Exploring the past.

On my last ride 2 days ago I set a fastest ever time on the app. Strava, gaining a King of the Mountains title. I was massively thrilled to do this especially as I’d added the particular downhill, and regaining the KOM, as one of my annual challenges. In order to prevent todays ride seeming like an anti climax I wanted to do something entirely different with no targets for speed. I chose to ride my oldest classic mountain bike, the Proflex Attack LE from 1996. This was a time just before full suspension bikes for the masses really hit their stride. It has only half the suspension travel of a modern bike and has rather skinny 26″ tyres. The much lower air volume in the tyre provides considerably less compliance with the ground and so less grip, to compound the inadequacies of the suspension. I had a little mission to perform first on my way to Birkacre, where I’ve been riding for 30 years.

My wife had acquired some “seed bombs” which are little blocks of wild flower seeds. There was no space for them in our garden so I thought about places where they might do well and enhance the environment. An open area would be best but grass usually dominates and can prevent flowering plants from getting established. I knew an area which was formerly used for coal mining. The slag heaps have long been levelled and grass has established. I’d noticed in places, though, that the otherwise waist high grass was much shorter and other plants did well. The key seems to be the presence of Yellow Rattle which is parasitic for grass and not only thrives itself but allows space for other flowers. I rode there to find some grassy trails and others with a gritty surface.

Yellow Rattle in the grassland.

I threw the seed bombs around and will return next year to see if they had any effect. A short distance further on I found a garden plant in the form of Crocosmia Lucifer growing at the side of the trail. Did it arrive as a seed stuck to a shoe or was it deliberately planted there?

We have this in our garden.

It was then time to do some real riding so I went to nearby Birkacre. On the dry, gritty surface the Proflex soon reached the limit of grip. Not only does it slide more easily than a modern bike but slides are less gentle and harder to control. It’s often prudent to hang your inside foot out to tap the ground with in the case of a front wheel slide. There were too many mainly elderly walkers on the first section of corners which I rode so for safety I used some purpose built, though unofficial, trails with some excellent jumps and berms. I had a few sudden skips and slides which I’m sure would not have occurred on either of my bigger wheeled bikes but there’s certainly a charm to riding something from the past. After a few downhills I fancied a longer trail ride back home so rode down the Yarrow Valley Country Park. Again it has a combination of grassy or gritty trail surfaces and plenty of short, sharp climbs to get the blood pumping. It isn’t thrilling, with few interesting corners, but certainly could be used for cross country type training. Half way along I found some more Crocosmia Lucifer and wondered if it was somehow naturalising in the area.

I rode home along a trail that we used often in the mid 1990s and I decided to explore up a steep banking. The area has changed so much and most of the features we used to ride no longer exist. Not only that but we ride very different kinds of trail now that we have full suspension and other modern features on our bikes. I returned home after 10.8 miles in 94 minutes and had enjoyed exploring my past. It’s a shame that I’m the only one of the old crew who still rides.

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