A trail ride and a challenge.

After several days of surprisingly physical work in the garden it was time to ride my mountain bike. I even contemplated riding one of my classic bikes from the glorious days when full suspension was being rapidly developed. The ground has dried up considerably after many days without rain but it seemed more convenient to ride the Trek Fuel EX8 since my pedals were already fitted. I use the same pedals on all of my 5 bikes. I have SPD pedals where your feet attach to the pedals with cleats. The cleats and pedals wear together so you don’t want to be mixing pedals and shoes since you’ll find either that your shoes become unclipped or alternatively they will refuse to unclip when you need to get a foot down. No, there is no middle ground between these annoying outcomes.

Feeling some muscular fatigue I didn’t want anything too strenuous but that isn’t how it turned out. I thought I’d ride to the sites of 2 of the 3 challenges I have set for the year. I will ride 10 laps of Healey Nab, trying to maintain consistent lap times and finish, well, finished! Today I’d ride a single lap before going to the circuit at Birkacre where I’ve risen to a challenge issued to me on the app. Strava. It’s a single lap which I hope to ride in under 15 minutes and today I’d check out a finalised version of the route. I used the steep climb to Healey Nab and felt like it was tough going as I progressed around the hill top circuit. I diverted from the top of the hill to ride an extension which rides best before the vegetation obscures the trail. I then rode the downhill section and continued across the fast, open field. In places it was still very wet with sticky clay on the surface.

I used a section of canal bank to get me towards my second objective and gave my pace some thought. I simply didn’t feel as if I had a quick lap in me and was soon approaching the start of the lap which on Strava is named “Birkacre Race Route?” I saw that at the weekend my 2 rivals had met to ride the circuit. “O” had not known the exact route so its originator “LG” was showing him the way. After a demonstration lap they’d then ridden more quickly, finishing in 16 minutes 50 (O) and 16 minutes 33 (LG). Typically, for me at least, the metaphorical flag dropped and I got into it. I followed the exact route even though I know Strava will not spot a sneaky shortcut which I know. I was delayed badly along one section, having to slow almost to a halt in deference to elderly walkers. The final climb didn’t kill me and I finished in 17 minutes and 5 seconds. This pleased me since I had something left in the tank even towards the end of an 11.87 mile ride with 1,042 feet of ascent.

I feel sure that I can set a better time than the disappointing 15 minutes 10 seconds of last year. I need to wait until trail conditions are perfect and push myself to the limit. The fastest ever time was set by O in 2021 at 13 minutes 59 and my PB is 14 minutes 21 but this was set on a 4 lap ride at full speed. I’m rather excited by the challenge of a real yet virtual race against 2 others and have age, lack of training and several other excuses to fall back on if I end up third. The offending circuit is pictured at the top of the page.

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