Hill climb training.

The weather was rather gloomy today. It was overcast and whilst it wasn’t exactly raining I could feel tiny drops of water in the air as I started my ride. I thought today that I’d concentrate on some hill climbs which, whilst short, are very steep. This is the kind of terrain which differentiates mountain biking from road riding. You have a big range of gears on an MTB but you’ll never have a low enough gear to be able to spin the pedals at a typical road riding rate of around 90 rpm. All you can do is increase the torque (turning force) applied to the pedals and grind them round. The only way to improve or even maintain your ability on this type of steep climb is to do it.

The ground is now wet so I chose to ride to Healey Nab with it’s well drained trails. It’s also a short 15 minute ride so I’m soon there and much of the route to the hill is also off road so I can assess current conditions. I found things OK on the way and climbed to the top of the hill using the standard climb. It has been designed to be relatively easy with around 200 feet of ascent on each circuit of the trail. Some section are steeper and to add some training value to the ride I rode quickly. Then I did a fast circuit of the top loop in 2 minutes and 2 seconds. From memory this seems like a good time in the current conditions but is a long way from my PB of 1 minute 30. This shows me how much extra resistance the damp ground gives even though there isn’t much mud on the purpose built trails. One thing I noticed near the bottom of the descent was how slippery it has become where fallen leaves have collected in the trail, especially where it sits in a rut in the ground. I had a little uncontrolled wiggle as the tyres lost adhesion.

For my second and third climbs I used some really steep paths and was thwarted in my attempts to get up without a foot down on both occasions. A slippery root protruding from the ground stopped me in each case. I worked the pedals hard at a slow rate of turning so it was as much like weight training as cycling, which has to be good training for muscle strength. This kind of strength may never be needed on a road ride but on a steep off road climb I often find myself using 100% of my leg strength to get to the top. Having said that sprinting is surprisingly similar in that you use maximum muscle power but you’re then turning the pedals as fast as you can.

The Irish Sea was over the horizon today. It’s visibility depends on how the light is bent through the atmosphere.

I’d seen a small group of young riders chatting by the jump section on lap one but they were gone by my second descent so I used an unofficial descent for my last downhill. It’s one I’ve pieced together myself using obscure footpaths and riding the main climb in the opposite direction. It really is the best piece of downhill riding on the hill so when it’s quiet in the area I usually indulge myself. The delights of a two wheel slide or three make playing the rebel well worthwhile. I’d had a good ride with some real training value and can feel the effort in my quadriceps now. If there was still any water in the air I no longer noticed it.

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