The Egg Hillock.

As I walked the dog this morning I decided that, at just 11 celcius, I was more likely to enjoy a mountain bike ride than a trip in my boat. This thought raised another question, how could I possibly match either of my last 2 rides? They had both involved fast sections within a trail ride. The first focused on 3 laps with a superb downhill segment whilst the other used the longest downhill in the area, taking over 13 minutes even though I rode about as quickly as I ever have previously. I decided that the best course of action was to ride something very different in the form of a long trail ride with no particular downhill targets. I remembered the Egg Hillock, a curiously shaped small hill on a remote area of moorland.

The route has an early off road part but then climbs on tarmac to the village of Rivington before a steep and long off road climb to the target. I felt as if it was hard work on the road but perhaps I was just trying to get it over with? I’d chosen to ride my oldest bike, a 26 year old Proflex Attack LE with a homemade suspension fork which I built a few years ago. Surely the old bike couldn’t be holding me back?

The Proflex on the moor.

I climbed the Japanese styled terraced gardens to reach George’s Lane, a gravel road. Then it was up the steep slopes of Wilders Moor to access the TV transmitter service road to Smithills Moor. This used to be a long, fast downhill and I was sad to find that it’s true that stiles have been constructed on the route. The flow is ruined though I’ve heard that the fences are to control sheep, not to persecute riders.

I climbed to Dean Mills reservoir which once again had me saying “Wow!” as I crested a rise and the 400 yard length burst into sight. I know it’s there but every time I’m shocked. The undulating single track towards the Egg Hillock was entertaining and I stopped at the high point at 1,125 feet to photograph the 1,075 feet target.

The Hillock with a trail scored into the surface.
You’re miles from anywhere, here.

Last time I rode this way I managed to get back without a foot down but this time was almost glad to be stopped by a wheel spin on a steep ascent. The old school gearing on the Proflex doesn’t provide a particularly low ratio for this kind of terrain so a short push was acceptable. I remounted and completed the remainder of the way back to the reservoir. After this is a superb downhill section of high speed turns.

Having not ridden this way for some time I was little uncertain of the route but managed to navigate correctly to cross the transmitter service road and climb back to Wilders moor, this time to speed down. The short travel suspension was fine but the low volume 26″ tyres, which have to be run at higher pressures than modern tyres, made riding over loose stone feel like I was riding over marbles, without the feeling of security I’d have got from a contemporary bike.

I felt seriously tired as I climbed a little to reach the top of Graveyard, a segment I only discovered recently on a dog walk. I thought I’d been missing out for 30 years but I’ve since discovered that the route was only made less than a year ago. Amazingly it looks like an old walking trail, not a newly made bike route. The Proflex again showed it’s age over a tricky drop where I just threw the bike over and hung on. The old dog came threw, as did I. My time of 1 minute 20 was 9 seconds slower than my last attempt but shows that an old bike isn’t so much slower, just requiring a bit of bravery.

I continued to descend to the tarmac road and stayed on solid ground all the way home. I was really fatigued and wondered again if my fitness had gone. Fortunately at home the app. Strava allayed my fears. The narrow tyres and slightly more aerodynamic nature of the 26 year old bike had me setting 11 fastest ever segment times and another 13 second best figures. I was tired because I’d started quickly and continued to work hard. Even towards the end I was still riding well. It had been great to ride an old bike and I honestly believe that I’d struggle to ride such a route as quickly on a modern bike. I covered 19.90 miles with 2,385 of ascent.

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