Sliding around in the autumn.

Reaching the limit of grip on a mountain bike is nirvana for me! I know a lot of riders may hate to reach the point where the wheels start to slide but I’ve always thought that, at this point, I’m going as quickly as it’s possible to go so it’s always been a destination for me. The more often I go there the more comfortable I become. I walked the dog this morning in a sharp frost but by afternoon almost all the frost had gone leaving some slimy mud and a few puddles on the trails. I rode to my local hill, Healey Nab, to ride a few laps.

I’d decided that I’d ride my favourite downhill route which uses some trail which is intended as a climb, but in the opposite direction. Since the section was never intended for hurtling down it doesn’t have the sculpted berms (bankings) which make purpose built trails seem so artificial. Instead it has a natural feel like a footpath used as an MTB trail. I climbed the hill to the top and rode the top loop with it’s gentle but fast downhill and climb back to the trail head.

After the felling of 2,500 larch trees we’re left will some very spindly birch trees. Many of them have blown over without the shelter of the larches. I can now see lots of tiny larch seedlings growing. You can never keep a good tree down.

Back at the summit I was drawn irresistibly to the red graded descent so set off down that way for my first lap. I saw a couple of people I vaguely know working on another part of the trail and said hello as I went by. I did well on the toughest part of the descent by keeping my arms and legs well flexed to keep the wheels in contact over the repeated bumps and dips. I completed the lap and went back to my original plan to ride my rebellious, unofficial route, since I was clearly the only rider on the trail. I decided to time a lap from the cairn which marks the highest point, down my trail, around a loop and back to the cairn. I’ve never timed this before and didn’t know how long it was going to take but that didn’t matter. As soon as I clicked the stopwatch it was full concentration and effort to ride it quickly. I love to ride such a trail more than once because I made some errors which slowed me first time. By riding a second lap I could try to improve my technique and hence speed. I had some gorgeous slides on the flat, unbanked corners. On one in particular I enjoyed locking the rear wheel on entry to slide the back end round a very tight turn. I gave it some effort to climb back up and completed in 11 minutes and 15 seconds. Sub 10 minutes next summer?

I rode the downhill section again on my way home and it took 3 minutes and 30 seconds which suggests that for a fast lap it will be the climbing that’s most important, since it will occupy over two thirds of the lap time. A couple of timed efforts really lifted the ride and I can promise you, my unofficial route is head and shoulders above the official downhill.

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