It’s Monday and I haven’t ridden my mountain bike since Thursday. In the current muddy conditions I struggled to think of a ride which seemed exciting but I knew what to do. I’d do a harder training ride because I know that working hard on the bike is just about the best tool to motivate a rider. Although we have no closed season in northern England, where it’s not possible to ride, I equally have no targets to motivate me at this time of year. I don’t like to allow my fitness level to change much with the seasons so today it was time to train.
I’ve had some good rides doing multiple laps of fairly short circuits such as the one I did last Wednesday, where I did 3 at Birkacre. Today I chose Healey Nab with it’s steep and muddy climbs with a sinuous, purpose built downhill trail. I thought that 5 laps would give me a decent workout, using an old school climb from before the trails were built here. We had plenty of good riding back then, shared with walkers and the occasional horse rider and I knew from experience that I’d be able to ride the whole circuit without being defeated by slippery mud. The nearest we now have to an official climb was impossible to conquer last week and was likely to be worse today. I used a mixture of road and rather muddy trail to reach the north end of the hill where I was surprised to find a van parked on a flat area just off the trail. I started my first lap from this point.
The first climb was slow and slippery, becoming steeper on a grit and rock surface before a narrow track around the perimeter of a small, disused quarry. The trail then remains fairly level to the trail head but was quite tough with the muddy puddles and slimy tree roots. The red graded descent drains well and rode well with plenty of grip, except for a muddy section which has been fashioned since the tree felling this spring. I was making sure I kept the pace well controlled since I often find that I ride my first lap too quickly. I stopped at the end of the lap in 9 minutes 58 seconds to find that 2 of the trail maintenance crew were responsible for the van. I had a brief chat before riding another lap in 9 minutes 59 seconds. We talked again, me boasting of my consistency, before I started lap 3. I deliberately upped my effort because I’ve found several times that it’s easy to ride a slower third lap before then increasing the effort on lap 4. This time I achieved 9 minutes 39 seconds, which is a big improvement. During my third lap I was wondering if I’d bitten off more than I could chew with my plan for 5 laps but when I saw my lap time I certainly wanted to ride a fourth circuit. I felt myself breathing considerably harder on the climbs and made sure I maintained the pace where the surface, gradient and hence effort change. I dared to enter the corners as close to the limit of grip as I could and finished in a pleasing 9 minutes 46 seconds. I was now keenly motivated to complete a fifth lap and worked hard from the start. I made sure that I didn’t gravitate to the lowest gear where I could manage a higher gear. Spinning the pedals quickly but without much muscle is rarely conducive to speed. By keeping the work and concentration up to the end I finished in 9 minutes 35. My fastest lap by a small margin.
I could probably have improved my total time by starting slightly faster on the first 2 laps but this was not a race. It was a valuable training ride and I could tell I’d pushed myself on each of the 5 laps. The Trek Fuel EX8, with it’s 29″ wheels, coped well with the conditions. Since the transmission is already quite worn it seems like a sensible idea to keep riding this bike in the muddy season. I may have started the ride with little motivation but I was buzzing by the end. Working harder really worked.