Today I rode to an old favourite, Rivington Pike. It was a part of so many rides in the late 1990s but I just don’t seem to get there very often now. It’s in an area which is a real mountain biking hotspot so I could expect a quality ride but I also wanted to test my fitness level by trying a killer ascent which I managed without a foot down plenty of times between about 1998 and the last time I can remember conquering it in 2011. I know it was then because that was when I bought a new bike, a Voodoo Canzo, which had a 3X10 transmission. The lowest gear was so low that it felt like cheating compared to previous attempts with 3X8 system. Today I used my Boardman FS Pro with a modern 1X11 setup which doesn’t provide a gear as low as any of the other two so I didn’t expect things to be easy.
I used the road the whole way to the bottom of the big climb but kept the pace up and was about as fast as I’ve ever been according to the app. Strava. I don’t seem to be getting as much riding in as usual due to a couple of other projects but perhaps I even improved my fitness, particularly in terms of power, by digging my pond which often took me to the physical limit. I launched into the climb without hesitation and tried to conserve energy on the first rocky slope because next comes a very hard step up. I couldn’t keep the pedals turning so maybe I’m carrying more weight 10 years on. Perhaps the lack of a really low gear foiled me or I might simply not have the power to do it anymore. Whatever the reason I’d like to have a try on my Whyte JW4 which has that low gear. I took a picture of my first failure.
Some walkers made way for me on the next, smoother section and complemented me on my effort, not knowing that I’d already had to push for a few yards. I was pleasantly surprised that I managed this part and wasn’t gasping for breath. I was beaten again by another really steep part but with a lower gear you never know! The final series of rocky steps have continued to erode so may be harder than they were but I was glad to get that far without stopping again, only coming to a halt when I ran out of momentum on the approach to a big rock slab. I thought at first that I wouldn’t want another try but thinking about it later I fancied a go on a different bike.
I climbed towards the Pike and found the rough, rocky climb OK as long as I kept leaning my weight back, pulling on the handlebars. This helped to stop the front wheel from jarring and made progress much smoother. I took the hard way down. It starts with drops from rock slabs and continues with a series of runs scored into the surface. I had to keep the speed down for safety and accept that the danger is more than I now think of as fun. I’ll try an alternative next time.
After this it’s only a short distance of rocky road to a true Rivington classic, Wilderswood, my former favourite in the late 90s. I enjoyed it and timed it on my stopwatch from a standing start to a standing finish as I used to do back in the day. My 2 minute 24 seemed a little slow compared to my best from, I believe, 1998 of 2 minutes 1 second. I took a mixture of road and trail back home and looked at my ride on Strava. The app. had me 6 seconds quicker! Imagine if I took that 6 seconds from my best time then took another few seconds off to account for the shortcut which now exists. The fact is I’d be King of the Mountains on Strava by a decent margin but I’m not that rider now. I am more cautious and would never risk the kind of liberties I used to take in my efforts to get under 2 minutes back then. Imagine my smug satisfaction when Strava informed me that my time today was the fastest by anyone so far this year! I’m sure I could beat it but would rather not try because I want to be still doing this in another 23 years. I’ll still only be 82 then so it shouldn’t be a problem.