Riding without climbing.

A couple of days ago I had a strange experience. I lifted my arm gently to reach for a pan on the stove and felt a sharp pain in my back. I’ve never had back problems and I couldn’t tell, and in fact still don’t know, if the pain was emanating from my spine or from the muscles which surround it. I wouldn’t have been concerned except that in 2015 I compressed 2 vertebrae in a mountain bike accident and the pain seemed to be in somewhere around the same area. I lost over an inch in height in that incident but fortunately have had no problems since. Things have improved a little but I’m still aware of some discomfort so didn’t want to risk stressing the injury in a challenging ride. I decided to ride along the canal which obviously avoids any real climbing and is a safer environment than riding the roads.

I would ride down to the Leeds/Liverpool canal, which is 127.25 miles in length, and head south to the White Bear Marina. I’d then turn north to the 7 lock flight at Johnson’s Hillock before returning back to my start point. At no point in the ride was I aware of my back problem so I’m hoping that by stretching slightly I might even have done it some good. The canal bank may be flat but the surface varies from rough tarmac to grit, mud and, in the current conditions, plenty of puddles. The canal is often surrounded by trees so the wind also varies in direction and intensity as the waterway wends it’s way through the undulating landscape. By referring to the app. Strava I can see that on many segments I was holding speeds of 13 point something mph. The muddier parts were slower and I’m sure that on the road I would have been 2 mph quicker on my MTB which would translate to 20 mph on a road bike. I’d far rather ride the canal bank than the roads because it has an interesting connection to the industrial revolution. I soon reached the White Bear Marina which is now full of leisure boats but would once have been used to load barges to transport heavy goods around the country.

Some of the boats are lived on but most are for pleasure cruising.
My neighbour assures me that owning a canal boat is like having your own black hole to throw money into! He no longer owns one.

I kept up a good pace northwards to the locks, passing some old wharfs and canal side mills. I also saw some much more recent signs of industry in the form of dozens of newly built trucks. They are stored ready for dispatch to customers by the canal. They are built in the nearby town of Leyland by Leyland Trucks who have been in business since 1896 when they started with steam powered vans. The company almost went under in 1993 when they were a subsidiary of DAF which went into administration. They now build more trucks than ever for other people but unfortunately non are now badged as Leyland.

My ride was not as exciting as a real mountain bike ride and it got me thinking about my pedal powered boat. This is also not as exciting as real mountain biking but it can certainly compare to riding without climbing and it’s something special to be out on the water. In my ride without climbing I still ascended 137 feet in my 11.61 miles, mainly in getting from home to the canal and back.

1 Comment

  1. Hi!!! Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to hear about the situation with your back! I have a similar type of injury to my spine and am susceptible to pain in that particular area of my back. Your ride along the canal sounds wonderful — love the pics!!! Your quote by your neighbor “My neighbour assures me that owning a canal boat is like having your own black hole to throw money into!” had me chuckling out loud! Too funny! I have heard similar kinds of remarks about boats, in general! Many people call boats ‘money pits,’ here! For me, tho, my boat — just like my bike — is an extension of my soul and self — it makes me feel alive and connected to nature — being out on the water or being on my bike riding — they’re experiences that are hard to put into words, actually — I just feel grateful to be able to partake — if that makes any sense! Speaking of biking: I just went for my first two rides of the season earlier this week — WONDERFUL except on day two of riding, I blew my first flat (front tire!) about 7 miles out from where I started. Funny timing as on that same day/ride, my brother-in-law, who was with us for the ride, didn’t even get out of the starting point at the parking lot as his front tire blew just as his bike was sitting there! He left the parking lot to go fix his tire — and just as soon as he got back to the parking lot, my sister was calling him to have him come pick me up to bring me back to my car with my bike and flat tire. Turns out that I had a new tube along with me, a set of tools with which to change the tube, a patch kit…but, I didn’t have a pump with me! Oops! Tire’s all fixed now — plus, I bought a new pump to fit on my bike frame — so, now, no excuses to fix a flat the next time around! ;-D

    Liked by 1 person

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