I’ve heard the route from the top of Great Hill down to White Coppice described as one of the best downhills in Britain. I like it but wouldn’t rate it so highly. It’s only a few miles to the hill, though the climb takes some time. Back in the late 1990s I rode the hill regularly and managed the climb up in 20 minutes and 1 second. Last time I tried this I decided that it is now just too hard for me using the steepest, toughest route. Aging can’t be overcome except, perhaps,by continuing to enjoy life as much as ever. I’m certainly enjoying my mountain biking this year and have discovered and relearned some good trails. One in particular was the focus of today’s ride and for me is the best downhill in Lancashire, the county I’ve called home almost all my life. I’ll qualify my statement by saying that I only know a fraction of the downhills in Lancashire and I also have to admit that this trail needs the ground to be dry enough to bring out it’s best. In addition, some riders prefer man made trails with banked corners whereas I like natural terrain. We’ve had a few warm, sunny days so I hoped that the conditions would be good enough today. Last time I tried the route the ground was so wet that I struggled to keep the bike going in the direction I wanted.
I started my ride on a familiar mixture of some road but mainly off road the the tiny village of White Coppice. I chose the difficult, technical side of the goit, a straightened river, and got up the hardest step easily. I used no finesse but instead pedaled hard and kept the bike moving over the rocks. This technique would be tested again later in the ride. I climbed Brinscall Woods via the gravel fire road and had been thinking about how you need to feel some resistance in your muscles to ride quickly. If you’re spinning the pedals quickly but with little resistance it would be easy to convince yourself that you’re going fast. I proved my theory by doing the climb in 5 minutes and 3 seconds. That’s eleven seconds faster than my previous best. My method was to keep the bike in second gear, not drop it to the lowest, which I could feel in my legs, which ultimately gave me more speed. Maybe one day I’ll fully commit on this climb to see what I can do.
I rode a short stretch of tarmac then the gravel road up the moor towards Great Hill, turning right down to the top of the woods after a short time. This piece of varied single track begins the best downhill I know. I keep my feet firmly on the pedals here rather than dropping onto the seat and extending a leg on corners in a motocross style. I keep my legs and elbows flexed and absorb the undulations by allowing the bike to rise up and be pushed back down as the terrain rises and falls. This way the pressure on the tyres and thus the grip they deliver remains fairly constant as I twist and turn down the narrow track. If I stood up and remained stiff the bike would go heavy, putting pressure down through the tyres, on rises and go light, giving less grip as the ground fell in front of me. I rode along the top of the woods on an undulating trail to continue the excellent downhill. Early on, though is a tough, rocky step. I went at it hard and tried to keep the pedals turning but basically got tripped up by a rock. I probably needed more finesse and less brute force this time! The next long, downhill section, which took around 4 minutes today, has a bigger variety of corners, some of which need a different technique. On banked corners and narrow, single track I’m keeping my feet planted on the pedals but on this section I also have flat corners where you can go quickly enough to reach the limit of grip. Here I usually use the motocross style, dropping to the seat and extending my inside leg. I needed to paw the ground several times today as the wheels started to slide. Sometimes to ease the weight on the rear wheel to allow it to slide, scrubbing off speed to let the front wheel grip. Sometimes to stop the bike falling too far into the turn as the rear slid.
I enjoyed it so much that I rode this part again and took some pictures of the trail.
I rode back via our local hill, Healey Nab. The man made trails here are banked on every corner so I was keeping my feet on the pedals. It was a great ride, especially because it was drier than my recent rides. Lets hope the summer has more to offer before it’s over.