Riding longer after an easy week.

I haven’t ridden my mountain bike off road since Monday and now it’s Saturday. I haven’t been too lazy since, though, because I used my pedal powered boat on Tuesday, which is a similar form of exercise to cycling. I also used my bike on the road on Wednesday. I had to take our car around 5 miles north of town to have a tow bar fitted so I took a bike with me to ride home then later rode back so that gave me 10 miles of riding where I put some effort in. It’s very rare that I leave it 5 days between off road rides so today I wanted to ride for longer than average. I thought about a downhill which I used a few times last year and knew I could get a good, hard ride out of it. I’d then use a cross country route which I hadn’t yet fully decided on to access a downhill segment which I’d ridden for the first time in 30 years of riding the area on my last ride.

I rode today for 14.82 miles with 1,657 feet of ascent and much of the climbing was fairly gentle by road and trail followed by 2 much steeper and harder section climbing to the high point at 6 miles in the picture below. After a drop it was then very tough again but not just due to the gradient.

After a mixed route to Lead Mines Valley I was then off road for a good few miles. I needed to climb very steeply out of the valley and as I passed some hikers I heard one say to a companion “What’s the point in that? It doesn’t look like any fun.” I think he was missing the point. I enjoy the hard work, generating endorphins and turning pain into pleasure, if that doesn’t sound too masochistic! In addition, after a long climb I’d have a fast and thrilling downhill. On the final climb towards Horden Stoops and the source of our local river, the Yarrow, I misjudged the ground twice and got stuck in ruts so stopped. I’ve made the climb a few times before but today I didn’t want to exhaust myself less than half way through the ride so may not have had sufficient determination.

I’ve been trying to cool things down early in my rides recently to keep my performance up in the later stages but with mountain biking this is often difficult because of those savage gradients. Still, at least I was now at one of the highest points in the ride with a great descent ahead of me, after I’d helped 2 walkers who were unsure about their route.

The descent begins smoothly, crossing the sheep shorn moorland but becomes distinctly lumpier further down.

The segment is not about corners. The skill is to find the best rain ruts, avoid bogs and rocks whilst coping with many drop offs. It was well worth the long climb which had taken me 58 minutes. My next climb used some fairly vague tracks, many on a rough grassy surface. The bumps caused by the grass made for tough progress. It’s been many years since I’ve ridden this way and it felt very unfamiliar so was quite an adventure. I also thought that it might be really good to ride in the opposite direction as a descent so I’ll have to try it soon. At the top I used a very rough stony road which, whilst fairly level, is hard and slow going. I remembered back to how horrible it was to ride this way on a hardtail and before that with no front suspension either. A full suspension bike definitely has an advantage here in terms of speed as well as being less fatiguing, despite the inevitable weight penalty of suspension.

I also needed suspension for my newly discovered downhill which on the app. Strava is entitled “Graveyard”. I used my 5 year old Boardman FS Pro today and found it to be a much better tool for the job than my 18 year old Whyte PRST4 which I used last time. It’s not just the longer suspension travel which helps but also the longer wheelbase. On a steep and rocky drop I felt much safer since I was much further behind the front wheel so less likely to go over the handlebars. How could I have ridden the area for so long but not found this gem of a trail? It’s action packed from start to finish and again longitudinal ruts are a major feature. On both of my attempts so far I’ve had a bit of a moment with a wheel or wheels being diverted where I really didn’t want them to go. Still, I made it and was faster than I’d been on the Whyte. I used a short climb to then ride a classic, twisty trail, which I’ve been riding for the full 30 years that I’ve ridden the area. It’s harder now on modern, longer bikes because the corners are so sharp and easier to get round on an old style, short bike.

I used the roads to get back home after my last bit of downhill and still felt fresh enough, having conserved my energy earlier in the ride. This energy was confirmed by me riding a road segment in my second fastest time ever. At home I was surprised to find that I’d won a Strava trophy as the third fastest rider of all time on an obscure downhill segment which included my second and third downhills and a continuation to the tarmac road. OK, so only 11 riders have recorded a time on the route but a trophy’s a trophy.

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