Great Hill. Enjoying it whilst the weather holds.

We had a very late spring this year. It snowed in May and the garden and countryside were weeks behind what is expected. I’ve been surprised, therefore, to see an early autumn. Some tree, like the horse chestnuts, have already changed colour and lost leaves. Meanwhile were having a good, dry and often sunny spell of weather making it perfect for mountain biking. I bought 2 new inner tubes after my 2 punctures picked up on my last ride and had to try 3 shops before I found the right ones. I know mountain bikes have become more popular since the beginning of the Covid crisis but I don’t think that this is the full story. Shortages are occurring in all sorts of areas and it is a little worrying after decades of getting what you want, when you want it.

My favourite ride over the last couple of years has been to the top of Great Hill at 1,250 feet, descending into Brinscall Woods for the best trails anywhere within riding distance of home and returning via Healey Nab for the purpose built trails. Last time Brinscall Woods was getting a bit damp so I wasn’t sure to find the trails at their best. I’ve been thinking a lot about cadence (the rate at which you turn the pedals) and made sure I kept my speed up to around 90 rpm. I’ve measured my cadence a few times and now have the feel for this speed of rotation. I climbed the woods and up onto the gravel road across the moor. The gradient isn’t particularly steep and I found that I didn’t actually need to think about my cadence. I just listened to my breathing and felt the effects on my muscles and found a position where I was stressing both of these different metrics equally. Of course breathing and muscle stress can’t really be quantified by a rider though I’d imagine a sports scientist can test these things. I wouldn’t want to get into such testing even if it was available. My best ride probably won’t be the one where I get closest to my limits of performance. It’s more likely to be one where I get home with a deep sense of satisfaction after a few thrills. Luckily today turned out to be just such a ride.

The summit in the sunshine.
The start of the big downhill with the sea on the horizon.

It felt quite hard on the steeper climbs nearer to the top but I hadn’t been hanging around so maybe shouldn’t be surprised. From the top I used the grassy tracks to the side of the rockier trail. It was good but I imagine for ultimate speed it’s not as quick due to drag on the knobbly tyre. I didn’t even time my big descent where I have a best time of 13 minutes and 20 seconds but could find out how I did from the app. Strava. You know what? Since I wasn’t trying to beat my record my time really doesn’t matter so I’m not going to look. I continued home over Healey Nab and realised that I’d only met one other rider, heading in the opposite direction. The trails were about as good as they could have been, which is a real blessing in September when it could easily be wet.

I was quite tired after the ride but think that after riding at a higher cadence on recent rides than I had become accustomed to my muscles have been less exhausted. Also by thinking a lot about performance I had kept the effort up for the entire ride, which was bound to be hard. I may ride on Sunday but might leave it until Monday.

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