The importance of planning a ride.

I always like to have a plan for every ride. I’m often flexible once I’m underway as I was on my last ride 3 days ago. I started with the idea to ride 3 laps of a circuit which I’d learned about from the app. Strava. Two other riders had competed to be the fastest around the trail to gain the King of the Mountains title. I set out with intention of getting the feel for the circuit to see if I could compete but during my first lap I decided to maintain a good pace for which I was rewarded with the KOM title. My second lap would have been even quicker but I added an extra loop which was horrendously muddy. I’d been unsure of the exact route and the extra distance, plus the effect of slowing down because I didn’t realise where the finish line was, cost me an extra 1 minute 30 seconds. Yesterday one of my competitors managed to beat my time though he did take a short cut which Strava didn’t register. He then had the audacity to encourage me to try to beat his new record. I heard the gauntlet land with a heavy thump but I didn’t pick it up. I don’t want to do a short ride where only the lap of little over 15 minutes was of relevance. It’s just too short for me but I know that if I rode multiple laps I’d stand much less chance of beating the new record. I decided instead to ride to my nearest significant hill, Healey Nab, to look at the work that has been done on the trails. It wasn’t really a plan. I’d simply ride there and look around.

I rode to the north end of the hill to then climb around 400 feet to the top. As I entered the woodland I saw 2 familiar faces, Scott, the main trail builder, and Kev, another well known trail builder who is trying to live off grid. This involves living in a trailer which he tows to trial building locations and stays as long as he can. An unconventional life but good luck to him. It transpires that the intention is not to revive the previous climb which was destroyed by the tree felling this year but to use a new route which skirts the disused quarry. I mentioned the possible conflict with walkers on the narrow track at busy times but they didn’t seem to think there’d be a problem. Admittedly this is the way I’ve been climbing since my previous way, which followed the tyre tracks left by forestry machinery, became too slippery after a lot of rain. Things are fine as long as riders always give way to walkers and are polite but on a timed run I’d hope that they jump out of my way! At the risk of offending everyone younger than myself I’d imagine that some riders, especially younger ones, might not be so willing to be subservient to those on foot.

I climbed by a straight and wide trail which then steepens and meets the path around the quarry. I noticed a few area where gravel has been laid to improve things and rode a descent where a little more work has been done to construct some new berms (bankings). The loose gravel needs to be compacted for grip and to stop it being thrown off the trail by, well, me for one! At speed I was sliding the tyres and appreciate that his will cause damage if the surface doesn’t harden up soon. I used the push up route to climb back to the top but couldn’t ride the whole way in the mud and had another run at a slightly different interpretation, after which I completed a lap back to Scott and Kev. After a further chat I found that I hadn’t used the intended start to the climb. I tried again, this time following the previous climb from before the tree felling, where some useful improvements have been made especially where it crosses muddy patches. I rode down by the way I’d climbed because despite being intended as a climb it’s the best descent on the hill. I’ll keep my rebellious riding in the wrong direction to myself (and my readers, I’ll have to trust you.)

It wasn’t the greatest of rides and I blame the fact that I didn’t have a true plan. Next time I’ll make sure I have a structured ride in my mind before I set off. I also feel slightly guilty that I have rarely helped with the trail building despite, as Strava informed me today, having ridden the descent more times in the last 90 days than any other rider. At least if I was accused of a crime I may be able to prove that I was riding Healey Nab at the time.

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