Riding Great Hill is my favourite mountain bike ride. The hill looks unspectacular from many places because it’s at the end of a chain of hills and isn’t as high as some other points along the ridge. It perhaps got it’s name from those who approached from the other side of Chorley when the summit looks more prominent. It rises to a mere 1,252 feet but by including a return via Healey Nab and the various ups and downs on the route I recorded 1,484 feet of ascent in 15.52 miles. The weather was perfect with a temperature of 14 celcius, occasional sunshine and perfectly dry ground.
I haven’t ridden for 6 days but I used my pedal powered dinghy 3 days ago which I now consider to be an excellent substitute for cycling. I set off at an average pace, using a familiar mainly off road route to the hamlet of White Coppice where I chose to ride the technical side of the Goit, which is a straightened river, for the first time this year, as far as I recall. I failed to climb the most difficult rocky hump. My approach was wrong because I didn’t thread the front wheel through the bigger rocks in the precise way that’s needed. I just threw the bike at it. I’d been trying to keep my pedals spinning at around 90 rpm but on the woodland climb which followed I was in my lowest gear so had no chance to keep the cadence so high. Turning the pedals more slowly but with more force tends to stress the muscles in a different way, to achieve the same power, compared to when you spin the pedals more quickly. Quicker pedalling is more aerobic and breathing will help you to recover as you ride. A more muscular approach will stress the muscles in a way you will not recover from without rest so I knew I only had so much energy available from the slower pedalling method during the ride.
I continued to climb and felt quite good. There are several steeper sections, especially further up the hill, so again I needed to grind the pedals round in my lowest gear. I reached the high point after around an hour and five minutes. I then had somewhere in the region of 15 minutes of downhill riding, which was always going to be the highlight of the outing. There are some undulations along the way but no steep climbing. I didn’t start my stopwatch since I had no target for the descent but began with speed and enthusiasm. The first section is a twisty roller coaster but this time I used a less rocky option to the left which is scored into the rough grass and heather. It is often too muddy but in perfect, dry conditions I thought I should use it at it’s best.
After negotiating a gate is a long pedally section which starts steeply then has some very sharp stones protruding from the surface. I know I should have graduated to tubeless tyres but with 5 bikes, 3 of which have old school 26″ wheels, I just haven’t gone that way. As a consequence I need to try to steer through the rocks rather than blasting over them, to avoid pinch punctures, and took a bit of speed off. The ground then smooths and allowed me to concentrate on cadence and speed, like on a road ride. Turning off, good riding turns to fabulous for the remaining 9 minutes. Beginning with a swooping moorland section before entering Brinscall Woods. I really must concentrate on the rocky hump at the start of the woods. Just trying to power over it is far too blunt an instrument to ensure you keep going. It didn’t matter this time but it must have cost me 10 seconds to stop and get going again.
The rest of the way undulates along the top of the woods before you pop over a fallen tree trunk for around 40 corners, drop offs and other obstacles. I recorded my third fastest time on a segment on the app. Strava which I must regain the King of the Mountains title on for a fastest ever time. I ride this way so often that I feel like it belongs to me. When I reached the bottom and started on a flat trail I knew that I’d pushed myself very hard on the downhill. My legs were wobbly and I had little power left. Getting back over Healey Nab, with its 200 feet climb, was hard work but at the same time I do enjoy that feeling that I’ve put a big effort in.