Monthly Archives: May 2013

Hope Loop


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.

The broken road below Mam Tor
The broken road below Mam Tor

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.

This snap really doesn’t do the Lockerbrook descent justice.

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.)

Cheeky Sunday


Rick and I went for a couple of easy, early hours out on the mountain bikes on Sunday morning instead of the usual road ride, because some of the other Sunday roadies were laid up with man flu, or some other symptom of a general lack of backbone and grit. The weather was dry, but the ground wasn’t and we came home fairly well covered with mud, although the ride was very enjoyable overall.  We did a little exploration and found a couple of interesting new cheeky trails; unfortunately, upon emerging from the empty, bleak moorland that the second one ran across we were asked “Do you know that’s a footpath?” by a farmer in a pick-up. Obviously we plead ignorance and apologised (this despite the fact that the path was steep and slippy so we’d walked all the way up, and clearly no cycling whatsoever was being done by anyone right then). We’ll be back when there’s no-one around, that footpath looked like serious fun in the other direction. Bollocks to our stupid, mediaeval access laws, and bollocks to stupid, mardy farmers.



Rode out from Snake Pass over Lockerbrook to Derwent reservoir to watch a Lancaster bomber, a Spitfire and a couple of Tornadoes fly over the dam to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid on Thursday.  Very impressive.

CVMBC 2013

CVMBC Finish Line

Sunday was the Colne Valley Mountain Bike Challenge. It’s one of those relatively informal “not a race” events where they give you a time and a ranking place at the end, but have to call it a “challenge” because they use bridleways and racing on bridleways is illegal. The event is in aid of a cricket club and a local scout troop, and it’s very well run. There are lots of marshals holding gates open and doing a good job of stopping motorists from flattening you at the various junctions. Three feed stops are laid on for anyone who runs out of juice, and you usually get freebies of some sort at the start line if you don’t turn up too late. The course is probably 50/50 on and off road, with a lot of the descending being done on tarmac, presumably for the sake of not scaring the red-sock-and-walking-pole brigade. There are some fierce hills in there, and your legs certainly let you know you’ve done it at the end.

This was my third year, and I enjoyed it more than the two previous ones, mostly because I got round quicker than ever. I finished over ten minutes faster than last year’s attempt, in spite of a minor mechanical mishap half-way round. The results are here.  I came in with a time of 2:48:41, putting me 36th out of 250 finishers, which I think is respectable. The fastest rider got round in two hours and three minutes, which is very fast indeed.

Hup! There’s literally inches of air under those wheels, look.


Not as easy as they make it look on TV...
Not as easy as they make it look on TV…

I’ve bought some rollers. I got them because I’m supposed to be doing some (XC mountain bike) races this summer, and I thought I should probably do some training for that in order to realise my aim of a top-ten finish (out of the twenty or so riders in the sport category, achievable goals and all that).

Riding on rollers is highly entertaining. If you’re bored of idly prodding the internet or vegetating in front of the telly, I can heartily recommend learning to ride a bike on rollers as a diverting alternative for an hour or so. Some describe the sensation as being like riding on ice, but this is inaccurate. Riding on ice is horrible, because all it involves is slamming down onto the floor incredibly fast and hard, generally at speed, and then sliding along in a stream of slush and wintery road gunk for a few hundred yards. Riding on rollers feels very unstable, yes, but there the similarity ends, I’ve done it for a good hour now and not once did I smash my hip into the ground so badly that I’ll limp for a week, which is what happened last time I rode on some ice. And the time before that, too.

To learn to ride on rollers it is advisable to set yourself up in a doorway (see picture), which has the added benefit of giving anyone sharing your home with you something to laugh at. The first problem encountered is that the bike is higher up than usual, so you have to winch yourself up into the saddle by hanging off the door frame. You clip in, try to get comfy, and turn an experimental pedal. The bike veers off rapidly to one side, you push back to correct it and the wheels fly off the end of the rollers. You try again. The same thing happens. Clearly initial stability is the problem, so you grab the architrave and try to get some revs up. This works a bit better, and after a while you slowly release your deathgrip on the woodwork. After five minutes wobbling about you discover that you can apparently now ride the rollers, and no handed too! “I’ve cracked it!” you think, and reach forwards for the bars, at which point the bike immediately develops the tankslapper from hell and fishtails off the side of the rapidly spinning drums in a matter of milliseconds. Through some innate sense of self-preservation you are able to stop pedalling at this point and you don’t go blasting into the opposite wall or down the stairs at thirty miles an hour, by means of which action your life is preserved.

It is fittingly bizarre for such a strange activity as pedalling a bike indoors on aluminium cylinders that riding no-handed on rollers is actually easier than controlling the thing in the more customary manner, with the bars. You get back on and try again, building up courage to reach forward a few times, and wobbling off in the same manner again and again. You lower the saddle to see if that enables you to maintain a more optimal centre of gravity, or at least shift your weight a little bit without veering off into the radiator. Eventually you give up and resort to grabbing the fixtures and fittings again, one hand on the bars, the other grasping something predictable and solid. This works better, and after a few more minutes you are able to let go, and even start to think about putting both hands on the bars. There is some serious wobbling at this point, but you manage to regain equilibrium after the initial manoeuvre, and finally you are riding the rollers. A few triumphal minutes spent (mostly) centred on the newly mastered spinning contraption, and you feel that your evening has been most productively spent. Next time I’m going to try to figure out getting on and off the bike without the assistance of cosmetic joinery, that should keep me occupied for a good hour at least.

Dusty Sunset

Rick and Simon admiring the sunset.
Rick and Simon admiring the sunset.

A short ride out on Monday night, because the weather was so good it would have been rude not to. Everything was dry and dusty and fast, there was barely a breath of wind and hardly a cloud in the sky, this must be what it’s like to live in California or somewhere like that. Shot down the Packhorse for the third time in three weeks, then headed to the pub for a few pints. Splendid.


Steel City DH

Steel City DHSpent the afternoon in Greno Woods watching the Steel City Mini-downhill race with Wilf. The weather was lovely so there were masses of specators, quite a few of whom were dressed up as Star Wars characters in honour of the date. Steve Peat, one of the main movers and shakers behind the event, did his race runs in a special stormtrooper outfit.


We didn’t stay till the end but I’m pretty sure Peaty won, he was three seconds faster than everyone else at the end of the first round of runs. Everyone seemed to be having a smashing time and I bumped into a couple of people I know (including the joiner who just installed our new floor, randomly enough). The course looked fun and not totally impossible for mortals to ride – I might even think about having a go myself next year.

IMG_0359 IMG_0409




Took the new Soul out this morning to investigate some possible new-to-me tracks over towards Denshaw, little scrappy rights of way and back-lanes that I’ve never bothered to incorporate into my rides for one reason or another. This one was quite unpleasant going up, but looks like it could be smashing fun to rattle down, I’ll have to try it the other way round next time. This one was a boring flat farm track. This one is one of those bridleways-from-hell that’s covered in bits of rotting farm machinery and cow shit, rutted to death by tractors and has about five gates every hundred metres, none of which open or close properly. But one out of three is a fairly good hit rate for these expeditions, usually you try four or five new paths and spend an hour hacking through brambles and swamps without finding anything worth riding at all, and the rest of the ride was lovely.