Riding the best, before the weather changes.

I’d decided to do some gardening yesterday (Sunday) so I didn’t ride, even though the weather was fabulous. We had crystal clear, blue skies except I noticed something interesting. Even though, due to Covid 19, air traffic is a fraction of the usual level a significant proportion of the sky, at certain times was obscured with the remnants of vapour trails. Everyone knows that vapour, usually in the form of clouds, acts just like a blanket and keeps us warm. A clear night at this time of year will bring temperatures down close to freezing but if the next night is cloudy temperatures will be quite a number of degrees higher. We’re being told to get rid of our cars and pay 3 times as much for supposedly green electricity to cut carbon dioxide emissions when CO2 is a mere trace gas in the atmosphere, yet it seems self evident that excess water vapour, condensing into a duvet of droplets, and constituting a significant proportion of the atmosphere is the real culprit. Today it was time to increase atmospheric CO2 by riding my mountain bike and breathing heavily!

Not clouds but dissipated jet trails. Keeping us warm?

With the weather due to deteriorate later in the week it was time to ride my favourite trail whilst it’s still dry. I’d ride to the top of Great Hill at around 1,250 and try to beat 15 minutes on the mainly downhill trail, with a couple of flatter sections. Last time I didn’t pursue this target especially hard but had to be a little disappointed with 15 minutes and 1 second. I didn’t know how motivated I’d be by the target so started the ride to the top, which usually takes around an hour. Fortunately I can ride the seven and a half miles almost all off road. It’s good to be away from the traffic but isn’t especially exiting. There is a technical segment which is a challenge to ride without a foot down or needing to stop after which the bulk of the climbing follows. Steeply on gravel through Brinscall Woods then a gentler gradient across the moor, still on gravel. Closer to the top it steepens and becomes rougher with a fairly tricky last section. I took some pictures from the top and it got me thinking about riding some of the more distant hills. They look close enough to link them together but on the map it seems like it would be a loop of around 100 km with some long road sections.

Darwen Hill with the Jubilee tower to the right is easy enough. Pendle Hill in the centre is further than it appears, but I’m thinking about it for next year.
Longridge Fell is barely visible in the mist and would be the last hill on a big ride.

I’d ridden to the top partly for the exercise but mainly because I fancied the long downhill. I started the exciting first part which twists around and at speed has some drop offs. I kept my weight back to encourage the bike to drop down level where the ground fell away. Quickly over the stile and I took a safer option after reaching an awkward drop last time. I was soon onto a straight section which has some savagely sharp rocks. I used the brakes a little and kept it sensible. Onto the gravel and I found my self pushing the pace. I had to slow a few times for groups of walkers but I wasn’t sparing the horses! The trail gets better and better as you progress, turning off the gravel onto a fabulous moorland single track. It’s fast and furious, needing maximum concentration and commitment. Over a second stile and along the top of the woods, beginning with a technical, rocky hump. I couldn’t keep it going and I’ll bet it cost me 10 seconds. There are 3 fallen trees which I leapt over like a cyclocross rider and on to the next long decent. There are so many corners, obstacles and an ever changing surface. I was really stoked at this point and pushed the pace as quickly as I could. This is the kind of terrain that I ride a mountain bike for. It’s totally absorbing and no other thought than the sinuous trail enters my head. At the bottom of the woods is another flatter section alongside the river to a bridge where I clicked my stopwatch. 14 minutes 34 seconds. My best, in perfect, dry conditions was 13 minutes 48 but I was very pleased with today’s time.

I really got a buzz from chasing a time and could feel that I’d put some effort in as I rode back over Healey Nab and on to home. The drop from the Nab is another high quality downhill and ends around half a mile from home. I may need to do a very different ride if we get a lot of rain over the coming days but I was thrilled to get a good one in today.

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