The first time I did this route was August last year and it was only my second or third ride on the mountain bike. I wasn't very good. Not much power, no handling skills, feet down all the time, scared by drop offs... You get the idea.
Fast forward nearly a year and what a difference. Only 800 miles clocked up on the MTB (and they are mostly towpath miles) but a lot more experience on rocky bridleway, peaty moorland and a bit of trail centre.
Going up Wilsden steps last time was good exercise for my pushing muscles. This time I rode up 2/3 of them. There is still work to do getting up steps. This is the one thing I really struggled with last time I did a MTB skills course. Getting the front wheel up on Herman is tricky because he's quite heavy and long and I didn't have my saddle low enough to properly shift my weight backwards. However a burst of full power and pull back on bars does the trick even if it does push my heartrate slightly into the red when done repeatedly 8-| Also I need to work on shifting my weight forward to lift the back wheel up as it did stick a couple of times. I might have to search out a decent sized step locally and practice lots.
It was a cracking day for it though, sun and a bit of breeze. Not a day for uphill heroics otherwise we'd have been drenched.
Karl got a pinch flat descending to Crossroads so we attempted to dry out our sweaty backs whilst he was fettling a replacement tube in. He never pumps his tire up enough that lad ;)
Seat height is another thing I never seem to get right. Set it high and the uphill are more efficient but moving your weight around effectively is more difficult. Set low and the technical stuff becomes much easier but climbing hills is a slog. Not helped by the fact I have to really ratchet the seatpost QR up tight to stop the saddle slipping down when I hit a bump.
I can see why people fit dropper posts; in fact that might be the next upgrade to consider after a new air fork. Goodbye money.
Overall today the downs were less scary and the technical uphill sections less awkward.
We had all run out of water so we decided an isotonic recovery sports ale was required. Two pints of Timmy Taylors Boltmaker did the trick!
Nice to bump into our old boss Bob in the pub. He's doing well running his own company and is looking fit and well. Good times and a ride off into the sunset.
Tip the hat to Punk Rock Bike Club who uses song titles as blog post titles. Set the dial for 1995...
"Getting Better", Shed Seven