Spring can’t be far away.

It’s easy to enthuse about a winter ride. You can enjoy it for it’s good points but who are we kidding? Riding dry trails is far better. We seem to have had a wet winter after a strange summer. We barely saw a drop of rain in March, April and May then barely a dry day afterwards. We’ve had one of the coldest winters of my lifetime. This was presumably an “expected anomaly within a general pattern of warming”. No one has mentioned the start of the next ice age, which 40 years ago was considered overdue. Carbon dioxide won’t help us once the ice age starts because any scientist knows that it’s transparent to infrared radiation. Yes it causes scattering but that happens with 10 meters of the ground in an atmosphere of how many miles thick? I hope readers who are eco warriors realise I’m just having a bit of fun here. Until we return to stone age life it’s not like we can do much, anyway.

With such thoughts to ponder I set off on the Trek Fuel EX8 29″ wheel mountain bike, having fitted new inner and outer gear cables. It’s still not perfect but, a bit like global warming, it’s out of anyone’s control except God. The chain is worn so when the gear mech. tries to move it from one cog to another it bends, so prefers to stay where it is. I can’t change just the chain because it has worn in with the sprockets and a new chain would skip over the teeth when I applied any power. In the spring or summer I’m thinking of getting a new 12 speed Shimano transmission with just the one front chainring instead of three. The problem is that the bike itself is now starting to seem a little old fashioned. My son got it in 2015 but it was already a discontinued model. We couldn’t resist, though, because a £2,500 bike cost a discounted £1750. The main difference I notice is that, with a 345 mm bottom bracket (where the pedal cranks attach to the frame) you feel a long way from the ground. The 120 mm of suspension travel at each end now looks rather short so the bike doesn’t hunker down when you get onboard. Who am I kidding, though? It still rides well as long as you accept it’s place in the scheme of mountain bike development. A modern bike would be lower to the ground, often by a trivial sounding 20 mm, longer in the middle section so that a shorter handlebar stem can be used, for more direct steering. The angle of the steering head would be less steep, making it feel more stable at speed for a small loss in the speed of steering on the twistiest trails, which has already been dealt with by the shorter stem. Some bikes are now so low to the ground that the pedal cranks have to be shorter. This might not matter when the main focus of your riding is downhilling but if you want to get up the steepest stuff you really need as much torque as you can have. Torque is the turning effect produced by the force on the pedal multiplied by the length of the crank. Ergo the shorter the crank, the less torque unless you can somehow muster more force. My conclusion from all this is that I won’t really gain a measurable advantage from a new bike. Having said that, if money was no object I’d be looking for a new one, obviously.

My plan was to ride the superb trail at Brinscall Woods so I used an almost exclusively off road route. The ground was wet with mud of a few inches depth, in places. Mostly, though, it was firm enough and didn’t hold me back. I arrived at White Coppice and used the easier side of the Goit to reach the woods, continuing along the bottom of the woodland to use a steeper and more direct climb. I reached the top of the woods to first sample an excellent but short downhill which was good riding. It twists and turns with a fairly smooth surface which allows you to reach the limit of grip in reasonable safety. I’d been riding for around 45 minutes at this point but being off road it was pleasant enough.

Near the top of the mini downhill. In the distance, but not visible here, is Longridge Fell. This is the last of 3 big hills on a planned 100+ km ride for the summer.
The moors seem remote now but once had many small farms until around 100 years ago when the land was cleared to avoid animal waste from contaminating drinking water.

I then climbed to the top again and found the main focus of my efforts, a longer, very varied and exquisite trail which I only pieced together about a year ago. It’s complex and after the winter looks different so has needed some relearning. In places the line is barely visible in the leaf mould and I made 2 route finding mistakes. I decided that I’d lost the flow of it so returned to the halfway point where the trail crosses a fire road. This time I got the directions right and had a great descent, setting the fastest time so far this year on the app. Strava. In truth only 3 of us have ridden it this year but the others must also love it because our times were fairly close to each other.

I returned along the Goit to White Coppice and continued to the back of Healey Nab for a single descent on the purpose built red graded trail. I must say I tend to prefer natural trails like Brinscall Woods, in general. They offer more variety and unpredictability, changing more with weather conditions. It was a good ride and as the spring gets into it’s stride, things are bound to keep getting better.

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