The full Great Hill experience.

Great Hill might seem like a misnomer for a mound rising to just 1,250 feet above sea level but from some viewpoints it looks quite big. Also I was beginning my mountain bike ride from home at under 300 feet, dropping lower early in the ride. I’ve replaced the front mech. cable on the Trek which broke when I recently set a Strava fastest time ever on a local circuit which crowned me again as King of the Mountains. A small accolade when only myself and 2 other riders have ridden the circuit but I am in fierce completion for the title with “O”, who has taken the crown back since. Today I didn’t want a short but intense ride but a longer one for stamina training. The focus of this ride will always be the fabulous downhill segment from the summit, down to the woodland, then the river. My best time for this is 13 minutes and 48 seconds which was a single second faster than my previous best.

This morning I’d walked the dog and was ready to go. I used a mainly off road route to the village of White Coppice and found that the ground was still muddy in places. We’ve had plenty of dry weather recently and despite a sprinkling of rain last night I was still surprised that the ground wasn’t drier. I’m building and developing an experimental boat at the moment and it’s filling my head for much of the time. On my dog walk I was considering and calculating amplitudes, frequencies, speed and the resultant Strouhal number they would yield! Mountain biking is one of those things. As I rode along the boat never entered my thoughts. If I had any worries they wouldn’t have stood a chance. What a blessing it is to get dirty and sweaty on a bike. The Trek was going OK but I knew that the transmission was on its last legs. The gear change is sluggish and often needs a bit of help to select the correct ratio. I reached White Coppice and took the easy side of the river to Brinscall Woods.

The big climb then starts and I didn’t push the pace. I knew that when the gradient turned downwards it would be a different story. Higher up pedalling hard up a steep section, the chain skipped on a cog. This is something I’ve long known about and there’s only one thing it can mean. This would be the Trek’s last outing until the chain and sprockets were replaced. It’s amazing how you can ride for a long period without the chain skipping but after one skip that’s it. Yards later it happened again. I’d just have to keep the power down and fortunately I was approaching the summit.

A lovely day to be on top.
Winter Hill lies to the south and is a little higher at 1,498 feet.

I started down and put a big effort in, working hard even when the gradient was in my favour. There are several flatter section where it’s important to keep up the effort to maintain speed. After the first undulating curvy section is a rocky part with varying gradients and it’s all about speed. I was slightly cautious over some particularly sharp rocks which have punctured my tyres several times. The trail then becomes less steep but I pushed the pace and was loving it. I turned onto a section of moorland single track which is always a thrill. It was dry enough to corner hard and took me to the top of the woods. Next came a hard undulating section and I made it over the first rocky hump. It defeated me last time on a bike with 26” wheels but it’s much easier with the Trek’s 29”. The bigger wheels are a real sign of evolutionary progress this century.

The last long, twisty and varied part is the best of all. I was slithering on the turns but kept it upright. Along the bottom of the woods was still a bit too wet and I got stuck in muddy sumps 3 times, finishing in 16 minutes 24. Slower than my best but a big thrill non the less. I rode back over Healey Nab, the chain skipping more and more, to finish my 16 and a half miles and just over 1,400 feet of ascent. I was seriously tired after the big downhill. Not running out of energy and starting to run on fat or hit the wall but my legs were finished. It’s a good feeling, especially as I don’t seem to have ridden as much as I often do, due to the boat. There it is, back in my thoughts again.

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