Recently I’ve dug a pond by hand and paved around it. We had no access to use a mini digger and getting the heavy clay soil to a skip in the road meant using a wheelbarrow to cart it through the garage. Initially I thought the project wouldn’t affect my mountain biking since I expected it to only tire my upper body but how wrong I was. After a digging session it was my legs and back which felt it. One day, as I sat surveying my work after a dig I moved a leg an inch for it to cramp savagely. It could have been that I was not fully hydrated or lack the right electrolytes but whatever the explanation it didn’t bode well for bike riding. I hoped that I might build muscle through the course of the work but also knew that these efforts were nowhere near as aerobic as cycling, so realised that that aspect of my fitness may suffer.
I’ve continued to work on the pond until today but in the last few days the work has been much lighter. As soon as I set off today I knew I was feeling far fitter. I didn’t have that heavy legged fatigue which I’ve experienced so much recently. I rode to our local hill, Healey Nab, with it’s series of man made trails for some concentrated riding. I climbed the shortest, steepest way to the top and didn’t feel challenged by the ascent. For the first 2 laps of 4 I used the manmade red graded descent, combining it with differing climbs. Despite recent rain the ground was hard and fast. I reached the limit of grip in places, especially where gravel sits on the surface. On my third climb I looked at one of the old routes down which existed before the trails were built around 12 years ago and decided to use it next time. My choice wasn’t the roller coaster like progression of the purpose built ways and was all the better for it. Although the man made trails here are good by purpose built standards they lack the unpredictability of a natural option. I was challenged by some much tighter turns and slithery surfaces, the like of which can’t be incorporated into trails which hundreds of riders will use. The surface would last no time if too many riders went this way but as one of the very few who know these old routes, it’s a fantastic privilege to ride them again. Without berms I would often be extending a leg on corners, knowing that a controllable slide could happen at any time. I returned to the trailhead for another lap.
It was a great ride and on my way home I noticed that I’d used all the suspension travel, front and rear. I’ll increase the air pressure in the front fork since, over one jump in particular, I felt the fork bottom out as it reached it’s limit of travel. I also found that the cranks needed a tighten. A bit of maintenance before my next ride will do no harm.