Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday 8th June: MTB Ride - finding new trails

Distance: 27.96 Ride Time: 3:37:51 Map/Faff/Food Time: Lots! Probably at least 1.25 hours. Av HR: 134 Max: 181

I have been poring over the West Pennine Moors OS map in conjunction with Lancashire County Councils Bridleway Strategy document for the last couple of weekends to find some new trails to ride and to link them in with our current trails around Rivi and Abbey Village. I had decided to investigate heading over to Turton Tower and coming back over Winter Hill and dropping down to Belmont, at that point I could make a decision to carry on out towards Lead Mines or to head back to Abbey Village along Catherine Edge. I had put an e-mail out on Wednesday asking if anyone was up for riding and Ed responded saying he was likely to be up for it and on Saturday night he rang to confirm. I suggested we do a bit of exploring and he was up for it, no-one else was interested so just having the two of us meant it would be perfect for exploring.

We had decided to try to get out earlyish as the forecast was for a warm one, Ed would pick me up from mine at 9am. I had gotten my Camelbak bladder organised the night before as I would be using the Torq energy drink (first time in anger really) and wanted to give it plenty of time to dissolve. I filled the bladder full, 3 litres and stuck it in the fridge over night. I was awake at 7am so had plenty of time to get my stuff together. As it was due to be hot and this was probably going to be the longest ride I had done for quite some time I was quite liberal with the Assos creme and the factor 30. I got the rest of my kit together, summer stuff only for a change. I took my Camelbak itself downstairs and put the bladder in and realised how bloody heavy it was, I haven't carried a full Camelbak for quite some time.

Ed arrived some time around nine and we loaded the Titus and other gubbins into his Audi then headed off for Abbey Village. It was warm stepping out of the car but there was at least a breeze
but this wasn't going to be a day for pushing hard. The usual olympic level of pre-ride faff was undertaken, putting bikes together, shoes on, helmet on, sunglasses etc etc. I had a major faff with the Garmin as I had managed to put it into auto multisport mode somehow, I pressed the buttons randomly for a while then it seemed to do what it was supposed to. After all that we were ready to ride, until I put my hands on the grips and realised that I hadn't put any gloves on, cue more faff while I found my short finger ones. Then we set off to do the Abbey Village loop in the usual direction.

The inital climb up through the woods was warm but not too bad due to the cover provided by the trees, which is now very dense indeed. We headed off along the fence track which was nice and dry (apart from the usual seepage bogs but even they were drier than usual) but the "log people" had been out in force again laying logs across the track, I'm assuming they want to make it difficult for bikers but it just adds to the technical challenge, one of the logs placed just before the first wooden bridge actually made it easier to get up onto it. We rode off to the steep bridleway which we managed to ride down with only one slowing down to pass a dog walker at the start of the cobbly section, which is a good place to pass people. The track across the field was fast and dry too then we were at the bottom of the climbs to the Tower. A couple of other bikers tried to encourage us up the steep climb but we declined for the longer climb as we still had a lot of miles to go and we would be riding into the breeze. It was a nice climb, made easier by the dryness of the trails and I didn't have any problems at all.

I flew along the top track to the Tower enjoying the fact I was on the Titus and it was letting me away with silly line choices, I normally ride the hardtail on these tracks. I built up some speed to attack the last short rocky section to the Tower, forgetting I wasn't on my hardtail, normally the rocks do a good job of scrubbing off the speed on the On-One but on the Titus I was still carrying loads of speed at the end of the section and nearly piled into the two lads we had spoken to earlier. Ed was caught out on his hardtail and went back to ride the section again then had a chat to the two lads, I enjoyed the view and took a picture of the Tower though it was the only time the camera came out on the ride.

We carried on the normal route round to the rutty track which was very fast and flowing due to being so dry, we popped back out onto the wide track but instead of climbing back up towards the tower we veered left and headed up to Darwen moor. There are two tracks across the top that I have run on several occasions, they do suffer from being wet and boggy but today they should be dry. We decided to go on the left track as that was the one I had run most recently so I knew what the conditions were like and there was also a group of mountain bikers heading along it already. It is quite a rutty track, vehicle tyre ruts so although it was dry still needed some concentration. I had warmed Ed there would be some unrideable stuff at the other end due to drainage ditches and so on. There were at least two wet feet moments as we had to get off and jump over bogs with the bikes, then a short ride to the end of the path. Our original intention had been to carry on down a descent which would drop us onto the Catherine Edge track, however the group in front of us headed off left over some more moorland track. A quick check of the map showed the track was part of the Witton Weavers Way (as would practically every other track seem to be) and headed to the A666 which was where we were headed anyway. The track started off as more grasy moorland path but then opened out into a very well surface track, much like Catherine Edge, basically all weather. We carried on down this quite quickly but then noticed that the other group were pushing their bikes up away from the track we were on. We carried on for a bit then had another map check, we could see the other group on a track, quickly descending, the track they were on dropped them down to the A666 but closer to the junction of Green Arms Road than we would be, a track that needs exploring on an evening. We arrived at the A666 then rode along, turning onto Green Arms Road. We road along here for about a mile and a half until we picked up the track I was looking for which would take us to the back of Turton Tower. It was another motorway wide track, not very challenging really but did have one fast lumpy downhill section that was fun. We rode past the Tower (probably, don't remember seeing it) and headed for Egerton. The tracks continued to be wide and easy going, this part of the ride was punctuated with lots of map checking which slows things down, but as it was so hot neither of us was bothered about hurrying, we also had a food break, the energy drink was working but my stomach felt empty and rumbly. Once through Egerton we had another few bits of motorway bridleway stuff then we got onto the road and started heading for Winter Hill.

The original plan was to pick up the access road to the masts and climb the hill that way, but as we were heading along the tarmac road to Holdens Farm we spotted a footpath that said "Winter Hill 2.25km", a quick check on the map showed that we could cut some of this road section out and it was another well surfaced track. We had planned to go back on the road but it looked more interesting to continue climbing on this track. It was worth riding it to find out whether it would be sensible to ride it in the wet or not. It was a fantastic track, one that needs to be ridden again as both a climb and a descent, I have also earmarked it for running. It would probably be not too bad in the winter too as the ground seemed pretty sandy and free draining. We climbed all the way to the masts then had to turn back a bit as they have a diversion in place whilst they upgrade the masts ready for digital in 2009. This diversion was very dry today but was obviously very prone to being wet and boggy normally. The diversion brought us to the top of the descent to Belmont.

It was quite an open track and it was possible to see a long way ahead on it. It had lots of water bars of varying heights, ruts, rocky sections and smoother grass sections. As I was on the Titus I set off first, as I had never ridden it before I was quite cautious going over the drops created by the water bars eroding. I couldn't see until I was on them what the trail was like at the foot of the drop but all apart from the largest one had good trail. As I was going over the largest one I noticed a large boulder at the foot that my front wheel was heading for so I had to loft the front a bit to get over it. The smoother sections really caused me to pick up speed that needed to be brought under control for the looser ruttier sections. After a while I could feel my quads burning, this was a long descent by local standards but all too soon it was over. I stopped and turned to look for Ed but no sign, after a while I was starting to get a bit worried (as I really didn't want to have to go back up there) when he rolled into view. He had stopped to put his saddle down as he was on his hardtail.

We dropped down to the A675 and decided to head back to Abbey Village, it was too hot to think about heading over to the Lead Mines and Healey Nab. We rolled into Belmont then headed off along Egerton road finally arriving at the steep bit of road climb that my legs always hate. At the start of the Catherine Edge track we stopped for a food break again. We had a bit of a headwind back towards Tockholes but it was just a slog back then the swoopy singletrack to the bottom of the loose climb, which seemed even looser today as I had a few wheelspinning moments, I hate what they have done to this track. That meant there was only the fast rocky descent left really, we set off down this past the "re-enacters" with their swords, tunics, shields and other historic paraphernalia (not what you expect to see in the woods on a hot sunny Sunday near Blackburn). This descent was quite interesting, surprisingly not too many people on it, but the dappled light made things a bit confusing. We decided to take the fence track back as it involved the lesser of the two potential climbs and annoyingly I managed to get caught out on one of the logs this time.

Then it was back to the car. Once I got home I dug the Camlebak out of my bag and found I only had about 250ml of water left, which I promply drank. I felt fine, not starving which I put down to the energy drink but I did have a few glasses of plain water. The taste of the Torq wasn't too bad really, it was sweet without being overpoweringly sickly and the Lemon Lime flavour gave it a nice tang. The electrolytes must have done something as normally after a long, hot ride I want salty food but I didn't have that craving this time.

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