After many wet days I didn’t think I’d enjoy an extremely muddy off road ride so I chose a road ride, today, instead. Fortunately the temperature was an easily tolerable 6 celcius and the sun has shone all morning. I was eager to get out after 5 days without a ride and thought it would be good to do some climbing in the local hills. I could also ride one of my classic mountain bikes since I wouldn’t be doing any muddy off roading. I don’t believe I’ve ridden my Whyte JW4 since my attempt at the 47 mile Mary Towneley Loop in September, though I have replaced the rear tyre which had split before I could finish. The choice of 26″ tyres is not what it was when 26″ wheels were the only viable size. I bought an inexpensive Kenda tyre which is a clear copy of the Panaracer Smoke from almost 30 years ago. It became the go to tyre back in the day and despite offering a lot of drag it’s still a grippy alternative. The Kenda undoubtedly has a less exotic rubber compound but for my intended use it suits the JW4 well enough.
I took the bike outside and jumped on board. I could immediately feel that the shock absorber at the rear had lost pressure. I rebuilt it a while ago because the damping oil was tired and no longer gave sufficient damping, causing the bike to wallow over bumps. Perhaps I should have replaced the air seals at the time but a loss of a small amount of pressure in 3 months is something that can easily be addressed with a shock pump. A few minutes later I was definitely ready to go. It immediately struck me that the distance from the seat to the handlebars on the JW4 is rather short. It never was a massive bike and also I’ve fitted a more modern, shorter handlebar stem. This gives a more direct feel to the steering and combined with the much wider than standard handlebars, gives the bike a more contemporary feel. I soon got used to the feel and didn’t think about it again. There’s little respite from the climbing as you gain 775 feet in 6.3 miles to the delightfully named Horden Stoops.
The drop to the village of Belmont is steep and allowed me to get my speed over 30 mph. I could have gone much faster but mountain bikes have to be able to climb very steep trails so don’t have particularly high gears. On my last ride using this route my other Whyte bike was out of it’s depth far more often since it has a lower top gear and a smaller range of gears. It has only one front chainring compared to the JW4s 3 chainrings. I reached a T junction at Belmont just as a road bike passed. At first I was catching him quickly but he started to speed up. After the first climb he’d pulled out a few yards on me and I accepted that road bikes are faster and easier on tarmac. On a flatter surface I was up behind him again and thought it prudent to pass. I was working hard and using a few tricks in the somewhat unfamiliar, to me at least, tarmac environment. I’d got the feel for the amount of pressure I should apply to the pedals whilst I was in pursuit. In too easy a gear it was easy to spin the pedals but not as fast. In a higher gear there’s more resistance in the pedals but it was easier to keep pace. After passing him and saying a cheery “good morning” I thought about my gear choice on the variable gradients. I also made sure I changed gear immediately at the transitions between various slopes. Despite working hard and thinking for a while that he’d dropped back I glanced round to see he was fairy close on the final part of the climb. I knew that I didn’t have a high enough gear for the downhills and fully expected to be passed in the 415 feet drop over 2.2 miles. When I reached a speed where I was spinning the pedals furiously but getting little power in I tucked until the pace slowed. I did this numerous times and never was overtaken before turning left at Abbey Village.
Despite not having a particular target in terms of time I kept the effort up which was it’s own reward. I was feeling it as I returned to Chorley and completed the ride in 1 hour 32 minutes. I’d climbed 1,581 feet in 18.6 miles. The app. Strava tells me that today was my slowest of 3 attempts at this route but since it times me getting the bike outside and setting off I don’t think it’s an accurate guide. My 3 tries have been very similar and I might have been slower due to wet ground or the slight breeze being in the wrong direction. I know, I’m going to blame a cheap replacement rear tyre.