There are many factors which go towards making the perfect trail ride. For me, since I live in a great mountain biking area, it really needs to start from home. There’s no point in spending more time loading the bike into and out of a car and driving to the start of a ride and back than I’d spend actually riding. I often want a ride to last around 2 hours which on an almost exclusively off road trail will take me around 15 miles. Since we can get rain at any time of year in the north west of England I need to take the likely state of the ground into account. Some great dry weather trails can be dismal in the damp. On my last ride I almost had the perfect ride but stayed in the valley of Black Brook for too long until it became rocky and at times unrideable. This left me too far down the hill so I missed out on a fabulous section of downhill. So today I wanted to change things a little to see how close to perfection I could get it.
I used a mixture of road and off road to White Coppice then elected to ride the technical side of the river for added interest. In short I rolled to the ground twice, banging my elbow on a rock the second time. I think I was looking at a familiar, highly technical trail as if it was going to be easy. I wasn’t putting in the concentration and effort and paid the price. Twice. The remainder of the climb to the high point is easier but I knew I was finding it harder than on my last ride. I don’t know why I should have been lower on energy but I simply was. I reached the summit in 1 hour and 8 minutes then used a stone slab path for a rapid and exciting first descent.
Mountain biking is a unique sport. The climbs are often steep, adding further challenge with rocks and roots. Even a level section can offer technical difficulties with all kinds of obstacles trying to halt your progress. It’s when the trail turns downwards that is the highlight for most riders and this is where bravado meets fear in a bare knuckle fist fight.
I rediscovered the next segment on my last ride and must somehow have forgotten just how good it is previously. It’s a natural flow trail across the moor and, although it never seems to drop too steeply, it’s fabulously fast. I only allowed fear to gain the upper hand once, as far as I remember, and grabbed the brakes. Admittedly I could have got a lot more power in and more speed out for much of the way. Instead of continuing to the side of Black Brook as I had last time I’d used the superb resource of Google Earth to find an alternative. On the ground, though, I found something even better. A fork in the trail became little more than a lumpy sheep track but it got me straight to the ruins of Halliwell’s farm to descend for three quarters of a mile on gravel. This lead me to the sensational segment which I’d missed out on last time.
I battled along the top of Brinscall Woods, which always seems to want to slow you, and after hopping over 2 unrideable obstacles like a cyclocrosser, I rode my very favourite downhill descending to the river. I rode back to Healey Nab for a final climb and drop and followed an alternative, longer route down than I usually do. I’d thought of it whilst walking my dog earlier and it worked well. I used the old route from before last year’s tree felling and linked it to a section which was newly created just a few weeks ago. It takes you into the next section unaccustomedly quickly. This section has always seemed a bit too much for my older bikes with short travel suspension but at this speed it was too much for the 130/140 mm springing of the Boardman. This was the only point on the ride which gave the Boardman a problem. The rest had gone very well. I rode 15.91 miles in 2 hours and 8 minutes with 1,490 of ascent.
So was it the perfect trail ride? I honestly think that from home, with the current trail conditions, there was no way I could have had more fun.