Training for 2021.

In recent weeks I’ve only ridden twice a week. I don’t think I’ve been training myself well and probably not maintaining the same level of fitness I had last autumn. In many ways it doesn’t matter because I don’t have much to train for apart from 2 challenges which I’ve set for myself to achieve this year. I like to keep a similar level of fitness throughout the year, though, so I knew that today I should do a good training ride. The weather has warmed considerably now that the winds are coming from the south west, rather than the cold winds from continental Europe which we’ve had a lot of this winter. The forecast for yesterday was for heavy rain but it didn’t materialise. We had only a little drizzle and with a good breeze the ground has improved. It’s still damp but there isn’t much deep mud. I set off today to ride to the top of Great Hill at around 1,250 feet with the intention of assessing the conditions as I rode along, making any changes to my route which I might think necessary. I used an early off road option but then used a short road section with a decent climb in it to get me quickly to Brinscall Woods. In better weather I would have used a more off road way but knew it would have been too muddy today. I climbed the woods via the fire road because there were so many walkers along the river if I’d headed for the steeper climb. There were a few walkers in the woods too and this was the pattern throughout today’s ride. A year ago I would have expected to be almost alone. We’ve had a cultural change as a result of Covid 19. I’m not sure whether the increase in numbers is entirely due to more people walking or just that they are not going to the Lake District and other popular walking destinations because of the continuing lockdown. It’s to be welcomed in many ways since being outdoors is good for everyone’s physical and mental health but if I want to set a fast time I’ll need to find quieter times.

I passed a group of riders at the top of Edge Gate Lane before the long climb to the summit. This is in defiance of the lockdown rules but with rapidly falling infection rates I don’t blame riders and walkers for their choices. The climb was in good shape and I had no problems with water or mud. I did keep needing to ask walkers to let me pass as I climbed towards the top. At the summit I could see my 3 targets for my planned 100+ km ride which I’ve set as a target for 2021.

The tower on Darwen Hill will be my second hilltop of 4. Further to the left is the more distant Pendle Hill, which would be next before Longridge fell and a long road ride home.
I could add Winter Hill to my long ride, adding another 15 km or more.
The start of 18 minutes and 3 seconds of top quality downhill.

I’d been riding for about an hour at this point but it was certainly worth it for what was to come. I know of no other downhill in the area which is either as long or as thrilling to ride. After the rock slabs is a fast roller coaster with plenty of drop offs. Over a stile is a wider trail starting rocky and twisty followed by a straight descent with savagely sharp rocks where you need to dart from side to side to pick a smoother line. The next gravel road was so busy with walkers I had to slow numerous times. Fortunately when I turned off towards the woodland I was finally alone. After a muddy moorland section I went over another stile into the woods. The quality of the downhills keeps improving but first is a battle along the top edge of the trees beginning with a difficult climb over rocks. This part is hard enough in the summer but today, through determination and self belief I made it. I should admit that determination and self belief probably weren’t as important as the 29″ wheels on the Trek Fuel EX8. This is just the kind of section where the bigger wheels are a significant help because they roll more easily over anything in their path. I passed a family before the last long section with it’s myriad corners, logs, jumps and drop offs. It had been a great downhill which took many minutes longer than it would have done in dry weather but was hardly less entertaining for that. I crossed the river, rather than riding the remainder of the woodland trial because this section really needs to be drier than it was today.

I rode back to White Coppice and on to the back of Healey Nab for a final drop on the mountain bike trail. There were quite a few riders on the hill, some on Ebikes. I’d covered 16.26 miles with1,529 of climbing and could certainly feels the effect later on but kept a good pace up to the end. I’m determined to make my rides into better training opportunities as we progress towards spring.

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