We’ve had an awful lot of rain in the 6 days since my last ride. The local trails would be very wet so not only was this unlikely to provide the usual level of entertainment but could also damage the trail. I wanted some exercise but don’t enjoy riding on the road on a mountain bike so a ride along the canal bank seemed favourite.
Obviously it was going to be a ride on almost completely level ground, recording just 93 feet of ascent in 11.71 miles. My average speed, at 10.4 mph, was faster than my usual trail riding and would have been much quicker had the ground not been soaking wet, absorbing much of my energy. I reached the canal after half a mile and turned southwards to ride to the White Bear marina, pictured above. It claims to be the largest marina on the Leeds/Liverpool canal with boats moored three quarters of a mile along the water to the north. I noticed at least one boat which has succumbed to the recent rain and sadly sunk. Quite a number of others had smoking chimneys. Some may be lived on permanently whilst others are occupied for weekends and holidays. My wife and I have discussed the romantic notion of living on the water but I think the lack of space wouldn’t suit us. Most of our possessions would have to go for a start and with 5 mountain bikes to keep there’d be little room left for the dog. I am hoping to build a new boat for personal use this year but it won’t be big enough to sleep on.
I was thinking about the best type of bike for canal bank riding and it certainly isn’t a full suspension mountain bike. The surfaces are a combination of rough tarmac, some concrete and a lot of compacted grit. A gravel bike would be comfortable enough, give less drag from the tyres and have a more aerodynamic riding position. The Trek Fuel EX8 which I’ve been using this winter has a big disadvantage in its transmission. It is a 1X10 setup with a single front chainring. To give a wide spread of gears it uses an 11-46 cassette which, whilst providing more range than needed for this environment, has large gaps between the gears. For much of the ride I needed an extra gear between seventh and eighth. I was either spinning the pedals too quickly in one gear or grinding too slowly in the next. For me mountain bike transmission reached its zenith with 3X10 setups using the more closely spaced gears of an 11-36 cassette. Cost and fashion have meant that modern bikes no longer use multiple front chainrings but I still have this on my Whyte JW4. If I chose to make a long trip on the canal in the summer it may well be the best bike to ride.
I returned northwards and continued to the bottom of 7 locks at Johnson’s Hillock, slowing many times for walkers, many with dogs. I then returned to Hogg’s Lane and back home. It was a good ride in exercise terms but, as with road riding, lacked the excitement of a twisty downhill.