In January I set myself 2 mountain bike riding targets for the year, then added another later. I’ve achieved 2 of the targets in the form of a ride with over 4,500 feet of almost exclusively off road ascent and a short, twisty, downhill sprint, where I wanted to beat the fastest time recorded by any rider on the app. Strava. That leaves another Strava challenge consisting of a circuit of around 2.2 miles with 270 feet of climbing. The current fastest time, which I want to beat, was set by “O”. I’ve never met him but have communicated via the app. His time is 13 minutes and 59 seconds. I wasn’t too far away from that time last year but on my one serious lap this year I recorded 15 minutes and 10 seconds. I had fitted a new, heavy rear tyre with chunky tread blocks and have been blaming this for my slow time. The tyre, a Vittoria Mota, weighs 1.5 kg which is nearly double the weight of the tyre which it replaced. My time down the hill from the start was fast but my climbing was dismal. My plan is to ride a different bike for my next attempt,.
My 2004 vintage Whyte JW4 is a full suspension bike but came from an era when light weight was a big factor. I’ve recently read, in the magazine Mountain Bike Rider (MBR), about bikes weighing around 16.5 kg which are regarded as “trail bikes”. Back in the day the JW4 could have been described as a trail bike but weighs perhaps 12.5 kg. It also has much narrower, 26″ tyres, which will provide much less drag on the trail surface. With the bike sorted I only need to sort my fitness! I’ve been away on holiday for 12 days a few weeks ago and haven’t been putting the work in since so now I need to up my training. The problem is that I have a limited time to improve things during a dry period when trail conditions will be ideal for what will probably be only a single attempt at the target. Today I rode with an improved commitment, ascending Brinscall Woods for 2 laps of the area. Before I reached the woods I was working hard, spinning the pedals quickly to promote my breathing. I then chose a tough, technical section with a particularly difficult step of rock and dirt to climb, which has defeated me several times recently. I kept it to the right, as I knew I must and kept the pedals turning powerfully. I made it! Keeping a strong, continuous force on the pedals always seems to be best approach to difficult sections like this and I used the same technique on later challenges.
I was feeling the effort on the climb to the top of the woods. 3 days ago I sailed my pedal powered dinghy for 70 continuous minutes and although it’s less aerobic than cycling, it’s a bigger test for the muscles. I remember feeling the same kind of fatigue after previous boat trips so I’m thinking that my muscles had been seriously tested and would still have been recovering. This is not a problem because it hopefully indicates that I’m building muscle strength, which can only be helpful for my fast lap. I then had the best downhill in the area to enjoy before climbing more gently back to the top for a second descent.
I returned home after my second downhill via the purpose built trails of Healey Nab. I must say that I prefer the natural trails of Brinscall Woods to anything man made for mountain biking. I’ll be back in the boat over the next couple of days to continue trying to strengthen my legs. After 2 or 3 more bike rides it will be time to try that fast lap.