Mind the gap

I had missed loads of Tuesday rides due to broken wheels, broken frames and getting stuck working on something on a Tuesday afternoon.

The old subject of riding Thursday and trying a Tuesday ride had cropped up again and again with the usual difficulty of explaining that a small difference in pace is a big difference in effort.

Usually the advice to the newer Thursday riders is to ignore the distance that grown between leaders and tail on a big pack ride and count the seconds so that the  gap feels smaller than it looks. For a Tuesday winter ride however Tom’s regular xc excursions can include more miles, more hills and few stops this time difference can be considerable and you have to mind the gap or get dropped on all the long hills.

I usually expect younger rides to shrug their lack of fitness or strength and hurtle up any short Stanmer incline with casual abandon where I know I will have to work right from the bottom. On a longer stretch though youth can lose out a bit so I find these reward endurance a little more and expect to manage these much more easily.

Summer rides on Tuesday were fast and fun and mostly the group, including me, held together well with just the extra keen pushing off the front but winter is here and the effort required has grown.

I arrived early and tried a quick spin around Stanmer’s very wet trails as a warm up. Matt, David and Ash were the only attendees as Tom had press-ganged Ash as ride leader. To be honest this is not my first choice of riders for the slow group despite Ash’s confession of riding up towards Woodingdean at less than Tom’s “bullet” pace this did nothing to appease my disappointment at the distance I was behind. David had dropped back and coaxed me along and the conditions were somewhat poor but even so the distance and time were unflattering.

Ash had thought out a loop to suit Matt’s homeward trip and concentrate on the harder surfaces that drain well but huge puddles covering the trails and more, that I proved unrideable in places, were everywhere.

Matt’s new, non lightweight fat bike did not seem to slow him down at all but this is due to it being the correct colour and therefore is probably faster. Despite my protestations everyone held gates for me, waited in super patient mode as I dug in as hard as possible and still I could not find the power to hold them in sight at all. As the latest gate holder overtook me up the next hill and disappeared from view into the fog I continued my fight against the conditions and the drag on the wheels despite sitting atop my “fast” bike. I coped better on the few downhill sections but really missed a front mudguard and as every trail was uphill, into the wind or both I never really found a break.

So Tuesday rides are friendly and fast but still a big step up from Thursday even though they have increased in pace themselves. We would all like to encourage riders to ride Tuesday  but unlike Thursday rides you will have to ride faster and you will have to mind the gap.

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