My recent rides have involved a lot of climbing. In a week of 3 rides I climbed a total of 6,104 feet according to the app. Strava. I have a plan to do a big ride as a challenge for this year which should push me to the limit of my fitness and ability. Having studied my first idea for the big ride in more detail I’ve uncovered some flaws in the ride and so have changed my route completely. I’ll write a separate post about this and, actually, I’m getting rather excited about my new idea. It may have been possible to do the ride this weekend but the weather is not looking favourable so it will probably get pushed back by a week or more. Regardless I decided to try a ride with much less climbing, today. In fact in my 22.03 miles I climbed a mere 101 feet which was mainly the descent and return to the Leeds/Liverpool canal.
I set off with the idea of doing a fartlek (speed play) ride. I’d ride quickly along some parts, perhaps between 2 bridges or other markers, and relaxing the pace at other times. I rode towards the marina at Adlington but felt little inclination to vary my pace, instead maintaining a good speed the whole way. As I approached the marina I had a dangerous thought! Why not ride to the flight of locks above Wigan then turn back northwards, riding to the next flight of locks at Johnson’s Hillock, north of Chorley by a little over 3 miles. The canal runs through some delightful countryside, often some distance from the nearest road and allowed me to see a different aspect of our area.
The lack of rise and fall doesn’t mean that the ride always requires the same effort to hold your speed. The surface started as bumpy tarmac but also includes hard packed dirt and stones, grass and, after recent rain, some mud. Speed varies a lot even if you feel that your keeping up the same effort. At no point is it like riding along a smooth road and I thought about the type of bike which would best suit the environment. This seems to me like gravel bike terrain. Since I rarely ride any real distance by canal it would be a waste of a good bike for me but I’d love to try riding the 127 miles of the canal from end to end and then I’d want something different to a mountain bike. I averaged 11 mph over my trip but with Strava splitting the ride into segments it’s easy to see how your pace varies. On a faster section I could hold a healthy 15 mph so must have been significantly slower in many places to bring my average down.
I rode to the first lock at New Springs above Wigan and returned to the Adlington marina where I took some pictures. As soon as I turned I could feel the wind against me. I hadn’t realised there was a wind when it was in my favour but now I was well aware of it. I spent a lot of time trying to improve my aerodynamic performance, even trying the “puppy paws” technique. This is where you hold your arms and hands in the kind of position you’d adopt with time trial bars, drooping your “paws” in front of you. I’d better not let cycling’s governing body, the UCI, catch me. They’ve banned the practice for road racing, claiming it’s dangerous. I’m ever thankful that the UCI didn’t get they’re archaic hands on mountain biking in the early days because I fear they would have suppressed the technology we now depend on.
I returned north and still kept m pace quite constant but found when I got home later that I’d ridden much of the way faster than previously but I don’t suppose I’ve often sought a fast pace along the canal. On some segments I was in the top 10 to 20 % of all riders and wondered if I could get much higher up the rankings. Where’s that gravel bike when you need it?
I enjoyed a different type of riding and both me and the bike were filthy afterwards. I’d worked hard and Strava tells me that I averaged 139 watts. I’ve rather lost faith in Strava’s estimates. I’d rarely record as high a power figure on hilly terrain though I know I’d be working harder