Falling off 3 times in 1 ride.

I don’t often fall off my mountain bike but today it happened 3 times. I wasn’t hurt by any of the falls, each being a trivial affair but because of the number of incidents I thought it worth mentioning. Occasionally I’ll have a little roll on the ground but not mention it in my blog because it will likely be a stumble at low speed when I’ve run into an obstacle like a stump or tussock of vegetation. Sometimes I’ll be trying to ride a hard technical section and not be able to keep going but because I’m so committed I have no chance to bail out in time and end up on the floor. I didn’t spend long planning my ride today and chose to ride my nearest hill, Healey Nab, which rises to 680 feet. I thought that I could ride some of the much less used trails rather than just concentrating on the man made mountain bike specific ones.

I rode to the hill and climbed by the nearest route which would later make a good and fast downhill. There are no overhanging trees so after a little bit of drier, sunnier weather over the last few days the ground was damp but not muddy. I climbed into the woodland which tops the hill. The larch trees were diseased and had to be cut down this year but lower down the trees were mainly deciduous and so remain. I climbed a steep slope which joins the mountain bike trails and on the last and steepest part my rear wheel spun. I use pedals to which my shoes clip and I struggled to get a foot out. The bike reared up and with the back brake jammed on I rolled backwards onto the ground. The bike looped backwards over my head as I rolled and finished behind me down the slope. I wasn’t in any way injured so carried on climbing to the top of the hill. I rode the back loop which descends gently then left the woodland and used an obscure but rather good trail which drops steeply on twisting and broken ground. I’ll have to ride it more often, especially when the ground is drier and I can allow the speed to build up a little more. I then climbed up, taking a left turn towards a patch of pine wood which has an interesting single track descent back down.

Single track was to be the focus of today’s ride. It describes a trail which is narrow where you have little option but to follow it’s turns. You can do little to change your line in an attempt to straighten the trail.

From the far side of the small wood an initially straight track exits the trees and twists around. An early rocky hump was best taken at speed to avoid it overbalancing you. After a few more twist like the ones in the picture the trail drops a little and the speed builds quickly but you can’t see far ahead. I had 3 tries in total to learn the trail and improve my speed but the real action happened on my first run. I was taking it easy to better learn the trail but as I rounded a small tree it seemed sensible to cut straight across some rough grass. My front wheel dropped into a dip and I went straight over the front, rolling forwards on the ground. Again no harm was done but I do have the imprint of a handlebar end on my left leg. It’s better not to stick an arm out in an attempt to break your fall, you could break a collar bone. I just kept hold of the handlebars and rolled.

I use the same technique on single track as I do on banked corners. I keep my feet on the pedals and lean the bike, keeping my upper body fairly upright. It’s only on flat corners with no banking and a higher chance of sliding that I stick my inside foot out, motocross style, in case the wheels slide and the bike starts to fall into the turn. A foot tapping the ground turns a front wheel slide into an easy to handle rear wheel slide. On single track and banked corners I trust the grip whilst keeping my feet on the pedals. After my 3 descents and a little more exploration of some trial which ran across my descent I rode the new version of the red graded downhill twice. I kept my feet planted on the pedals and found that the bike felt in much better control on the couple of flatter corners where I’ve often stuck a foot out. I just need to trust that there’s enough grip to avoid slides.

On my climb back to the top after my first downhill I slipped on a tree root which crosses the top of a steep climb. I should have lifted the front wheel over but I hadn’t expected it to be so slippy and my wheel jinked sideways. Once again I rolled on the ground, again without injury. After the climb I rode down the woodland trail again and then the open, faster downhill towards town. What I learned today was not how to fall off 3 times without injury. It was that keeping my feet on the pedals all the way down the red route was better than unbalancing myself by sticking a foot out, even on the more gritty corners.

The view towards Winter Hill from the single track downhill I was practicing on is very rural. An old farmhouse has been converted into a lovely place to live and to the right is a farm still in use.

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