After feeling very tired yesterday, which I’m sure was an after effect of my second Covid 19 vaccination, I felt fine today. I wasn’t sure that I’d have my normal energy levels during a mountain bike ride so I didn’t set any other target for my ride than to go to the top of Great Hill at 1,250 feet and do my current favourite downhill. It’s a scrumptious descent which I managed last year in 13 minutes and 48 seconds, beating my previous best by a single second. You can’t buy that kind of consistency! For our area with hills rising to a mere 1,500 feet this is a long drop of 746 feet. It isn’t all downhill but has no uphill sections rising more than a few feet. Two sections undulate and need you to keep the work up to achieve speed.
The whole ride was 16.08 miles climbing and falling 1,479 feet. Fortunately I need to use very little road on the ride so whilst conflicts with other traffic are unlikely I still expect to pass plenty of walkers in the countryside. The volume of foot traffic, on recent rides, hasn’t seemed as high as it’s often been during the Covid outbreak. I want people to enjoy the outdoors but it’s nice to be unimpeded! I used an undulating route to the village of White Coppice where I faced my first challenge in the form of a tough, technical trail with sharp inclines and drops. I wrote yesterday about how you ride on instinct as well as with cognitive thought and on one section I tested my shaky theory. I knew, after a recent failure where I didn’t get up a steep, rocky incline, that I needed to go slightly further to the right. I looked directly where I wanted my front wheel to go and just kept the power going. If I’d given it too much conscious thought I may have adjusted my line, perhaps causing me to stop, but I knew that this line works so I kept it going and it was soon behind me. The technical riding continues to the start of the big climb.
In the very dry conditions I was going at a good speed but didn’t push the pace too hard. I reached the top unsure how I was going to descend. I could take it relatively easy and wasn’t going to try to break any records. I set off enthusiastically. It is, after all, my favourite section of trail. It soon became apparent that my energy levels were good so I didn’t relax. Perhaps by not setting off too hard I paced the whole descent better than I have in the past. I slowed for walkers about 3 times but was soon back up to speed. I know the trail so well now that I can just split it up into smaller sections and launch into each one, knowing exactly what to expect. As you go down the quality seems to keep improving. I had to battle along the top edge of Brinscall Woods and was disappointed to fail at an early rocky feature. I aimed at it and pedalled hard, forgetting that you also need some thought to steer around the bigger rocks. It’s not all about instinct, you know.
On a later part I tried very hard to do it as quickly as I could and I set a new personal best, only 2 seconds behind the best ever at 1 minute 1 second, gaining me a Strava trophy for fourth fastest. I need to session this part to get the King of the Mountains accolade! After the final physical, rocky and rooty section I reached my finish line and moved my hand to stop my watch. Trying to brake at the same time was too much and my wheels slid down the river bank, dumping me on my side. I fumbled with the stopwatch for a second or so but still managed to record 13 minutes 30 seconds, my best by 18 seconds.
I knew I’d worked hard though I do have better knowledge of the trail than I did last year. I was still very pleased. I made 2 tiny mistakes which had caused me to panic brake because the vegetation in the woodland has grown up so quickly that it looks unfamiliar. I really don’t need to ride this trail any quicker than I have but don’t bother to tell me that next time I’m waiting at the top! This kind of exploit is so addictive. It’s all that matters and maybe even all that exists for 13 and a half exquisite minutes and I’m a complete junky for this kind of riding. I still had a climb and downhill over Healey Nab on my way home but I was rather spent after my efforts so far. Delicious.