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.
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.