A trail ride after the first rain in weeks.

The latter half of March was very dry with virtually no rain. Now in April, typically the driest month of the year in northern England, we’re getting drizzle and rain. Where I live, around 15 miles from the west coast, we get a lot of drizzle which can persist for long periods. Our town of Chorley is said to be the second cloudiest place in Britain which is why armaments factories were built here and never discovered by the enemy for World War 2. Later in the week we will hopefully be back to sunnier weather but we mountain bikers are made from stern stuff and won’t be deterred by a little inclemency.

It’s important after a change in weather and ground conditions to adjust you route to suit. There’s no point in going to a favourite trail if it’s one that needs dry conditions if you’ve had overnight rain. On my last ride I’d ascended a trail which I must not have ridden for around 25 years and I wanted to see how it was in the opposite direction as a downhill. Last time I’d ridden to the bottom of the section using a tough, steep off road climb but today it would have been far too slippery so I resolved to reach the bottom by an almost exclusively road based ride. I’d then ascend, turn and descend to try it out. I even looked at a map before I set off to find the best road route.

The chosen ride was hilly, climbing for 700 feet to the bottom of the segment, plus any ups and downs along the way. I made sure I kept my pedals turning at 90 rpm or more wherever I could whilst controlling the torque or turning force applied to the pedals. This may increase the rate of breathing but helps to keep the legs fresh for when power is really needed. When I started the off road climb I was determined to get to the top non stop, without a foot down, and took a route around a short, steep bank which had stopped me last time. The trail is a narrow line scored into rough, grassy moorland at above 1,000 feet and resists you all the way. I fortunately had a tail wind but to be honest it might have been better to have the wind adding speed on the descent. One fence transects the climb so I stopped to take pictures.

The TV and radio transmitter on the hill top at 1,500 feet serve a vast area of the North West.

I looked up and saw a classic trail which descends from the summit, which could provide an exciting precursor to today’s downhill. Sadly in damp conditions, now riding into a headwind, it was not so great but I took a left fork for the last third which was twisty, adding a little excitement. I had to lug the bike out of the valley because it was too steep to ride. I used a cross country trail to Rivington Barn and in places struggled to brake on the slippery clay. If the mud had been deeper my wheels might have had something to claw into but with just the surface wet it was like an ice rink. The ride so far had been more a case of getting out into the country than a hard core MTB experience but to add some length I thought I’d return home via Healey Nab, with its purpose built trails. It would have been very wet if I’d used an off road trail along the reservoir so I again used a mainly road choice. My final descent was fun on a now gravel strewn, twisty trail. It could really do with a good sweep for faster riding since I was slithering in places. I’d covered 13.68 miles with 1,456 feet of ascent and by looking after my legs early on still felt good at the end.

As a Post Script I’ve just looked at the app. Strava and found that in climbing the targeted trail I’d set the fastest ever time 3 days ago! This time I stopped to take photos or I might have been even quicker. I now declare that I am King of the Mountains on Dean Brook Sheep Trail. It may be a small kingdom, consisting of only myself and my 7 subjects, but it’s still an achievement of sorts.

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