Preparing for the big one.

I’m hoping to ride the Mary Towneley Loop a week on Friday. It’s a 47 mile circuit with 6,500 feet of climbing and is almost all off road. Before then my wife and I are visiting our son 270 miles away in Sussex where I might get a ride in. I’ll return next Monday, six days hence, and hope to ride Tuesday then have 2 full days rest before the big one. Unfortunately I’ll have to do a day’s gardening on the Thursday because I’ve said I’ll work every Thursday until the grass stops growing in October. This heavy work isn’t the best thing the day before a big ride but I have no alternative. I’ll mow slower!

Today I had the chance of a ride before we leave for the south but last night the rain was biblical. Off road didn’t seem like a good idea so I chose a mainly road run with some hill climbing and a few snippets of off road to add interest. I have no idea what the best approach is before a big ride, which will probably take between 6 and 7 hours. Hopefully the training is done and I feel fitter than I have for 5 years or more. I’m just hoping to keep my body ready for the ride and don’t want to start the day feeling as if I’m still recovering from previous efforts.

I’ve chosen to ride a classic mountain bike on the day for several reasons. One is nostalgia for a type of bike I owned from 2005 when I bought a new yet already discontinued bike from the 2004 Whyte range. There’s also the fact that this bike was made at a time when cross country performance was a much bigger influence on bike design. It weighs a good few pounds lighter than my more modern trail bike, the Boardman FS Pro, and has narrower 26″ tyres which might give lower rolling resistance. The suspension was designed by one of the greats of mountain bike design, Jon Whyte. The rear suspension has a virtual pivot point design, which was years ahead of it’s time and now features on a lot of high end bikes. The front is a unique linkage system which intuitively controls the bugbear of front suspension, pedal induced bob. Any compression of the suspension caused by pedaling wastes energy which could be used to propel you forwards. The energy ends up as heat in the spring and damper system. The linkage front end differentiates between forces hitting the front wheel, where you want unimpeded compression and forces pumping the handlebars down, where you want the suspension to resist compression. If I ruled the world it would have been the telescopic fork which was consigned to history! Finally I often use Retrobikes forum and want to be able to post that I’ve done my biggest ride in years on a classic. I thought I’d take it out today for possibly it’s last ride before the day.

The Whyte JW4 with Healey Nab in the background, today.

I knew I’d only ride for around an hour today so set off quickly, setting a good number of my fastest or nearly fastest times according to the app. Strava. After taking the picture above I dropped to cross the road over the dam between two reservoirs to find that last night’s rain had left a flood. The pavement is set slightly above the road on each side so I rode along it and didn’t get my shoes wet. It was only about 5″ deep at the deepest point but looked dramatic as cars passed through.

A young guy was walking towards the dam in wellingtons and I assured him that it wouldn’t come over the top though we both nearly got soaked by one car which came through the flood quickly and caused a tidal wave. I set off again, taking an off road route after the dam, which climbs then drops. I then used a very steep road climb before a long, fast downhill to the back of Healey Nab. I rode to the top and found that the descent was still firm, as was the open downhill from the woodland to the bottom.

I think I’m as ready as I could be for the Mary Towneley Loop and hope for a dry day. Any advice on final preparations for my epic would be much appreciated.

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