With continuing dry weather I thought it was a good chance to ride my current favourite trail. From home to the top of Great Hill, which rises to 1,250 feet, and back via a long and fabulous downhill through Brinscall Woods is around 15.5 miles with almost 1,500 feet of ascent. Looking at the app. Strava it usually takes me around 2 hours to compete the ride. I rode the same route on my last ride but after several rides on a 29″ wheel Trek Fuel EX8 I made the change to my Boardman FS Pro, with 27.5″ wheels. The smaller wheels tend to feel the bumps more than the bigger ones so to redress the balance the suspension travel of the Boardman is 140mm front and 130mm rear, compared to the Trek with 120mm at each end. I was interested to see what differences I noticed after becoming rather familiar with the feel of the Trek.
I took my usual, mainly off road route to a series of reservoirs at the other side of town. There I decided to ride the trail overlooking the water with more effort than usual. I’m usually warming up at this point but had seen that if I improved my time just a little it would elevate me way up the list on Strava, so today I put some effort in. Shaving 4 seconds from my previous best time moved me from 48th to 34th out of 367 riders, so I’m now in the top 10%. In my age group, though, I’m now number 1!!! I could probably take 11 seconds off today’s time and get a Strava trophy for a top ten place but doubt I’ll make the effort on a segment requiring no skill, only pedalling.
Putting in the extra effort had a knock on effect. I kept going quicker than usual right up until the big climb, which is fairly unrelenting to the summit of Great Hill. The gradient and roughness of the trail change but to be honest I didn’t even notice the change of bike. I thought about it on the last, rocky part of the climb and, yes, the bigger wheeled bike is a fraction smoother, but it’s a very small difference. I do feel, though, that if I was buying a new mountain bike, it would be a small difference worth investing in. Now for the best part.
The wind had been against me on the open moor above the woods and became a cross wind as the trail turned eastwards. I started to wonder if the Boardman was wondering off line more than the Trek would have done but I’m sure it was just the wind catching me. Over a stile, then I took a little speed off over some savagely sharp rocks and took advantage of the tail wind on the smoother gravel which follows. Turning off the gravel and it’s around a minute of mountain bike bliss to enjoy. It twists and turns through an ever changing smorgasbord of loam, rocks and tussocks of vegetation. It’s not over yet, though. The second half gets even better. After riding along a challenging trail along the top of the woodland you get 3 to 4 minutes of exquisite downhill. There are open corners, tight single track, broken down stone walls and rideable tree trunks the whole way. So many chances to reach the limit of grip and nerve. It’s why I ride mountain bikes. At the bottom I stopped and took some photographs.
Arriving back at White Coppice I decided to try a quick segment to the tarmac at the other end of the undulating trail. I expected the gate, which usually takes time to climb over, would again be open. This is not the whole truth. I saw a rider ahead and having someone in front made me get the hammer down. He turned off before I caught him but I still recorded my fastest ever time on the segment placing me in the top 10% of all riders. Not bad with a slight headwind. I was not surprised to find that in my age category I only improved to the top 5% of riders, 6th out of 121. I climbed Healey Nab and rode a fast descent on the purpose built trails. The open section now is very slippery on a high speed, twisty section. It’s time to elevate caution above bravado until things dry up next spring.
Another fulfilling ride and interesting to find that the 2 different bikes ride a little differently but that the differences in performance would be difficult to measure.