Wettest ride in ages but still a good one.

We’ve had plenty of rain in the last few days, especially last night, but after 4 days without riding my mountain bike I wanted to get out. I don’t often ride the hills around Rivington at the weekends because they’re are usually a lot of walkers, many with dogs, so it’s better as a mid week or evening destination. With wet weather I imagined there would be less people so set off, using roads for the first 4 miles. I’d already climbed around 200 feet and now had a continuous climb of varying gradients for a further 800 feet.

A group of other riders were slightly ahead of me and I caught up on the climb and chatted. They were riding budget hardtail mountain bikes and it turned out that they were more usually road riders who’d decided to ride off road because of the wet conditions. This surprised me because it would be wet weather that had me road riding if I thought off road conditions would be too poor. Perhaps they should try a dry off road ride to find out how much fun it can be. At the summit, with it’s closed up former hunting lodge, we took each others photos.

Only this side of the structure offered shelter from the strong wind.
The hills to the east will have to wait for drier conditions in spring.

The other riders set off down the hill first and it was at this point that I realised that, whilst they had climbed well enough, they were very timid on the descent. I soon turned in a different direction to ride a superb descent at the side of Wilderswood. This is a classic which I’ve ridden since 1997. Back then I never gave potential danger a thought and tried to get down as quickly as possible, which caused a few “difficulties”, some of which were disadvantageous to other trail users, particularly a horse rider and a motorist. The statute of limitations on my wrong doings may not yet have expired so I’ll spare you the details. Since then the trail has evolved only a little in the early stages, the rest being much as it was. I powered away from the start and there are now a couple of drop offs before the first left/right combination corner. It used to be a flatter surface without the bushes which currently encroach. Now it has a deep rain rut and you have no choice but to stick it in the rut and make sure you stay there. The surface is stoney with patches of slippery clay, which is typical of our area. The trail continues to twist and turn until a straight section with savagely sharp broken rocks. Last year I had a pinch puncture here and with water streaming down the track today I was somewhat cautious. It was a massively thrilling 2 minutes and 40 seconds during which, unlike back in the good old days, I slowed twice for walkers, one of whom had a dog.

My time was the second fastest by any rider this year and I’m sure with a clear run I could have been quicker but it doesn’t matter so much to me now as it would have done 25 years ago. I just feel privileged to still be doing this. If the app. Strava had been around back then I feel sure I would have got into far more danger and trouble chasing King of the Mountains titles, though I do have at least one which I want to earn this year. The trail continues to be exciting all the way to a high school. After this I had a little over 4 miles to ride home on tarmac then, alongside a reservoir, the road was blocked. A diversion was offered for walkers and I took it but the ground was dismally sticky and no fun to ride. I cut across onto another road which changed my intended route. I had worked consistently hard during the ride and came home glowing from the exercise. Wet conditions can be perfectly good as long as you chose the right kind of trails

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