Back to my favourite downhill.

It was around a year ago that I pieced together a downhill mountain bike ride which is now my absolute favourite. In truth it begins at the top of Great Hill but today I had to abbreviate my ride so I didn’t ride right from the top of the hill. Instead I climbed Brinscall Woods and rode part way up the moor, stopping with 380 feet of potential climb still ahead of me. This still left me with the fabulous section of moorland single track and long, varied descent right down to the river. OK, after 5 days without a ride I could have done with something longer but later in the afternoon I’d booked my Covid 19 first vaccination.

I used the road route to the reservoirs on the north side of town and found the ground still had some damp patches and muddy puddles. I found later from the app. Strava that I’d ridden a road climb faster than I’d done previously. This was undoubtedly because I was riding my lightest bike in the form of the 2004 vintage Whyte PRST4. Light weight seems to no longer be a major demand of riders. The downhill sections of rides are now so much the focus that riders are prepared to haul 3kg of extra weight around, compared to the aged Whyte. I really don’t imagine that on today’s ride, riding alone, I would have had more fun on a new £5,000 full suspension bike than I would have on the Whyte. If memory serves I paid £165 for the frame, rear wheel, seat post and front and rear suspension units. I believe that I would also have been slower over the whole route, even if I’d had a small advantage on the downhills on the contemporary alternative. The climb up the Brinscall Woods fire road is a tough one but on the Whyte it was a little easier than it could have been. 2 Ebike riders were ahead of me on the climb of Edge Gate Lane but I caught them at the kissing gate before the gravel road up the moor. They were struggling to manoeuvre the second bike through the gate because it was too heavy to lift over. Admittedly they were much quicker once they set off again. The gravel road has been resurfaced so I could try a fast ascent and descent of the segment I targeted last year. I equalled my best ever time of 22 minutes 19 seconds but it’s a big undertaking to push yourself to the limit for this length of time. I’ll think about it. I reached the top of the downhill which, in today’s conditions, would take over 10 minutes of thrilling riding.

Gravel has washed from the dirt road onto the start of the descent.

The ride down isn’t massively bumpy but needs a bit more caution than on my 2 more modern bikes with their longer suspension travel. The feeling of speed is intoxicating, though, even if I may have been a few seconds slower. Into the woodland and I failed at the first rocky hump. I’d changed into too low a gear and didn’t maintain my momentum. The final long drop was superb even though it had some surprisingly muddy patches. Near the bottom I turned into a loamy right hander and the front wheel slid. Then it dug in, turning me further than I wanted to. The trick here is to go with the flow. If I’d turned out of the corner I would have fallen inwards and probably hit the ground. I just kept turning in until I got my balance back.

The radical PRST4 with a view out to the coast around 15 miles away.

I rode back over Healey Nab where my time of 1 minute 22 for the purpose built downhill was rather fast. The surface has become gravel strewn in places and could really do with a good sweep. It had been an excellent ride and as the spring progresses I’m confident things will get even better.

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