Well, maybe not all four, but September has felt like Summer, Winter and Autumn at points so far. Started off so nicely, warm and dry, the promise of an Indian Summer in the air, then by the middle of the month we’d had so much rain I had my winter mud tyres back on the bike… Last night we were back to the Indian Summer again, not a breath of wind, no clouds in the sky, sea like a mill pond, lovely evening to be slogging up hills on my bike.
The Weald is my Oyster
This month my riding has been very run-of-the-mill. I’ve been climbing Hastings’ two hills, the East and the West, as often as I can, and exploring a few country lanes around the villages on the outskirts of the town. All quite dull but fairly good for fitness. Climbing over the East and West hills either side of Hastings Old Town gives me about 800ft of climbing in 5 miles, a good work out for the legs.
I remember when all this was baked dusty…
I’ve certainly noticed that my legs have started to feel stronger and I feel I’m back to progressing with my fitness and stamina after going backwards in August when I was a bit ill and hardly rode the bike. During September’s little rainy spell, I fitted the mud tyres and crud catcher and took the bike to Bedgebury. After so many bone dry rides there this summer (Dry rides at Bedgebury are a rarity, even in July & August) it was almost a shock to see the place back to it’s characteristic boggy state. A lot of the actual singletrack is completely fine to be fair as it’s still well sheltered by leaf cover, but many of the link roads are absolute quagmires.
For many years I’ve been completely skeptical about tyre choices on bikes, but I’ve started to take it seriously this year. My first ride on my mud tyres highlighted how much of a difference tyres can make. In the summer I was running a 2.1in Panaracer fire on the back wheel and a 2.35 Maxxis Ignitor at the front, my Bontrager Mud X are supposed to be 2in but they are very narrow and look more like 1.8. It’s quite disconcerting to see the wheels suddenly looking all skinny, but I know Ignitors are absolutely useless in mud so the Mud X needed an airing.
So I start on the Singletrack, speed up, hit the first corner, the bike doesn’t feel quite right. Next corner the back wheel slips a little, third corner I go in fast and the rear wheel gives up and slides. After that, I backed off and just rode gently. The bike felt very different, the skinny tyres were getting knocked out of line all the time by wet roots and I couldn’t ride confidently at “full speed”. As the ride wore on I got used to the difference and picked up speed a bit, but still rode a little slower than normal down the “fast” bits. Interestingly enough, my average speed for the ride was quicker. Because I wasn’t busting a gut to maintain 14mph down the fast trails, I wasn’t knackered at the bottom of the climbs and so overall I rode quicker. The positive aspect of the skinny tyres is that they do cut through quagmires well and mud does not stick to the tread on these things. As soon as the wheels turn, the Mud X shed the mud they collect. This doesn’t happen in my experience with my “summer” tyres which end up totally clogged and gripless.
There is another new bit opened at Bedgebury too, it’s basically a BMX/4x style trail, loads of big wide berms and a set of rollers. It’s nice and fast, but many of the berms are just a bit too tight to hit at full speed. Following on from there, some large-ish rock gardens are being built over some very boggy ground. Should be interesting to se how many injuries these cause.
I do like to be beside the seaside
So, last night, climbing up the West Hill and enjoying some amazing peace and quiet and beautiful views, I also managed to ride my 900th mile of 2013. Once I hit 1,000 miles I’m planning on riding a little less frequently over the winter and going back to the gym. I still think there’s scope for a couple of good rides this Autumn, maybe a bit more exploring bridleways and country lanes rather than bombing round singletrack but we’ll see.