A window in the weather.

Yesterday was a rainy day. The forecast suggested light rain all day but when I was walking the dog the sun came out. It was a good opportunity, with a window in the weather, to get a mountain bike ride in. We’re doing a big garden project so I thought a fairly short ride would be appropriate. 3 laps of Healey Nab’s purpose built trails would give me a chance to concentrate on cornering technique in the inevitably damp conditions. I used a mainly off road route to the north side of the hill and rode the red graded climb to the top. There were a few other riders of various ages but I noticed later that they all preferred to push to the top rather than riding the circuit, which isn’t particularly tough.

Despite having 5 bikes I currently only have 2 useable so I again rode the classic Whyte PRST4.

I see riding a circuit as a good chance to get some exercise, which is surely one of the main reasons to cycle. The downhill side of mountain biking is the focus, it seems, for so many riders and bikes are being adapted for this. Weight is increasing and wider tyres are used for more grip, which inevitably means more drag. The Whyte is from a different era and was built as a fast trail bike to get you around the whole circuit as quick as possible. I used the red graded downhill on each of my 3 laps but on the second lap I took a shorter, steeper climb. It’s quicker and needs more power and less spinning from the legs. The tyres are narrow at 2.1 inches and need to be kept at higher pressures than modern 2.4 to 2.6” tyres. Bigger wheels of 27.5 or 29” rather than old school 26” give a much bigger air volume so you don’t need high pressures to protect the rims from rock strikes. You get massively more grip in wet conditions because you have far more knobbles to hook into the surface. On dry ground the difference is not so pronounced but in these conditions I was sliding around. I concentrated on my body position, making sure I was keeping enough downward pressure on the handlebars to improve front wheel grip and balance it with the rear.

I enjoy riding my older bikes and the relative lack of grip doesn’t matter, since I’m not in a race. I hope to use the Whyte to do a lap of a circuit where I’m competing with “O”, a rival who I’ve never met. He currently has the Strava King of the Mountains title and I believe that around the not too tough cross country loop I will be faster on the older bike. On Wednesday I’ve been promised the return of my 27.5” wheels for my Boardman, with new bearings fitted, so will be keen to get out on that bike.

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