I don’t usually leave 5 days between mountain bike rides but with a combination of some rain and my wife being on holiday from her work as a school teacher things have conspired against me. The only significant exercise I’ve had since my previous ride was a walk with our dog up Healey Nab where I often ride my bikes. Normal dog walks aren’t very taxing but with 500 feet of ascent I could feel that I’d put some effort in the following day. Today the weather was dry but overcast and I naturally chose a longer route than I often ride, climbing 1,441 feet over 15.45 miles to the top of Great Hill and back.
I’ve been trying to keep the speed down in the early part of my rides in order to preserve energy and finish the ride at a good pace. It isn’t easy because the route to the half way point at the summit of Great Hill has little in the way of excitement so it’s tempting to get it over with by putting the effort in. At least it’s almost all off road and I could have used a technical section half way through to add some challenge but I was worried that it might have been muddy. Instead I reached Brinscall Woods where the bulk of the climbing begins and then resolved to take it easier so as not to exhaust myself before the top of the hill. I climbed the woodland fire road in 5 minutes 44 seconds which is less than 40 seconds slower than my fastest ever time which suggests that it takes a lot of extra effort for a tiny gain in speed.
Recently there has been an attempt by, I’d imagine, one individual to block the fabulous downhill segment higher in the woods with broken tree branches. This forces me to use a tough climb through the plantation and up a moorland section to make sure that the trail will be clear for my subsequent descent. It’s awful to lose the flow on a sinuous segment when you have to clear blockages. There were no problems today and the shorter, steeper way must have given me a good training benefit since I needed to use maximum effort in a few places. On a mountain bike the terrain is often the driving force in determining how much power you need to apply and here, in my lowest of 11 gears, I had to grind the pedals round with everything I could muster. I spun the rear wheel once but this was my only, very brief stop. The gradient then slackens for a while before the difficulty increases for the final assault on the summit. Our hills may seem small by international standards but I can often drop close to sea level on a ride so I’m climbing the whole of the height, not starting from half way up.
From the top I had the longest downhill I’ve ever encountered in the area ahead of me after 1 hour and 20 minutes of riding out of my 2 hours 8 minute total. It was back the way I’d climbed with a short extension on the opposite side of a river at the end. There was some dampness on the trails but it was generally joyful and I really worked at it. There are no man made jump sections or berms on the trail but you encounter just about every type of natural trail feature such as rocks, gravel, loam, roots, logs and slithery dirt. After a challenging descent down the open moor a pedally gravel road completes the first half. If you don’t work at it your time may disappoint but it’s the second half which I like the best. Back onto a minute of exciting moorland before a long wooded section which begins by undulating along the top of the woods before dropping down around as many as 40 corners and other trail obstacles. I reached the bottom in 15 minutes 42 compared to my fastest ever time of 13 minutes 20. This difference was possibly because I didn’t put as much effort in as I did once previously but also because of the damp ground. It’s amazing how much tyre drag you get from a wet surface.
After a big effort for over 15 minutes it’s hard to concentrate on pace for the rest of the ride but due to not having pushed myself too hard on the big climb I wasn’t too exhausted. I returned via Healey Nab for the purpose built trails. It was a good ride and I hope to get out in 2 or 3 days time to ride a similar distance and climb.