A pilgrimage.

On my last mountain bike ride I tried to do something which has become an annual pilgrimage. Riding to a curiously shaped hump known as the Egg Hillock. I tried to cut across a section of trackless moorland and decided that I didn’t have time to reach my objective. Yesterday I wanted to repeat the ride but get the route right this time. I set off by the same route but on a different bike. The rear wheel bearings of my Boardman FS Pro are worn out, giving me grinding noises and a wobbly wheel, so in sunny conditions I chose one of my classic bikes. The Whyte JW4.

The JW4 has only 100 mm of suspension travel at each end and old school 26″ wheels but has the advantage of being lighter than most modern bikes. It was designed as a go anywhere trail bike but riders would now expect a bike for such a purpose to have 150 mm of suspension travel and accept the consequent higher weight. I’ve always loved the early Whyte bikes with their unique linkage front suspension and early virtual pivot point rear. I had a new one back in the day and always regretted scrapping it when the bearings were worn out. I now have 2 which I bought some years ago, both now 19 years old which is ancient history in a rapidly changing sport.

I decided that with less time pressure today I could take it a little easier on the climbs but the light weight bike meant that many of my sector times on the climbs were quicker. It’s a good return when less effort means quicker progress and has got me thinking that light weight should be an important consideration if I buy a new bike next year. I used the reverse of the way by which I’d left the area on my last ride but it looked different in the opposite direction. I stopped at a gate and was considering if I should turn left through it when along came 2 runners. One assured me that there were no turns towards my first objective of Dean Mills reservoir and that I needed to carry on down the farm track to a later turn. He was wrong. After descending for some way I had to turn around, passing the apologetic runner, and taking a steep and in places unrideable climb up a piece of woodland which, fortunately, I did recognise. After some less steep open moorland I by passed the reservoir and continued on excellent, twisty single track towards my objective.

North west England has a high population density but Smithill’s Moor is quite remote.
The Egg Hillock ahead down delightful, fast single track.

The moor was wet after recent rains though not too onerous. I quickly turned at the top of the hump and began the climb back to Dean Mills reservoir. It would have been nice to climb without a foot down but an early wheel spin on a patch of mud prevented that. I climbed the rest of the way without a problem. I was surprised, in still cool conditions, to find 3 women floating in the middle of the reservoir, chatting away. I waved, naturally. I don’t think I could stand such cold which apparently takes some training to build up resistance to. I was riding in 17 Celsius which is just about perfect for a bike ride. I rode along the edge of the 400 yard long water and descended the rocky steps at the end.

I now had the reward of some excellent downhill trail after climbing to the top of Wilder’s Moor. I found from the app. Strava that I was over 10 seconds slower on the first part of the descent on the lightweight bike. Overall, of course, I’d ride the route more quickly but the rougher downhills are one place where longer suspension travel pays off. If downhilling was the focus of my riding the Whyte wouldn’t have been the best choice but for a long cross country ride it proved ideal. I used another popular section known as the Graveyard which was only finished about 2 years ago. In slimy conditions my time was not impressive but I enjoyed the twisty course.

After one more slippery downhill I returned home by road having covered 20.17 miles with a healthy 2,253 feet of ascent. A longer ride was just what I needed since I’ll be away for almost a week from Thursday. I’m going to the island of Jersey for the first time by scooter with a group of around 15. The trip won’t be good for my fitness.

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