Mud Fest.

The rain has been shocking this week. It’s prevented me from riding for 5 days and since my last ride was a road ride it’s been 9 days since I’ve ridden on the dirt. I considered another road ride today since I knew the trails would be exceedingly muddy but I’d watched a Youtube video. It involved riders on a trailpark single track having fun in deep mud and convinced me that I should try to do the same. Healey Nab is almost always rideable so was the obvious choice. I took a longer route to climb from the southern end with it’s gravel road climb in the expectation that it would be less muddy than any of the alternatives. I put some effort in from early in the ride, knowing it was likely to be a short one and, according to the app. Strava, achieved 2 personal records and one second best on 2 road sections and the gravel climb. After that the mud started in earnest so I wouldn’t have expected and more accolades. At the top I stopped briefly and could see a shower rolling in from the west. Fortunately it was a short lived affair.

Rain approaches quickly. In the middle of the picture you can see the arrows for red or black graded descents.

From the trail head I took the red graded descent which had a few puddles but was riding OK. Later a newly built section, which appeared this year after the trees were cut down, has no grit surface. The mud and clay had me completely out of control. All I could do was to keep the bike pointing vaguely in the right direction and go with the flow. I survived and found the remainder of the trail has picked up some mud on the usually grippy surface. The coronavirus is having a continued effect on the trail. Previously regular work has been undertaken to keep the surface clean but now nothing can be done. I climbed using the old, steep route because much of the longer climb, which has emerged since the tree felling, is unsurfaced and would surely be impossible to ride. I rode the top loop and found later that this effort had made me a “Local Legend”! This is a new feature of Strava but really is nothing to get excited about. I’ve noticed that I’ve gained the laurels on several segments recently and all it means is that you’ve ridden the segment more than anyone else, not that you’ve ridden it better in any way.

I rode a second lap but this time chose one of the black graded sections to avoid the very slippery part which I’d encountered earlier. There were several other riders on the hill today, most of them standing around talking. So much for our current restrictions where you may not meet those from other household, even outdoors. I have to say that I see no harm in riders meeting, as long as they don’t get too close to each other what harm can come? I’m finding quite a few of my friends are now finding ways to get round or just plain ignore the new rules. Including socialising in other local area where the rules are less restrictive. I’ll try not to get drawn in!

Before my third descent I saw 2 riders leaving the trail head and going in the direction I’d decided to ride. I thought it would be good to ride an old trail from before the purpose built tracks were constructed. I could see a trail leading off to the left and downhill which didn’t look familiar. When I rode towards it I found the same 2 riders had returned to the unfamiliar trail. I looked down it and realised that the lack of trees had confused me. It was one of the unofficial trails which have been constructed on the hill and I remember it being steep and would expect it to be muddy. Apparently this was the trail the 2 riders had come here to ride, for the first time in 18 months. I’ll wait until the ground is drier to try it so rode my old school descent. In todays conditions it was a good choice and is still a quality single track around the top of a disused quarry. This is followed by some open and fast corners with surfaces of rock and mud. A new corner has been made since the tree felling. It’s very fast and wide and I really need to practice it several times to get my speed up. The track turns down more steeply before the corner so I don’t yet know whether I need to do the braking before the steep slope or afterwards with the probability that I’ll ride further on the flat, open area. Who knew that mountain biking was such an intellectual challenge? The only solution to the conundrum will be to time the segment and see which way is quickest.

After the woodland I rode carefully down the open descent towards town. It was impossibly slippery and not worth the risk of gaining too much speed. I enjoyed the mud well enough but hope that things dry up since I know from experience that the riding will be better.

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