Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning speed play. The aim is to ride continuously, taking it easy on some sections of the ride whilst working hard in other parts. You need to recover from the bigger efforts so by riding in this way you can improve your ability to recover. This will always be important on a mountain bike ride because you have to work hard on steep climbs, particularly if there are rocks and other obstacles to negotiate. Also the title suits my childish sense of humour. Maybe if I’d ever fully grown up I wouldn’t want to ride a bicycle around a muddy trail and call it fun.
I haven’t ridden for a few days because we’ve endured some heavy and persistent rain which has thoroughly soaked the ground. My nearest hill, Healey Nab, has some well drained, purpose built trails so was the obvious place to go. I thought this time, rather than riding several identical laps, I’d ride at a gentle pace on the easier sections and work hard up the steep parts to make it a fartlek ride. I climbed to the top of the hill and stopped to take a picture and this was the only time when I didn’t ride continuously.
I noticed on my first downhill just how much leaf litter has accumulated on the trail. It makes the wheels slide around uncontrollably and could be dangerous. The trails have previously been well maintained and kept clean but it seems as if this is no longer the case. There’s also gravel on many of the corners, which can also cause a slide. You need to be cautious but the riding is still good. I can see from the app. Strava that plenty of people are using the trails and can only hope that they don’t deteriorate too much. It would take a lot of my time to try to clean the route but I have taken a folding saw on 2 occasions this year to clear trees which have fallen across the trails.
I climbed by a steeper route on my next climb, turning on top to use the climb as an off piste descent. It’s more challenging than the manicured official way down and again had some tricky patches of leaf litter. I climbed back to the top and as I rotated around before my last descent was treated to the sight of England’s biggest bird of prey, a buzzard. It flew high above me only to be harried by a smaller bird of prey, a kestrel. I imagine they compete for the same food resources and are thus bitter rivals. I used the same off piste downhill for my last downhill and noticed how poorly I rode some of the corners, running off line and being forced to brake mid corner. I’d lost my full concentration on the ride for some reason and was reminded of just how much you need to be engaged in riding for speed and safety.