I thought for a while, whilst walking the dog, about where I should ride my mountain bike today. I decided on a mainly off road route but in two distinct halves. I joined the Leeds/Liverpool canal near home to ride north to the village of Wheelton. I’ve really gained a new appreciation of this fabulous resource since building my boat this year. The canal last saw commercial traffic in 1972 which is why it’s still in a good state of repair for leisure use. Obviously the canal towpath is very flat so it gave me a chance to spin the pedals at a good speed, using a fairly even amount of effort. I worked quite hard to give the ride some training value and reached the 7 locks at Johnson’s Hillock, just before Wheelton. I was keen to have a look at the towpath here in case I decide to take my pedal powered boat past these locks next year. It would be possible but I’d need to get back into the water where each of 2 bridges cross roads because the footpath has barriers which make it too narrow to drag the boat up the canal bank on wheels. I’d love to do a longer trip and possibly camp overnight before a return, if I can a) find the time and b) convince my wife I haven’t had a mental breakdown.
I climbed by the locks then used a road section for about 2.5 miles, with a 200 feet climb in it. I was then off road again using a clever route to the bottom of Brinscall Woods. This second half started to be a very different type of riding to what I’d encountered so far. Now the trail was often telling me how quickly I could spin the pedals because I didn’t have any lower gears to allow me to choose. I used the steepest ascent of the woods to arrive at a descent back down to the bottom. On my last ride I thought I’d found a great route for winter use and had an exciting ride down. Today, though, after more rain, the the downhill was very different. It was too slippery to have much control and I almost had an early incident where I applied the brakes to find no grip to slow me down. I ran off the trail a little and fought it back into control. After another near miss I realised that I’d have to cool the speed which took the fun out of it. It now seems like I’ll have to wait for spring or perhaps a rare, dry winter day to make Brinscall Woods a worthwhile trip.
Fortunately I still had the ride to Healey Nab with it’s purpose built, well drained trails. The riding here was fine so this is likely to be a favoured destination until March when things often start to dry up. Frosty trails can also give good riding and dry the ground well, presumably through sublimation, where ice turns to vapour without going through the liquid stage to wet the ground. I rode straight down from the trails over an open, descending trail but it was again very tricky. So that’s another one to leave for an improvement next year. At least I still have plenty of other choices which, I know from long experience, will still be worth riding. I covered 14.29 miles with 1,019 feet of climbing.
I’m contemplating one more sail in my boat before the winter. It seems that, although mountain biking can be worthwhile in wintery conditions, sailing needs the psychological boost of nicer weather. I’d just like one more trip before I put the boat away until spring.