Making an everyday ride more interesting.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with regular rides in the same area. I have a firm favourite trail but the shine might go off it if I ride nothing else. Today I decided instead of my favourite to ride Healey Nab but again this is somewhere I ride a lot. So much in fact that on the app. Strava I have become a Local Hero in several trails. I’ve said before that this only means you’ve ridden the trail more than anyone else, not that you rode it faster or better. I’ve seen comments, especially on Facebook MTB pages where a self appointed expert says that Healey Nab is hardly worth the visit because the trail is too short. I probably know the trails better than most and know 2 ways to make a small area far more interesting. Firstly I could repeat a circuit with the stopwatch running. This always adds spice to a ride as you strive to save a second or too on every scrap of trail. Braking a fraction later, daring to enter a corner a tiny bit faster or keeping that momentum going by putting more effort in where it counts.

Another way to add interest is to do what I did today and ride circuits of the hill choosing different climbs and descents. There are plenty of choices on this hill and admittedly they are not all equally good. I now know, after 30 years of painstaking research, that you mustn’t always chose the best route. This had led me to only knowing 2 really good descents in a particular area of woodland and always using one or the other. By taking the road less travelled, or in this case the road never travelled by me, I found an absolute delight, the fore mentioned favourite trail.

By using 3 climbs and 3 descents today I made a longer and varied ride in a familiar area which repeated very little of the trails. I planned it all out in my head before setting off and resolutely stuck to my plan. On the way round the trail I concentrated on technique. Making sure my body position was right, with by arms and legs flexed, my head over the steerer tube and keeping nice and loose. This way you keep a good balance of weight pressing down on each tyre’s contact patch to give the best chance of grip. Staying loose allows the bike to react to the trail and keep the weight pressing down as near constant as possible. Going heavy may increase grip whilst going light may reduce it so it’s best to keep it even. The exception to this is when a corner has differing level of grip as you progress around. Then you need to push your weight down when you need more grip on a slippery part. I was entering the corners low to the bike so when I needed more grip I could extend my arms and legs to push the bike against the surface for grip, dropping back on grippier parts.

I stopped here twice during my 3 laps. Once to take this picture and once to chat briefly to another rider of around my age, who’d also ridden 3 laps.

Recent rain has left the trails slippery and I slid several times. I enjoyed the ride and apart from my 2 brief stops kept the pace up for a good aerobic workout. I had a big slide on the way down the front of the hill on the way home. I was just about to apply the brakes to make a section safer but a muddy patch had me all over the place. I managed still to take some speed off so got through without a problem. On the way back I still felt fresh and thought I should have done an extra lap using an off piste, old school downhill which I’ve used a few times recently. When I got home the heavens opened so it was as well that I hadn’t done that extra lap.

Round and round in different circles. With a second fastest time by anyone on a segment. How did that happen?

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