Today has been a beautiful autumn day. The colours are amazing, the weather was calm and mainly sunny. I was keen to ride the new love of my life, my son’s Trek Fuel EX8 29″ wheel full suspension bike, and take it on my favourite downhill from the top of Great Hill. Of course I had to reach the summit first and although it’s a pleasant, mainly off road ride, it doesn’t offer much in the way of excitement. The prospect of a long downhill, taking more than 15 minutes on most occasions, makes the climb well worth the effort. Of course I could add extra challenge and interest to the climb by timing parts, or the whole, of the route but having done a hard day’s work yesterday I climbed more steadily. I used the easier options several times because the ground is currently so wet in many places. After undulating terrain with no major climbs I rode alongside the Goit, a straightened river, to the start of the big climb. The Trek, which is a 2014 model, has a now unfashionable 3X10 gear system. The change to no front mech and a single chainring is fairly complete on higher end bikes. I used the smallest ring on the first steep section on the gravel road through Brinscall Woods and up Edge Gate Lane with its short section of tarmac. After a more gentle gravel climb the surface turns rougher and steeper so I was back on the small ring. This is one of the drawbacks of the new single chainring transmissions. They just don’t have the same, wide range of gears. The Trek has a range of around 570%, meaning that in the lowest gear you need to turn the pedals 5.7 times to go as far as 1 turn of the pedals gets you in the highest gear. My single ring 11 speed Boardman has a range of just 420%. New 12 speeds seem just about perfect, though, with a 500% range.
I took some pictures at the top and contemplated a potential big ride for next year. Pendle Hill seems close but is over 16 miles in a straight line. I’m working on the idea of a 100km ride taking in Great Hill, Darwen Hill, Pendle Hill and Longridge fell, in a circuit from home.
I certainly felt that the Trek 29er coped better with the bumpy ground of the climbs. It’s smoother than a bike with smaller wheels and seems easier to get over rocky obstacles. This excellent feel continues when the ground turns downwards. The first section is very exciting with several drop offs where I pulled back on the bars to make sure I didn’t nose dive as the bike fell through the air. After a stile is a still rough trail which smooths out later for a fast pedally section. Turning off the gravel the remainder of the drop is pure class. Slippery and requiring some caution I slithered to the top of the woodland. Failing over the first rocky challenge and slipping on tree roots and mud patches I reached the best part of all. There are dozens of corners of all kinds. Tight twists, rocky, muddy and fast. 3 drop offs in succession are rocky and need confidence and a bum behind the saddle stance. I managed to stay on the bike and turned left at the bottom to follow the Goit. Standing water and deep mud soon had me turning back to a river crossing to ride the opposite side of the water. I don’t imagine I’ll be able to ride the woodland side until next spring. I rode the 2 miles or so to Healey Nab for a rather fast descent of the red graded downhill in 1 minutes and 30 seconds. I was cautious down the fast, open field because of the lack of grip. It was a really good ride of 15.42 miles with 1,469 feet of ascent. I’ll try to ride on Sunday and will probably ride the 27.5″ wheel Boardman, for comparison, before the weather deteriorates on Monday.