Returning to Great Hill.

I’d hoped to ride Great Hill, which rises to around 1,250 feet above sea level, on my last two rides but had to change my plan for various reasons. Today I had plenty of time and the weather was dry, though I knew the ground wouldn’t be so good, especially under the trees. I checked my bike over for any loose fasteners and set the tyre pressures to 25 psi, front and 27 psi, rear, before setting off. I took a mixed but mainly off road route to White Coppice and found that in the open there was only the odd muddy patch. From there I chose the easier side of the river to Brinscall Woods, fearing that the more technical side would be very wet in places. I climbed the fire road up the woods and found later from the app. Strava that I climbed quicker then ever before! The ground was slightly damp and I wasn’t making any special effort but I managed to go faster by just a couple of seconds than previously. I looked at my time compared to all other riders and found that my time was in the 21st percentile. In my age group (55-64) I was in the 16th percentile, showing that getting older is little hindrance to performance, or do we just get more determined as we get older? I hope that today’s time is a sign that I’m at least maintaining my level of fitness. Because of the Covid 19 crisis I was unable to try my target for the year of riding the 47 mile Mary Towneley Loop with it’s 6,500 feet of climbing in April. I’ve now penciled it in for the end of August when my son, who’ll be visiting us then, has promised to take me to the start by car and retrieve me 6 hours or so later. I’ll try to get a couple of longer rides in before then to make sure my stamina is up to it.

I climbed the short section of tarmac rather than the steep, rooty, off road way, again because of the potential for mud. Then it’s onto the open moor, where trees stand little chance of establishing themselves because of the sheep which graze the hillsides. Although my total time to the top of the hill was nothing special I found that I was rather quick on some of the segments, according to Strava, which was being my friend for a change. It can be very annoying in several ways. One is when it doesn’t acknowledge that you’ve ridden a segment where you made a particular effort. Another annoyance is when it keeps recording the time when you know you’ve finished a segment and stopped. Still, in general it’s a big assistance to training and very gratifying when you find yourself as one of the fastest, even if it’s just in your age category. I made sure that I rode from the start after the stile before the summit and conquered the tricky step up. It was more a case of planning the right line rather than some act of athletic heroism, but at least I made it!

With the naked eye I could see the hills of North Wales today. The stone cross is a useful wind break for walkers to take shelter behind.

Strava informed me that I’d taken an hour to leave home and climb to the top. I now had the prospect of one of the longest downhills in the area. It has some flatter sections and my fastest time since I’ve ridden this route, which I’ve only pieced together this year, is 13 minutes 48 seconds. I knew the woods lower down would be wet so I wasn’t expecting such a quick time today and didn’t start my stopwatch as I started down. Strava told me after my ride that I took around 5 minutes longer than my best time today. On the open hillside progress was swift enough and even when I turned off the gravel later I was enjoying the speed. I braked well in advance of one corner which has a lot of surprisingly round rocks on the surface. Add in some muddy ruts and it’s important to stay in control. I’ve so nearly overshot the corner several times this year by allowing bravado to take over! Over a stile and into the woods and I failed on the early rocky climb. I just ground to a halt and couldn’t get going again. After that is a longer flat section along the top edge of the woodland before riding a soil ramp over a fallen tree which marks the start of one of the best downhill runs I know. Unfortunately today it was just too wet. I was getting sudden unpredictable slides and my wheel struggled to find their way through some muddy ruts. I could tell from the tyre tracks that plenty of riders have used the trail but I’ll leave it until we get a longer dry spell. It was entertaining enough but not a shadow of it’s former self in our 3 months of virtually uninterrupted dry weather we had from the start of March.

At least I’d had a chance to check my cornering technique. I’d watched a video this morning where a woman was being instructed in better cornering method. The video mainly concentrated on dropping the outside foot on flat, rather than banked corners. You then need to push the handlebars downward into the corner rather than leaning your whole upper body with the bike. I noticed that the woman’s riding position also needed some improvement. She should have had far more bend in her legs and elbows and kept her upper body much closer to horizontal rather than sat upright. This would have brought her head forwards over the steering and, with more weight on the front wheel, improved her front wheel grip. It was part one of a two part video so perhaps I can find part two to see if she gets taught any of this! I could feel my own weight pressing down through my hands and because I’ve practiced my riding such a lot I get a good balance of front and rear wheel grip. I rode back over Healey Nab and before climbing the hill was asked by two guys who’d arrived by car which way it was to the trails. They had very basic bikes and only one was equipped with a helmet. I’m not the mountain bike police so said nothing. I suggested they follow me to the top but they were very slow so with the top in site I pointed them in the right direction and went ahead. The trail, which is now almost all in the open after this year’s tree felling, was almost perfectly dry so I did a quick descent. I’d been worried about the final drop across the open field but that too was nicely dried up.

It was an enjoyable ride but what should have been the best part, down through Brinscall Woods, was still too wet. I covered 15.47 miles with 1,378 feet of ascent.

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