Last year I built and developed a pedal powered boat and having not used it since October I’m now keen to get on the water again. I’ve found that when using the boat, unlike when mountain biking, it’s much more enjoyable if the weather is warm and sunny. As well as the obvious dangers of cold water I wasn’t tempted to sail in the gloom of winter but over the last couple of weeks things have started to improve. I looked at the weather forecast and Wednesday looked good but during my morning dog walk I realised that, with strong and gusty winds, it was not going to be the right day. Today was cloudy and so not too appealing but despite a breeze the temperature seemed to rise as I walked the dog. My other option was to ride the bike and when I found dry conditions as we walked in the woods I dared to think of riding my very favourite trail.
I’ve been riding the downhill trail for a couple of years and it’s an absolute gem. Twisting through the woodland with log hops, rooty corners, loam, tight switchbacks and just about every other type of feature you could dream of it’s a delight. I may have spent nearly 30 years finding it but now I have it’s a thrill even to think about. I was left hoping that I wasn’t starting too early in the year, that there wouldn’t be too much mud and that the trail hadn’t changed over the winter. Today I wouldn’t ride right from the top of Great Hill before the Brinscal Woods section but instead ride one extended version of the downhill before returning to the top of the woodland for a second descent.
Things looked good as I used a mainly off road route via some small reservoirs to White Coppice. Along the Goit, which is a straightened river, the trail was still almost completely dry under the trees. As I climbed the steep gravel road up the woods I was finding it tough. I’ve no idea why I should feel fatigued but as I continued with the long climb to the high point I was wondering if I had a second climb in me. Does training whilst tired do you any good? Will it help my stamina on subsequent rides? Just this morning I read a piece by fellow blogger Crustytuna which seemed to be saying that for stamina I need to train on tired legs. I sincerely hope this is true because today’s ride was hurting. The blog in question is well worth a read….https://bikesbrainsandmusings.home.blog/2022/03/08/training-and-my-why/
The longer version of the downhill begins with a superb moorland single track with plenty of twists turns and protruding rocks. Over a stile I rode along the undulating top edge of the woods before turning down the very best section. From the start I found lots of broken twigs and bigger branches laying on the trail. I managed to keep going by riding round the bigger obstructions and found only a few muddy patches on a trail which has been desiccated by the dry winds. Yes, I’d made a really good decision to ride here today and could see a few previous tyre tracks. It was clear that no one had taken the time to clean the trail so I resolved to ride back up by the route I’d ridden down, with the intention to shift as much debris as I could.
It didn’t look as bad riding back up but I moved plenty of smaller twigs and all of the larger branches. Long limbs of oak are seriously heavy and I remembered my recent back injury. I wasn’t doing anything at the time but it just “twanged”. I couldn’t tell at the time whether the discomfort was in my spine or the muscles around it but I’m now thinking the former. Still, it’s improved to barely noticeable over the week and I was glad I didn’t need to engage full strength to shift everything. What I also gained by climbing the trail was that I noticed there were some small alternative options. Firstly a way to avoid getting too close to a substantial tree on a very steep drop, which has concerned me since I discovered the trail. The second was a way to miss the only really muddy segment which would be useful on my second descent. In dry conditions I won’t want to miss a good section of twists but today it would be better to avoid the mud. I turned at the top and didn’t wait before launching myself downwards.
With a now clear trail, improved by 2 small diversions, I had a great ride down. The dry surface gave plenty of grip yet I still found the limit in lots of places. Only a handful of other riders have ever ridden the full woodland downhill, which I set up as a segment on the app. Strava, so it’s like having my own secret racetrack and I’ll be back regularly during the year. I was surprised to find later that my 3 minute 8 second second descent was a healthy 15th out of 52 attempts. I returned via Healey Nab which gave me another good downhill, even if the climb up had nearly killed me in my tired state. A truly excellent ride with a chance to give a bit back by cleaning the trail. I’m just hoping that the training on tired muscles for stamina theory is correct!