Having been out a few times this week already I was feeling a little tired heading out for a ride today. The sun was out though and it looked like a rare day of no rain. I was also meeting up with my mate Martin who I haven’t ridden with for a while and so the opportunely certainly wasn’t to be passed up.
I have ridden the Long Mynd once before but that day we got lost and spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the valley, meaning we missed most of the best bits. The Long Mynd has a number of way marked routes that crisscross the top of the hills mostly using the local bridal way. The top of the ridge runs at roughly 1500ft which provides some excellent descents and lung busting climbs.
We took route 15, north out of Church Stretton, which winds its way along the front of the hill on fast single track. At All Stretton we decided to turn left cutting into the hill (route 14) and climbing upwards on some very narrow and rocky, technical single track. Going up some of this was unridable and although would make for some fun, if not sketchy descending, meant we were off and carrying the bikes to get to Jinlye. Emerging at the north end of the ridge we turned left again with the choice of either the grassy route 12 or the hard pack double track of route 11. We took the hard pack to Duckely Nap and were glad of the fairly flattish pedal along the top of the ridge heading towards the Shropshire Way.
We stopped for lunch before lining up for the first descent of the day. This descent starts at Haddon Hill and leads you down the gap in the hills to Cardinmill Valley. This whole descent runs next to a roaring river and is the stuff of those epic photo shoots that adore the pages of Single track magazine every month. The stone steps and exposed rock along with drop offs, blind corners and the drainage run offs made for some seat of the pants riding. I would be as bold as to say one of the best descents in the West Midlands. It really surprised me just how good it was and the pair of us were high fiving and totally loving it. It wasn’t quite all gravy though as I had a pretty spectacular blow out on the first drainage run off. A huge bang and the biggest snake bite I have seen quickly put a stop to the run down the hill until I had got it sorted. It wasn’t until a little later I noticed the split in the side wall of the tire but fortunately it didn’t get any worse so it didn’t stop the fun.
Once at the bottom we rode back to Church Stretton and thought that the quickest way back to the top would be up the road that divides the Mynd. This was no small climb and being 20% was pretty steep. We both cleared it, despite the best attempts of a couple of numpty drivers who couldn’t be arsed to wait a minute or so to get to a suitable passing spot. I was pushing up a bit faster than Martin and so waited at the very aptly named Devils mouth. We headed along the road past Round Hill and down to the gliding club.
I had ridden the switch back route before and knew it was certainly worth the climb back up. That time I had ridden it on the hard tail and although it was a great run then, it’s just so much more fun on the full suss. The increased grip gave me loads more confidence to let her rip and try to throw it into the corners. Unfortunately though this is no trail center and without a berm in sight we both over ran the corners a few times. This made it a little more interesting though as Martin and I switched places on the trail cutting the corner to pass while the other one disappeared off into the bushes.
Once we hit the bottom the only way to get back to the final descent of the day would be to go back up. The climb was even steeper than I remember it being. A whopping 25%!! Of course there was the totally justified tirade of abuse from Martin regarding saving the steepest climb for last. I told him I was going to have at it and that I would see him at the top. Unfortunately he had a bout of cramp and by the time he was back riding I was out of sight, so he jumped off and decided to save the last of his energies for the ride down the other side. I was pretty happy with myself if honest that I cleared this one. There were a couple of points where I wasn’t sure could keep going, even when I was forced onto the grass, again by a car driver who couldn’t stop for a few seconds to let me go past. I recognised the final the corner but as I turned the feeling of relief was short lived as the head wind suddenly caught me and I needed the very last of mental will power to keep turning the peddles. Eventually though I made it to the top, victorious!
All that was left to do now was the Minton Batch descent and the roll along the road from Little Stretton back to the car. Although for the most part the ride had been incredibly dry considering the amount of rain we have had of late, Minton Batch was the exact opposite. More than once it seemed as if we had strayed from the trail and blundered into some sort of stream. The trail is particularly narrow and there were many points where the entire width of it was covered with flowing water. The longer it went on the colder and wetter we got. I was pretty happy that we had left this one until the end. At the bottom Martin was starting to struggle with some cramp again so we got on our way as quick as possible.
This was easily the best day of riding in 2012 so far.