I was expecting a wet and muddy ride last night but it turned out not too bad actually - though we did miss out two short sections as we knew they would be minging.
There were five of us originally intending to ride but Pam couldn't get there in time due to traffic so it was just Jez, Stu, Drew and me. It's usually a faster paced ride if it's just the boys, at least my legs were feeling better after yesterday's rest day, they needed some zip tonight.
We set off without Stu as he would catch us up as he had more faff than us to do (he's far too fit these days anyway so no quarter given). We set off up the fireroad track past the reservoirs, it was freezing here as all the cold air sits on the water. The overflow was really giving it death, couldn't see the water rushing under the bridge as it was too far down but could certainly hear it.
The track was quite stodgy to start with and there was a definite stream running down one side of it but as we climbed a bit it dried out. I was enjoying having a full range of working gears due to the new mech (old one was completely bent apparently) when the chain chucked into the spokes. I managed to stop as soon as I realised something wasn't right and it hadn't gotten itself too emeshed so I managed to pull it out easily. The above makes it sound like I'm really in tune with the mechanics of my bike, I'm not but I've tried to pedal through that kind of resistance to pedalling several times before and destroyed things - I have learnt the expensive way.
I caught up to Jez and he did some trail side adjustments and things were fine after that. We took the decision not to follow the fence track as it would be boggy, Stu did do it and it was indeed exceedingly soft!
I had my first tyre/pipe altercation on the next section as I dropped down into a new rut that has opened up and just caught the edge of a plastic pipe at the wrong angle. It wasn't a dramatic slip so I got my foot down ok. I stomped up the next road climb to get the heart rate up a bit before the long drag to the Tower.
Stu caught us up just as we were about to go over the field, there was a lot of water running down the field which made the start of the track very boggy. I don't think I've seen it like that before. The rest of the track was pretty stodgy mud and I was really struggling to ride it, the front wheel seemed to be pinging all over the place rather than rolling over the rocks and ruts. I just thought I was having one of those nights and decided I would be careful going up the climb in case I rode off the edge again (done that before on a night when I was riding badly).
At the bottom of the climb I happened to look down and notice that my forks were still locked out from the road section. Ahem! Forks unlocked and off we went up the climb. Lots of water running down on the bottom section and it was pretty soft. It was quite slow progress, not helped at all by the wind being directly in our faces. I picked an effort level and plugged away (learning from running against the wind).
I eventually overtook Drew and was in front (Stu and Jez were gabbing when we set off else Stu would be a red dot from his back light in the distance and not behind me). I successfully negotiated the orange pipe that got me last time and got over the rock step even though I was slower than I normally am due to the wind. The next section of the climb is the most technical and as it was dark I couldn't see what state the trail was in until I reached it. I have been taking the centre line but that had now changed to a deep narrow, twisty rut that I didn't think I'd ride out so I took the left hand line but there was a pipe that caught me out (and Drew and Jez). Stu saw me spin out on the pipe and went up the less attractive (to me anyway) right hand side quite easily, though that doesn't necessarily follow that I can do it.
Drew had a go at the right hand line and didn't make it, Jez took the left and spun out but just pushed up the trail a bit and continued. I dithered a little then rolled down a little to a flat bit of trail to get on the bike and had a go. I cleaned it! Basically through brute strength and ignorance but I was really chuffed.
It was quite breezy on the top so we headed straight off to the Tower and then down the rutty track. This was surprisingly dry, it had the odd soft patch but it was generally pretty firm, I can only assume its being scoured dry by the wind. We decided not to do the rutty track that goes all the way round as we thought it would be too soft, instead we'd go over the top of the moor.
Setting off the track started to get really soft, more like what I was expecting the rest of the ride to be and at the turning point you could see all the water glistening on the track we decided not to do. It was pretty soft over the top but I followed Drew and whilst he dropped into a deep puddle I managed to skirt round it.
At the road Drew decided he didn't want to do the Mill Lane descent and headed off right to do the other track. I love the Mill Lane descent on a bike so the rest of us headed off that way. I had a scary front wheel slide on the little section of singletrack past HollinsHead Hall, I really thought it was all about to end badly but I somehow managed to get it back and bimbled down the rest of it until I stopped hyperventilating.
The Mill Lane descent was not surpsisingly very wet, lots of leaves on it hiding the rocks but still probably my favourite descent. The Roman Candle effect was back with a vengeance and even though for once it wasn't spattering my face it was really hard to see past it.
The last section through the woods was as good as ever though because of the leaf fall it wasn't always that obvious where the path was, you knew pretty quickly if you'd ridden of it because it changed to stodge. Stu had a rapid desceleration moment when he rode off the track on a downhill. He just seemed to stop dead. He did say he had to try hard not to go over the bars, if it was me I would've tipped.
It was a quick ride, I don't think we were out for more than an hour and a half total. Such a shame its so short but not everyone's lights last much longer.