Up at 5:40 and on the road at 6:15 to make the most of a morning’s freedom in the sunshine. The Peak District in sunny weather is as brilliant as it is rare, you don’t pass up a chance to do this sort of ride. We dumped the cars in Hope and took the Broken Road up towards Mam Nick because I’d never actually ridden up that way before. It’s a bizarre landscape, ancient A-road markings and cats-eyes melting off the hillside on the smashed tarmac.
From Hollins Cross we dropped down Backtor to cross Edale, and then climbed up to Hope Cross via Jaggers Clough. I felt pretty awful coming down Backtor, my legs were like old wire coathangers, flexing and wobbling feebly over every last bump or wrinkle in the path. This was presumably due to my inadequate breakfast arrangements of a banana and some Dr. Pepper. The best part of a bag of Jelly Babies sorted me out in time for the next descent, the long rattly river of baby-head rocks down from Blackley Clough known colloquially as Potato Alley. The only way to ride this stuff is to hit it as hard and as fast as you can manage and try to skip over the top of the shifting, sliding mayhem under your wheels. Speed is your friend – pedal, damn it! Brilliant fun, if you’ve got the requisite energy. The next winch up past Rowlee Farm and over Lockerbrook was well worth it for the splendidly fast swoop down to Derwent reservoir, as ever. One of my favourite descents anywhere, ever, this – smooth enough to get some speed up on a hardtail, but with just enough skittery bits and line options to still be interesting.
We skipped a break at Fairholmes to make the most of the available time and headed onwards towards Whinstone Lee Tor. Even in perfect conditions I couldn’t quite clean the last section of slabs below the barn on the way up – one day, I swear. The path down to Cutthroat Bridge was covered in that magical Peak District gritstone dust that is my favourite riding surface ever: it’s grippy, it’s fast, it’s sparkly and it even smells nice. Tragically we only see this stuff dry a couple of times a year, it’s more usually suspended in water, making that abrasive paste peculiar to the Peak which is so very good at killing bike parts.
We had to call it a day at this point and head back to the cars or risk incurring the wrath of our families. I have to admit that it was a wrench to make myself go home, I could have stayed out and played all day.
(Bonus panorama thing from WLT, works best in Chrome.)