I’m sure that some mountain bikers will reduce their riding in winter merely to avoid unpleasant weather and ground conditions. I’m lucky that due to the maritime climate in the north west of England we are rarely unable to ride. I don’t want to allow my fitness to fall during winter and then need to get back on track in the spring. I’d rather keep a more steady level of activity up so today did a training ride with 3 laps of the purpose built trails on our local hill, Healey Nab.
The weather at the weekend had been OK, with sunny spells, but today has been overcast. Still, at least it hasn’t rained. I used a mainly off road route to the north end of the hill and didn’t come across much mud so felt hopeful about the trails which are well drained. It’s fantastic to have such a resource accessed almost from my front door. For most of the year I also have a good range of natural trails but on my last ride I found the ground on a usually excellent downhill was too wet to enjoy. I had virtually no control at all and had to slow down to a speed which was no fun. Today I had good grip and completed a lap in 12 minutes 15 seconds. Before my first lap I took a picture of the autumnal scene.
The hardest part of the circuit is a bumpy section on a fairly gradual descent which is approached at speed. A new access has been made this year which means you hit the bumps much faster than on the old route and you’re in serious danger of being thrown up in the air by bumps with the chance of landing awkwardly on a following bump. On my first lap it all went fine by keeping my body low with my head over the handlebar stem. This way I could absorb the bumps and push the wheels down into the dips to keep them in contact with the ground. On the second lap I approached quicker and somehow my left foot, though clipped to the pedal, became detached. The pedal hit the back of my calf but at least I stayed on the bike and the bike stayed on the trail. I’m now wondering if I’ve identified the maximum speed that I can realistically keep up on this section. On my older bikes I certainly have to keep the speed much lower because, with smaller wheels and less suspension travel, It’s much harder to keep the wheels in contact.
I kept the pace up on the second lap and could feel the effort towards the end. I’d already decided not to try to keep the same pace up on my third lap so kept the pressure on to finish in 12 minutes and 3 seconds. I rode an off piste type of downhill on the third occasion. I mixed some foot trodden trails and rode the “wrong way”, using the red graded climb as a sensational downhill. Since I was the only rider on the hill I was doing no harm. I’m sure I’ll be riding Healey Nab plenty more times over the winter because of the convenience and relatively weatherproof trails.