Trying something different.

Today I considered a trail ride. I could ride to the top of Great Hill but would it be worth it with the downhill trails being so wet? I didn’t want to ride the man made trails at Healey Nab because I’d need to be cautious on the berms to avoid potential disaster in the slippery conditions, which is less fun than usual. I decided instead to visit a few of the smaller mountain biking areas which we used to ride in the 1990s. We’d link them together with small sections of trail or road to make a decent length of ride. I wanted to see if anywhere was still capable of giving me good riding after some typically seasonal rain.

It’s been a mixed week of weather with snow, rain and sunshine. Today was nicely sunny but cold, reaching only 2 celcius. Strangely such a day may be better for mountain biking than road riding because speeds are lower on the dirt. I rode to Birkacre where trails loop round on a slope, climbing around 150 feet. I first tried a few laps of a tiny circuit with 3 gravelly corners on the downhill part and loved the slithery delights. The Trek Fuel EX8 is a slightly dated bike but rides very well. I’ve mentioned before that it has a better front tyre than rear but I was still finding the front wheel was sliding first. On my next lap I weighted the handlebars to get more pressure on the front tyre and now the back broke away first.

I was enjoying myself on a trail which had been well worth riding and next completed a longer circuit which starts from a high point with a series of berms and jumps. I was trying to absorb the jumps to keep the wheels in contact with the ground as much as possible. This is not only safer but it’s the technique used by BMX riders who let the bike rise up towards them on the rise to then push their legs straight on the back of the hump which powers the bike forwards. Well, I didn’t need to do that. There was ample speed in the muddy conditions.

Next I went to another old favourite behind an old mill at Coppull. This small area of woodland was on the edge of a coal mine in the past. Trees have grown and there are a number of short trails. The approach has been surfaced with compacted gravel since my last visit but in my chosen circuit this part is ridden as a climb after a twisty downhill. I’ve loved this little circuit over the last few years and was amazed to find that in dry weather the 1 minute, twisty downhill was followed by a straight but bumpy climb, taking just 1 minute 15 seconds. Usually I’d expect the climb to take 2 to 3 times as long as the descent, so this is something special. The twisty drop has had some extra small jumps added recently and it was fabulous in it’s slitheriness. (I may have invented a word there but it describes the situation well.) With the smoother, resurfaced climb it may be possible next summer to lap in 2 minutes. 1 minute down and a mere 1 minute back up. I didn’t need to wait for summer to have 4 superb laps.

I’d intended to ride home via another former coal mining site at Ellerbeck but I felt the short downhill might be disappointing in today’s wet so I changed my plan to ride back through Birkacre, for a repeat of the good downhill. I’d almost given up on riding circuits for the winter, thinking that trail riding was my only option. After today I’ve realised that it’s just a case of finding the really good laps which can stand the wet ground. On the road home I got a good view of Winter Hill from the top of the Myles Standish Way so took the picture at the top of the page, only to find that the bright sunshine made the hill invisible!

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