Making the most of a small trail network.

We’re enjoying a very dry period and today we also had some sunshine. This is giving us excellent mountain biking conditions with the trails almost dry, even with temperatures in single figures on the Celcius scale. I decided to ride locally on my nearest hill, Healey Nab, and wanted it to be an essentially unplanned and unstructured outing. I’ve mentioned previously the Swedish word “fartlek” meaning “speed play” and I suppose that’s what I did today. I worked hard for parts of the ride and took it easier at other times but I did something which doesn’t fit into the fartlek concept by stopping a couple of times at the top of the hill, chatting to other riders.

I’ve heard riders and seen their comments on Facebook claiming that Healey Nab is not worth visiting because the trails are too short. All you need to do to make the trail 5 times as long is to ride 5 laps of the hill. Maybe some riders feel that they don’t want to repeat sections of trail but on a hill I know so well I even have a solution for this. I rode 5 different climbs and 5 different descents. I also chose to reach the hill by a different route to the one I usually ride for a bit of variety. I took 2 photos the first time I arrived at the summit on a new phone. Previously I’ve used a dedicated phone for the app. Strava to record my activity because even if it was damaged I would only have lost £20, an amazingly low price for a smart phone. After a few years of use it’s now too out of date to support WordPress and some other features which I prefer. In addition the camera had very low resolution but the advantage of this was that pictures often looked strangely artistic.

Looking towards the higher hills to the east.
On a clear day the sea would be visible in this shot. It’s about 15 miles to the coast.

It was great today to have such good riding conditions at a time of year when we could get snow or days of rain. I pushed the bike down into grippy parts of the corners to maximise traction. I stayed low to the bike over lumpy parts so that I could still allow the bike to rise over humps and push it down into the dips. Wow! It was like summer riding. I rode different ascents but kept thinking I should try the steepest, toughest option of all. I left it until my fifth and final climb. I slowed to try to recover before the hardest step and accelerated towards it. I didn’t have enough momentum to speed up those last few yards but dug in and ground the pedals round. It’s not just about physical strength in such circumstances, it’s equally about belief and I wasn’t going to give up. My legs were close to the limit of endurance and I was panting madly with more climbing to come. I again slowed for recovery and got to the top non stop.

I’m glad I left the hardest climb until last and can still feel the ache in my legs a few hours later. After the ride and some lunch I took our dog, Freddie, out for a walk along the canal and met an old mountain biking mate. We talked about the good old days but it seems like I’m the only one of the old crew who still rides. Some may have simply lost enthusiasm whilst others have age related issues. I still get a big thrill from riding so have no intention of stopping in the foreseeable future.

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