I took my pedal powered boat down to the canal today and expected to get some training in. Unfortunately I still have work to do on the chain drive element which I’ve added but it went well enough during my trip to suggest that my modifications are on the right lines. I needed to supplement the little bit of exercise I got from the boat with a mountain bike ride in the afternoon.
I’d ride to my nearest hill, Healey Nab, with it’s purpose built MTB trails for 3 energetic laps. It’s some considerable time since I used Healey Nab for training though I sometimes return home over the hill for a final off road downhill. The rain has continued and the ground would certainly be wet, a situation which may persist until April next year. You can get a decent, dry ride in the winter but it will rarely be like riding in dry, summer weather so what’s the point? Well, I think I can still get a good ride in less than perfect conditions, it’s a case of changing your expectations. If I stopped riding off road until next spring I feel sure I’d lose some skills and take time to get back on track once I started riding again. Of course if you’re going to ride all year round, as many riders do in our maritime climate, it won’t always be totally thrilling but in terms of the fitness benefits it will be every bit as good as summer. I don’t know if indoor training on a bike is close to the experience of road riding but it can never adequately mimic off road riding. I noticed today how the constantly changing gradient informs me how quickly to turn the pedals and how much torque to apply. It’s impossible, on such trails, to keep a steady rate of spinning and effort by changing gear. You’d often have to change gear for only a couple of pedal turns before shifting again and this would be ridiculous. Sometimes I just had to dig in and grind the pedals round. No training bike could replicate this experience.
Today I rode 3 different laps and there were plenty of puddles but no deep mud on the well made trails. The wind and sun this morning had left much of the ground quite good and all in all it was a worthwhile ride. I worked quite hard and could certainly feel the effects afterwards. I would advise that, if at all possible, riders continue to get out right through the autumn and winter. I know that many climates make this impossible but in northern England we’re unlikely to get prolonged periods of snow and wet weather is only an inconvenience for a determined mountain biker.