I haven’t ridden my mountain bike for 6 days which is almost unheard of, for me. I haven’t been idle in this time, though, because I’ve had 2 trips in my pedal powered boat. Using the boat is good exercise but isn’t exactly the same as riding a bike. I’m finding it less aerobic even if it is a whole body experience. It requires quite a lot of effort to get to the canal and back, towing the boat on wheels but once on the water I can set my own pace. On a bike the gradients often dictate how much power you need to apply and this is more true off the road than it is on a road ride. I’m feeling that if I want to maintain or improve my biking fitness I need to use boating as additional exercise and not as a substitute for riding.
Today has been cloudy for the first time in many days. This hot, dry period has obviously had all the Global Warmingist TV commentators out in force, describing a few hot days as proof. It’s funny how when we had snow in May for the first time in a generation they were keeping their powder dry. Still I was happy to be riding in cooler conditions because I had planned quite a tough ride with plenty of climbing to the top of Great Hill and back over Healey Nab. In total I rode 17.06 miles with 1,399 feet of ascent.
I took my usual way, mainly off road, to the hamlet of White Coppice and used the easy side of the river to Brinscall Woods. I used a hard option to climb up onto the moors with some parts requiring full commitment. I was pleased to complete the climb without an unscheduled foot down. I chose to ride an unusual way to the top by riding up a single track which has been fast and entertaining as a downhill. It was nothing special as a climb so I think in future I’ll go straight up by the normal route. I spent around an hour and a quarter climbing the thousand feet of ascent but this is where the real fun starts.
I started my stopwatch as I set off down hill and this had a serious effect on my riding. Instead of the climbing, which I took fairly steadily except where the ground forced me to up the power, I was now working much harder on the way down. I’m a stopwatch junkie and as soon as I start the watch I can’t do anything but to go for it. I did, however, get an early warning that my tyre pressures were set rather low. This is good for grip on corners but I could hear my front rim contacting a rock as the tyre deformed. I took the speed down on the next very rocky section. I also had to slow down a few times for walkers. They have an absolute right to walk the hill whereas mountain bikers are uninvited guests. Since mountain biking started it has never been accounted for in law in England and it may be better if it never is. What we don’t need is for biking to be legal on some trails but a criminal offence on others. At the moment it may be a civil offence but since landowners never take action against riders we can basically go where we want. I like that tiny slice of anarchy!
I found the ground bone dry all the way, even in Brinscall Woods where I used my absolute favourite route down. I wasn’t at my fastest ever but that was never the plan. I was just there to enjoy some fabulous downhilling and still had Healey Nab to come. With a recently dug new trail section I’ve been finding the lumpy section which follows a bit of a handful. It’s the speed which you can now approach the bumps at which causes the problem. Today I reduced my speed but also stayed low to the bike. This way I could extend my legs to push the bike down into the hollows, which keeps the wheels in contact with the ground, whilst still allowing me to absorb the bumps. It felt much better than on recent runs because I wasn’t getting thrown up in an uncontrolled way. I need to session this section. Only by riding it several times on a single ride will I get it right.
It was a good ride and nice to get out before we get any rain, which is expected within a few days. Still, that’s the summer in England. I wouldn’t want it any other way.