Riding up Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis is Britain’s highest mountain. OK so it’s only 4,406 feet but it’s normal to climb it from around sea level so you have to ascend the whole height to reach the summit. I’ll confess straight away that, whilst I’ve climbed it many times previously it isn’t something I’ve done recently. I’ve run to the top and back a few times and, even taking an extended route, managed 2 hours 45 minutes up and down. I’d love to ride it but that simply wouldn’t fit into my life at this time. What I plan to do instead is to ride the 4,406 feet of ascent in a single ride. I’ll use familiar local trails which are all rideable so long as exhaustion doesn’t overcome you. I’m planning this as my big ride for this year instead of the ride I’d planned at the end of last year.

I’d hoped to ride Great Hill from which you can see the tops of Darwen Hill, Pendle Hill and Longridge Fell so I thought that I should put them together into a ride of over 100 km. I took the dog up Pendle Hill on foot and found that there is no official access for horses or mountain bikes. It would be fine to have a cheeky ride early morning or in the evening but my plan was to ride the hill in the middle of the day at the weekend. This might well cause conflict with walkers but I have another reason to change my plan. There would have been an awful lot of road riding to string the off road sections together so I’m now satisfied that it’s not the best route.

With this in mind I’ve planned a new, almost exclusively off road ride from home, which should give me the required amount of climbing. I’ve already test ridden some of the trail and today decided to ride what will be the last big climb. I started on the road to the village of Rivington from where I took a gently rising dirt road to the Yarrow reservoir and on to Lead Mines Valley. I climbed steeply out of the valley onto a gravel farmers track up the moor.

This was the scene on my last ride here. Today was warmer and sunnier.

I lifted the bike over the gate just off the left of this picture and as I walked through the gate the bike fell over. This was enough to bend the gear hanger, which is designed to deform to save the gear mech. I pulled the mech to straighten it but will need to replace it since bending the aluminium component will certainly have fractured the metal. After the ruins of some old farms the trail rises more steeply towards Horden Stoops where our local river, the Yarrow, has it’s source. I made a mistake early on in the mud but managed the rest of the climb without a foot down. It’s difficult to know if I’ll be able to manage the hardest sections of such climbs when I’m ascending almost 3 times as high on the big ride. It will be important not to exhaust myself early on, though I will be riding at a more gentle pace. I started towards Great Hill on the mainly stone slab path and enjoyed 2 steep downhill sections where the surface turns to stones, some of which seem very sharp. On the second descent I took some speed off to avoid a pinch puncture but as I started to climb again, back on the slabs, I could feel the rear tyre squidging around and could hear the air hissing out.

I replaced the inner tube and continued but decided to use a fantastic segment of moorland single track, rather than going to the top of Great Hill. I rejoined the descent later and used a trail I found on Strava which, in 30 years, I’ve never ridden before. It was single track and steepened towards the bottom. It was entertaining enough but I know several better alternatives nearby so I’d rather choose one of those to lose the height. I continued to ride home over Healey Nab. Recent work on the trails has given a much quicker access to a familiar section and I took it. I’ve previously thought that it takes the 130/140 mm suspension of the Boardman FS Pro beyond it’s limit and today I nearly came unstuck. My left foot unclipped from the pedal and I landed on the saddle, catching my calf on the pedal. It could have been much worse if I’d lost contact with the bike. The trail here is rocky and fast so I really must show more caution and take some speed off in future. It’s all part of the aging process.

I enjoyed the ride but need to put more planning and preparation into “climbing Ben Nevis”, which I hope will be in the next 2 weeks.

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