less affected by the mud than the trails I’ve ridden recently.

I took my usual way to the woods along a mixture of road and trail, avoiding the difficult side of the river which I knew would be impossible to ride today. There were still some walkers along the way but not as many as I’ve usually seen since the Covid 19 lockdown. I climbed the gravel fire road, a short, steep tarmac stretch and the gravel track onto the moor for the start of a long downhill. I stopped to take some pictures and found I’d recorded 48 minutes but this did include some time to get the bike to the front of the house and set off. I mused that some riders are prepared to push their bikes for half an hour to then ride downhill for half as long as the route I was about to take. I’d already got some good fitness training in, including nearly 1,000 feet of climbing, which sounds like a much better deal than pushing a bike, to me.

The start of 8 minutes of downhill to the bottom of the woods. In the distance the hills give way to the Lancashire plain towards the Irish Sea. My home town of Chorley is at the boundary between the plain and the West Pennine Moors.
To the north west, in the distance, is Longridge fell. I’ve ridden there by bike about 25 years ago but believe that mountain bike trails have been developed since that time.

I started down the trail and crossed a deep puddle which I knew had rocks in the bottom so rode confidently. I soon reached a rut where I made the wrong choice and was thrown down on my side. Falling over like this rarely has consequences so I got up and carried on. The ground was slippery but still fun. I rode half way along the top edge of the woods having conquered the early, tricky, rock strewn section. Then I turned down a twisty downhill which I’ve ridden for several years. It was wet but still rideable. Some of the rutted corners were hard going and I kept it cautious. I crossed the fire road and took a rather pointless descent which then climbed back to the gravel. I then took a path to the left which joined another downhill which I discovered in the spring. It was seriously muddy and lead me to the bottom of the woodland. I again chose the easy side of the river and carried on to climb Healey Nab. Another rider was climbing in front of me so at the top I waited a short time in case he was slower than me. Typically, having looked at the app. Strava, I found that my time today was quick at 1 minute 21 seconds for the downhill section. With someone in front I find it impossible to ride without trying to catch them up. The trail was wet but it didn’t slow me with another rider to chase. I enjoyed my ride despite the wet, muddy ground. My choice of routes is limited in such conditions but today’s was a good and varied one. I still needed to pay the same attention to my body position on corners and make sure I was applying downward pressure on the handlebars to improve front wheel grip. The bike, pictured at the top of the page, may have got muddy but really, riding in mud has a lot in common with riding in the dry and needs very much the same skill set.

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