I try to get out on my mountain bike at least twice a week and preferably three times. This will always need me to wash my riding gear. This doesn’t involve going down to the river and beating it against a rock. It’s more like putting it in the machine and pressing start but my wife talks like it’s the former. At this time of year the bike will not only need cleaning and lubricating but in addition, riding it through gritty mud will cause wear on the components. Today I rode my Boradman FS Pro which is now 4 years old and has had the suspension bushes replaced, the transmission replaced twice and a rebuilt shock absorber. The brake pads have needed replacing several time along with the tyres. OK, so a longer ride will entail more wear than a shorter one but I’m sure that the number of times you ride is almost as important as the distance you ride in total. It therefore makes economic sense to ride for a little longer. The health benefits are obvious but what if you are tempted to beat a time on a short route? You’ll get muddy and age the bike without spending as much time enjoying the ride so it may not be worth rising to the challenge. I gave today’s ride a lot of thought, considering the poor conditions after so much recent rain and trying to decide where would offer the best chance of a fulfilling adventure. I decided to ride a short distance to Birkacre which has some good but short off road circuits. Recently I discovered, through the app. Strava, a circuit of around 2.5 miles with a time for a lap which could challenge me. I beat the best time at my first attempt but this has subsequently been beaten by an impressive 2 minutes. I don’t want to go out just to ride a single short lap and exhaust myself, so I have determined not to try to beat the current lap record even though I’ve received a message through Strava from the new record holder, throwing down the gauntlet. The cheek of it!
Today I set off from home with the intention of riding a lap of the circuit in question, taking the obvious short cut that the current record holder had used, just to see how it affected my time. I’d then do some more riding on some of the excellent and reasonably weatherproof trails. I hadn’t intended to ride quickly and began with the first off road section I could find, a steep ascent on a muddy woodland floor. It cuts a corner to Eaves Green, which is an area of housing developed since the 1980s. Building recommenced after a long break and I really can’t remember how long ago that was. It now looks as if all the houses are finished but work is continuing on the roads and general environment. I started a lap but forgot to start my stopwatch. Strava would record my time as long as I didn’t stray too far off track. I wasn’t trying to maximise my speed on the gentle descent of Burgh Lane, which becomes rougher half way down. After the first right hand turn I tried to pick the line of least resistance across the deeper mud. Next comes a section of more open ground and I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a few risks. Sliding into the gunge and ending up covered in mud was the worst case but I kept it upright and continued to the first climb. I took the shorter route and headed to the manmade downhills. I enjoyed the twists and turns but didn’t go crazy, my progress disrupted by a fallen tree which has still not been cleared. I kept the pace up on the second climb but didn’t get anywhere near the limit.
When I downloaded my Strava information back at home I unearthed a problem. My previous King of the Mountains time for the fastest time by any rider had been beaten by exactly 2 minutes but I’d now reduced my time by 71 seconds. Another 50 seconds faster and I’d be back as King of a tiny kingdom. I’d like that but do I really want to do such a short ride? If I leave it until the condition of the trails have improved it won’t really count because the circuit will obviously be faster. I’m in a dilemma of someone else’s making.
I rode a second lap at a slower pace and this time took the correct, longer way rather than the shortcut. Due to a little creative route finding, to save time later, Strava has refused to recognise my lap as legitimate but I’m unconcerned. I was just testing the limits. At the end of the lap I continued through Eaves Green, thinking I’d ride back down to Birkacre then decided instead to see if the house building had destroyed some old trails. We used to use a section across open ground which then offered a choice of several woodland routes. Before the last houses were built a notice had appeared claiming that the area was private and that access would constitute trespass. The rebel in me hates such bullying. I’d had access for over 20 years and felt I had a natural right. Fortunately the trail has remained just as it was and just as accessible and the notices have disappeared. Today was very muddy but in drier weather I’ll be back for a great downhill section. I enjoyed my ride but I’m rather niggled. I don’t want to waste time on too short a ride, but……