Adding spice to a ride.

I didn’t have much time to ride this morning but after 3 days was keen to get out on my mountain bike. After a few days with heavy rain the trails would inevitably be muddy which would mean more time was required to clean the bike afterwards. A fairly short blast on the canal bank looked favourite so I set off down the road to Hogg’s Lane to access the Leeds/Liverpool canal. It isn’t nearly as exciting an environment as a twisty trail on the hills so I needed something to add spice to the ride.

I’d warmed up fully by the time I was on the canal bank and had a simple plan. I’d ride to Johnson’s Hillock where 7 locks raise boats by around 70 feet. There’s quite a thrill to riding in one direction then trying to match or beat your time on the way back. I decided as I set off that it would be best not to climb the locks because the climb would mean that my outbound and homeward times couldn’t be fairly compared. The distance would only be 2.8 miles each way and obviously it’s almost totally level riding next to the water. The surface varies a little which was enough in places for me to switch between 8th and 9th out of my 11 gears.

I turned the pedals fast enough, at around 90 rpm, to promote breathing and made sure that I could feel plenty of resistance. I also gave some thought to making sure that I turned the pedals in a full circle, keeping the pressure on all the way round, rather than pushing them up and down. I use clipless pedals to which my feet are attached to help with this. They’re also good on bumpy surfaces to keep you safely in contact with the bike. I kept concentrating on my mission and didn’t allow my pace to drop, reaching the first lock in 13 minutes 16 seconds.

I stopped briefly to take the photo at the top of the page and started my return leg. Mid way I certainly felt as if I was slower. I couldn’t seem to keep the same pressure on the pedals without pushing my legs towards exhaustion but kept working away. It’s hard with only the voice in your head to cheer you on. I know the route well and it’s marked out by various landmarks. I passed the graffito which reads “Shirley Animal” and tried to keep my pace up. A little later I reached the Cowling Slipway and knew it was a short distance to the finish. I tried my best to sprint, still sitting on the saddle and finished in 13 minutes 28 seconds, just 12 seconds down.

Due to my sprint I managed the return section from Shirley Animal to Hogg’s lane in 3 minutes and 4 seconds, which was 19 seconds quicker than my outbound leg. This shows that I was still keeping the pace up at the end but must have let it slip somewhat in the earlier part of the return. All in all it was a good ride with, I’m sure, some real training value. It was just what I needed in the short time available.

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