Remembering Gareth Hobson

Remembering Gareth Hobson

I was idly cruising Twitter the other night when I thought “I wonder if Julia is on here yet?” A quick search told me she wasn’t (she is now @julialikesbikes), but it did turn up an article from Total Women’s Cycling Magazine telling the story of Julia Hobson and her Gareth. The first picture in the article is Julia in a full face helmet, standing at the top of yet another awe inspiring vista whilst Gareth, also in a full face helmet, pecks her on the cheek. An image that illustrates rather beautifully Gareth and Julia’s multi-tiered relationship,  I’m not sure I’ve known two people so intended for each other, so meant to be together.

Julia Hobson Twitter

A search for “Julia Hobson” on Twitter

I first met Gareth in the Harley on Glossop Road in Sheffield in 2001. He was sporting a pot on his leg and went into some detail about the amount of metal work in his ankle and how it had no articulation whatsoever, “completely fused” I think were his words. He also told me about how pleased he was that he could finally do one arm pull ups and how he’d met this great girl called Julia.

Not being a climber or mountain biker my encounters with Gareth over the next decade or so were sporadic. We shared a circle of friends and would occasionally cross paths here and there. We had a fireworks party at some point in the late noughties and Gareth, a science teacher, turned up with home made fire works. There was much smoke and nervous giggling as fuses were lit and explosions ensued, oh how we laughed on the way to the burns unit.

It wasn’t until I told our mutual friend Matt that I was planning to buy a mountain bike that an inner circle opened up and I was welcomed in. Matt decided that we needed to have a discussion in a pub with Gareth as soon as possible.

It’s not that there was ever any deliberate exclusion from this circle, and if there was then it was completely justified. When you want to sit in a pub and talk about a subject at great length and in great detail it’s only fair to your uninterested friends that you save them from the tedium of discussions about stanchions and the virtues of different brands of tyre. So I found myself in The Wick at Both Ends on West Street, Sheffield, talking about mountain bikes with Matt and Gareth.

During that evening there was never a put down or an elitist comment, they both listened to my naive ramblings about what I wanted, how much I could afford to spend and whether I should try and build it myself with great patience and good humour before gently steering me down a route that would lead me to buy a sensibly priced bike that would stand up to what they were planning to do to it. When it dawned on me that I was likely to need to spend about £1000 on a bike and get this purchase signed off by my wife Gareth simply said “Just tell her it’s a matter of safety… That’s what I do.”

Gareth was not one to rest on his laurels or let his fused ankle get in the way of whatever he intended to do. There wasn’t much he couldn’t ride up and even less he wasn’t prepared to ride off. That said, the limit on No Excuses Thursday has been two pints since Gareth’s 8 foot plummet into the darkness of a river bed following three pints in The Sportsman at Lodge Moor, he did land it though.

Rivelin Valley

Rivelin Valley

It was on a sunny No Excuses Thursday Evening that Matt, Gareth and I set out from Hillsborough along the Rivelin Valley, a jumbled intertwining network of paths and moss covered millstones reminiscent on a Lord of the Rings set. It was my second Thursday night ride on my then new On One 456 and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself as I’d just ridden down “the big steps” without incident, a far cry from the previous week.

It was the second set of Rivelin steps that were my undoing and half way down I found I was too far forward and not carrying enough speed. I briefly unicycled on the front wheel before it buckle under the unusual load being applied to it. I landed on my shoulder and the bike sailed across the footpath and came to a stop in the river.

It was while Matt and I were scratching our heads and glumly looking at a bike with two bent wheels that Gareth came pootling back along the path having been unaware of the calamity unfolding behind him. “You’ve folded that up well.” He said chirpily and proceed to beat the front wheel straight on a roughly hewn log bench. He then turned his attention to the rear wheel and within 15 minutes I had two “straight enough to ride” wheels again. I don’t think it occurred to Gareth that this was, in most people’s estimations, a ride ending accident, it was just a problem in need of a solution. I was grumpy and disheartened and yet I got back on my wobbly wheeled clown bike and 15km and two pints later finished the ride in good spirits thanks to Gareth’s infectiously positivite outlook and can do attitude.

It was this can do attitude that has left us what is in my opinion one of Gareth’s greatest legacies and it stared with Gareth asking Matt if he wanted to “play cable cam”. The answer was yes and the video below is the result.

This was filmed by rigging a rope slide with a home made camera platform between the trees on one of the Peak District’s most iconic descents, The Beast. The objective was to chase the camera and get a third person view of the descent. At 1:13 you can see Gareth has released the camera for Matt on the second straight, then set off and actually catches him up from a standing start. Quite impressive.

The last time I saw Gareth it was for fare thee well drinks at The Forum on division street. He was embarking on a trip of a life time to Canada and the US where he and Julia intended to ski, ride and climb everything for the next year or so. So committed to this project was Gareth that when the school he was teaching at declined to authorise his sabbatical he handed his notice in.  We finished our drinks and I handed Gareth $20 Canadian dollars that I had kicking around from a trip to Montreal a couple of months previous. He thanked me and said “I shall buy a case of beer with this and sit down to build some bikes.” That was the last time I saw him.

I know it was November when Gareth died because Matt came around to tell me sporting a ridiculous Movember handlebar mustache. Maybe this type of face furniture should be mandatory when delivering bad news as it does have the effect of deflecting the impact somewhat. We sat and we talked, utterly winded and bewildered by the news, our hearts breaking for Julia’s loss.

Three years on and Gareth’s name often crops up in conversation in the pub on his Thursday night ride. As time passes the sadness drifts and we can more easily share our memories of Gareth with fondness and laughter. For me Gareth’s legacy is a call to lethargic desk jockeys and weary teachers to get off the sofa, pull on some Goretex and face the rain, mud and fog, possible injury and certain beer that is No Excuses Thursday, all in the pursuit of adrenaline, camaraderie and fun.


Taxpayer Funded Vandalism of the Peak District

Taxpayer Funded Vandalism of the Peak District

Like many other Twitter agitators I received a tweet with a link to a DCC page. This was in response to my tweets to Derbyshire County Council about the destruction of the Chapel Gate / Rushup Edge bridleway. It looked like this:


I will be reproducing the full Derbyshire County Council post at the bottom of this page in unalterable, Rosetta stone, screen shotted jpeg format for these things have a habit changing (£70K dropping to £30K for instance) and previous statements being denied. In this post I will address and expose the specious and facile arguments put forward by DCC.

Derbyshire County Council Chapel Gate

Derbyshire County Council Chapel Gate

As you can see from Derbyshire County Council’s own illustrative photograph, this bridleway is down to bedrock. the rocks you see in the picture are stable and are not going anywhere.  Let us look at what Derbyshire County Council have deemed suitable to resurface Rushup Edge with.


If this is what Derbyshire County Council do in the name of safety I dread to think how they behave when they are being negligent.

To give you a sense of perspective the smallest of these rocks is the size of a large fist and when you ride a bike over them they undulate like a carpet of marbles. If this is what Derbyshire County Council do in the name of safety I dread to think how they behave when they are being negligent. Now imagine the surface area of a horse’s hoof. Does this in anyway look conducive to the safety and comfort of a horse or rider? My concern is genuine because it highlights the only real question I want Derbyshire County Council to answer: Who are you doing this for?


This is a wide group that encompasses young and old from every section of society. Walking is a unique human trait, one of the cornerstones of our evolution as a species, freeing up the hands to develop the fine motor skills to use tools, write down lanugage, share ideas, poetry and pass on knowledge to the next generation. Walking transcends class and financial means, to do it in comfort costs no more than the price of a waterproof jacket and a pair of boots. The one thing that we can safely assume, without fear of contradiction, is that everyone in this group can walk.

Now that we have established that walkers can walk, and they would have to do a fair bit of it to reach Chapel Gate / Rushup Edge in the first place, I would like you to imagine this scenario. You are standing at the bottom of a steep set of steps that reach up meters into the air, they number 10, maybe 13 and they stand between you… and your toilet. How are you going to conquer this monumental barrier? One approach could be to contact Derbyshire County Council’s PROW department and they’ll pop round and turn your house into a bungalow, not particularly practical or cost effective but that’s how they roll. My point being that most people encounter steps no bigger than those on Rushup Edge everyday of their lives, to say that these steps are impeding walkers is frankly laughable.

Does anyone go walking in the Peak District expecting it to be smooth, even and flat? Isn’t the fact that it’s rugged, exposed and natural part of the attraction of these routes? In September 2014 I rode up these steps on my bike as part of the Hope Valley Moutnain Bike Challenge. I am not especially fit or talented so if I can do it on a bike, I put it to DCC that even those of below average fitness would be able to walk up them at a steady pace. These steps were not impassable they were a unique natural feature that has been carelessly destroyed.

The Peak District Sponsored By Stannah

If I can ride up Rushup Edge steps most people can walk up them.

Horse Riders?

The following is taken from and I believe reflects the positive ownership of responsibility felt by the majority of those who use these bridleways.

This is a VERY CHALLENGING but very rewarding ride. The Loop is rugged and strenuous in places so you and your horse need to be fit and prepared. Sections of the route follow rough paths across exposed moorland.

The bridleways used in the Kinder Loop are often stony and steep because of the very nature of the countryside they are set in.

This has been lifted verbatim from Peak Horse Powers website (capitals and all)  and what I find most encouraging about the statement is not the recognition that it is a “very challenging” ride but acknoledgement that it is “very rewarding”. This is language I can relate to. I know it would seem to many mountain bikers that horse riders are just ambling along but it seems to me that they enjoy pushing themselves and their steeds just as much as we do.

This one sentence gives me a renewed sense that horse riders and mountain bikers are on the same side despite attempts by Derbyshire County Council to pit our communities against each other with sentences like “Mountain bikers prefer challenging, rockier routes, whereas these might not be suitable for horse riders or walkers.” Hear that walkers and horse riders? DCC think you can’t handle the Peak District’s rugged terrain. Feeling patronised? You should be.

The fact of the matter is that if Derbyshire County Council genuinely want their resurfacing to ensure these bridleways can be “enjoyed by everyone” then surely they have to cater to the one group who are most impeded by these routes. The group they have failed to mention in their post.

Wheelchair Users

If we take Derbyshire County Council at their word and their resurfacing is for the benefit of “everyone” then surely this should mean making the bridleways so smooth as to not impede wheelchairs. To level bridleways sufficiently would preclude the use of rough cut aggregate and certainly involve tarmac or concrete. I doubt even the most ardent wheelchair access advocate would expect Derbyshire County Council to take such drastic action.

So I return to my original question, who are you doing this for DCC? Surely you must have some data? A deluge of correspondence or a petition for improvements from a group of users? A statistical spike in injuries on Rushup Edge that would perhaps support your claim that it is unsafe? What are you basing your decisions on?

In Summary

Before DCC’s resurfacing we had a bridelway that was suitable for the majority of users and loved by mountain bikers (who apparently don’t count). £70,000 later we have an unstable surface making it more likely to injure walkers, cyclists, horses and their riders. Further more, despite their claims to be championing the right of access to all users we still have a surface that is unsuitable for wheelchair users.

Your arguments and claims thus far Derbyshire County Council have been shown to be contradictory, false and lacking in supporting evidence. The work you have carried out has damaged the character of the Peak District and benefits no one.

Derbyshire Country Council’s Response to #rushupgone

DCC Full Post Rushup Edge

DCC Full Post Rushup Edge

Derbyshire County Council Sanitising Bridleways #rushupgone

Derbyshire County Council Sanitising Bridleways #rushupgone

Dear Robert (robert.greatorex AT and Peter (Peter.White AT,

I took part in the Hope Valley Mountain Bike Challenge this September and we were warned at the start of the event that there had been some changes made to a portion of the trail that leads down to Hayfield. Having ridden this route many times I was aware of the need to repair what had become a rutted narrow bridleway.

Sanatising Rushup Edge

Destroying another historic Peak District bridleway

The reason we were “warned” is because of the way these repairs had been carried out. It seems that Derbyshire CC have seen fit to dump tons of fist sized chunks of granite onto this route. Not large enough to stay put and not small enough to create an even surface, it would seem that DCC have chosen this particular size of rock because of its ability to damage horse’s hooves, turn over walkers’ ankles, whilst remaining impenetrable to wheelchair users.

From a mountain biker’s perspective, riding this bridleway used to be challenging and fun, I would now liken it to riding a pneumatic drill over a carpet of marbles. The ironic result of your “improvements” is that you have made the route unrideable at a safe speed, as going slowly over this surface only makes the experience longer and the bike harder to control.

It seems to me that even the most capable 4×4 would struggle to cope with this terrain. Who are you doing this for? I suspect the answer to this is that you don’t know. You have hired a contractor who has done the work in such a way as to make the most money from the project and there has been no effort to uncover the needs of those who actually use the routes.You have already sanitised Stanage Causeway and I am led to believe that you plan to do the same to Rushup Edge.

You must stop this vandalism. These historic bridleways are part of the fabric of the Peak District and the UK mountain biking scene. They draw tourism from around the country and whatever your opinion of mountain bikers you cannot deny the sport’s contribution to the local economy and individual fitness, both things you are supposed to be promoting at local government level.

You clearly have no idea what a valuable and unique asset you are destroying, the reason for this is that you have not asked for the opinion of those who actually use these bridleways. I urge you to postpone all further work until you have entered into a consultation process with mountain biking groups and other users of the Peaks.

Links to this story:

Chap from 18bikes being interviewed, forward to 1:15

A great letter from Cy at Cotic

Derbyshire County Council Speaks

The Beast of Clough Lane

The Beast of Clough Lane

As the weather has improved our Thursday night excursions have become more regular and the title “No Excuses Thursday” is beginning to have some meaning once again. We have added a couple of new members in recent weeks and lost a regular as well. We’ve explored new trails with intimidating names like “Wide Bar Death” and seen some of the beasts that inhabit the moors at dusk.

Stags on Blackamoor

Stags on Blackamoor


I also had my first big off in nearly a year descending Clough Lane. I completely misjudge the corner at the end and ploughed straight into a dry stone wall at 30 mph. I can only liken it to the helplessness of falling nightmares I’ve had where the ground hurtles towards your face and you wake at the moment of impact. I had just enough time to think, I’m going to wake up in hospital… the wife is going to kill me… before BANG!

Mashed fingers

Mashed fingers

Chadders was closer enough to see me somersault over the 4 foot wall and leave my bike casually resting against it like a country gent. I’m told it was spectacular. Miraculously the bike was unscathed and I got away with three severely mashed fingers on my right hand where they had been caught between the brake lever and the stone. I say “got away with” as I broke no bones and had to ask Chadders to check if my throbbing left ear was still attached, happily it was. Given the severity of the crash I was very lucky, 30mph to 0 in 1.5 seconds I’m told equates to pulling a couple of G.

30mph to 0 in 1.5 seconds

30mph to 0 in 1.5 seconds

It was on Clough Lane that the second notable event of the past few weeks occurred. As we took our post pub route down the hill we saw a car parked at the top of Clough lane. The owner of the vehicle and his companion were very surprised to have their privacy lit up by four consequtive, high powered head torches. As the last in the procession I caught a good look at the pair; a bald, panicky chap and the second, an imposing figure with all the features of a women, long hair, heels and skirt. “Her” height and stature aroused suspicion in all of us and after a brief discussion at the bottom of the hill we all concluded that rather than a giant ugly women with bad hair this was in fact a man dressed as a giant ugly woman in a wig.

Cyclists don’t pay road tax so it’s OK to knock them off their bikes.

Cyclists don’t pay road tax so it’s OK to knock them off their bikes.

This is a philosophy I was unaware of until the outraged Twitteratti got hold of the issue following a tweet by Emma Way who had posted the following on the 19 May 2013:

“Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier – I have right of way he doesn’t even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists”.

Perhaps more disturbing than the obvious concerns about irresponsible driving, is the perceived moral high ground associated with paying “road tax”, which hasn’t existed since 1937 and there has been no correlation between vehicle tax and expenditure on roads since then. How many motorists are bowling around with a similar sense of righteous indignation imbued by paying a tax they don’t pay and doesn’t exist?

I consider myself a careful driver, and more importantly a polite and considerate one. I’m a believer in the philosophy of road karma, which goes like this: I let someone pull out, this puts them in a good mood and makes it more likely they will be generous and considerate to other road users. My goodwill is passed on through the driving community making the roads a safer, nicer place to be. Maybe this is naive, but on many occasions, when I’ve left room for an exasperated soul to join the main flow of traffic, I’ve seen them pass on this favour to another driver at the next junction – instant road karma.

How many times have you seen driving that has made your blood run cold? Where centimetres have been the difference between getting to where you’re going and a catastrophic pile up, usually as a result of an impatient “person” in a high powered saloon weaving in and out of traffic in an attempt to gain a couple of extra metres. How many times have you wanted to say to another driver: “get out of my arse”, “would it kill you to use your indicators”, “why are you trying to kill both of us?”, “please stop driving like a twat!”

Can the police be expected to pursue matters of road etiquette? Of course not, I wouldn’t expect them to as most people drive like they have Miss Daisy in the back of the car when they see a copper. It’s the everyday road user that bares witness to the potential carnage caused by a basic lack of manners and maybe they should be the ones to record it.

It’s no good fumbling for a pen or trying to remember the number plate of the car that’s just forced you to swerve into the outside lane of the M1, because they couldn’t be bothered to check their mirrors or indicate. We all know that without evidence there is no case. So why not give all car drivers the tools to gather court worthy evidence?

With the advent of instant upload tools we can easily share moments of our day with anyone and everyone, is it beyond the realms of possibility to take this technology and build it into a car, as standard. Why not mount a couple of HD cameras in a car, one facing forward and the other facing backwards and constantly record journeys on a hard drive? Enable the driver to highlight moments of dangerous driving from the drivers console and then synch these segments of footage to a smart phone for sharing with the police at the end of the journey. I like to think that just the threat of having your obnoxious driving caught on film, by anyone, could act as an incentive to be a bit nicer to other road users.

Alpine Prep Course with Ed Oxley in Hebden Bridge

Alpine Prep Course with Ed Oxley in Hebden Bridge

They say that the best money you can spend on your mountain biking hobby is on a skills course, so when Beachy said he was planning to book a session with Ed Oxley in Hebden Bridge, the alps of West Yorkshire, I immediately said “I’m in”. Ed calls the course we took an Alpine Prep course, a name that suggests if you’re heading for some proper big hills on the continent you can pick up some tips on riding some steep gnarly stuff in Blighty and get the most out of your trip.

We were up early on Saturday as we had a bit of a pre ride bike maintenance issue to attend to. I realised on Thursday that my seatpost was stuck in the frame and all my efforts to shift it had failed so we scheduled a last ditch attempt at trying to make it budge on Saturday morning before the ride. We had the post in the vice using the bike for leverage and turned the bike upside down and tried knocking the post in by hitting the bottom bracket with a lump hammer, nothing worked. Resigned to the prospect of riding with the post jammed up my arse all day we left for Calderdale.

We found the Stubbing Wharf Inn without any bother and made a start on getting the bikes ready to roll for the 9:30 start.  Ed sidled over and we introduced ourselves and talked about stuck seatposts and the apocalyptic weather forecast. We had a late arrival which held up our departure a littler but Ed assured us we’d end the day a little later to make up for this.

The ride started with a little over a mile of road climbing that took us to the top of a  trail called the Blue Pig, this would be our home for the morning. We started with a brief talk from Ed about the what to expect from the day and a rough idea of the layout of the trail ahead of us in broad strokes; it’s rocky, steep in places, drop your seat post if you can (hardy ha ha).

The Blue Pig

This is a wooded trail described by Ed as the remains of a 17th century motorway. It’s a mixture of dirt track, rocks and cobbles with a range of gradients. split into three equal section by tarmac roads. Our first downhill started from the top of the second section which goes from dirt, to large bars of rock, to steep cobbles then gnarly chopped up rock with a step down to the tarmac lane. This proved a good point for catch up and a chat about how we’d felt that section had gone, I never grow tired of that warm “glad to be alive” feeling I get at the bottom of a technical section.

Blue pig Trail, Hebden Bridge, Calderdale on Pinkbike

Onwards and downwards through the next section which starts with a step off the tarmac into more rocks, then roots and back to steep cobbles followed by more technical rocky gnarl to the end. Variation in terrain on this trail makes it perfect to run this type of course. It’s steep but not so steep and intimidating that you can’t manage your speed, it’s got drops, babies heads, roots, rock gardens, natural places to pull over and regroup, I can see why Ed would choose it.

I never session the trails I ride, I’m always trying to set a decent time through the whole section and I can never be bothered to hike back up to try and ride it better.  The Alpine Prep course is all about analysing the trail, studying it in detail on the push back up in order to pick the best line on the way back down. What’s at first surprising with Ed’s approach is that the best line is nearly always straight down the middle. While the rest of us are congratulating ourselves on avoiding that nasty rock garden, Ed has bowled straight through the middle of it, “the bike can handle more than you think it can.” he says sagely.

With this in mind we take it in turns to ride the last 100 metres of the trail using Ed’s “no compromise” line. We talk about pumping the bike on the smoother sections to make the bike light over the jagged stuff, a useful technique but one that requires a real sense of planted confidence to pull off.  We also talk about speed management, scrubbing it off in the easier straighter section so that the bike can pick up speed through the rough stuff, none of this works without speed and commitment. After three or four attempts we all felt that we were more in control down this section rather than merely hanging on.

We pushed the bikes up to the tarmac lane that marks the start of the final 1/3 of the trail. As we pushed we talked about the line through the cobbles, over the roots and down the rooty step, it will be no surprise to you that Ed’s line was… straight down the middle.  Once we reached the lane we practiced manuals, rear wheel lifts and putting both these techniques together to form a bunny hop.  Then we marched back to where our morning had begun to do the whole trail again.

So much of mountain biking, like many adrenaline sports, is psychological. If the mind says “you can’t” the body doesn’t stand a chance, fear makes you do all the wrong things. As we waited at the top for our turn, a morning of tips, practice and a sense of familiarity with the terrain filled everyone confidence and we were all eager to nail the trail.

It’s testament to Ed’s coaching that we all rode it hard and made it to the bottom without anyone having an off and I felt that I may have even ridden a couple of sections, that I’d gingerly picked my way down the first time, with a bit of style. I found myself visualising the features of the trail before they appeared allowing me to mentally prepare for them and pick my line. There were still plenty of bits that I would want to improve but overall I’d say that it went rather well.


We’d had to settle for a 2 o’clock table at the pub so after a quick snack we headed back towards Hebden Bridge to do some cornering on a nameless wooded trail. We rode the first 1/3 and then pushed back up to look at two of the corners. The first was a sweeping right hand followed by a chicane, with an immediate sharp left into the fall line.

Here are the bullets from Ed’s corner pep talk.

  • Slow down before the turn.
  • Let go of the brakes into turn.
  • Elbows out.
  • Chin up.
  • Look at your exit.
  • Point your belly button where you want to go.

but there’s more…

  • Compress down onto the bike coming into the turn, pushing the tyres into the dirt for more grip.
  • Move your body towards the outside of the turn, allowing you to bank the bike into the turn but remain balanced.
  • Release the compression allowing you to spring out of the turn.

That’s quite a lot to think about and I felt a little overloaded by all this information. I would have found it helpful to session this section, focusing on body position and then introduce, what felt like the more advanced technique of loading the bike into the turn, once everyone hand the fundamentals coming to them naturally. That said everyone got the hang of it eventually.

We pushed back up to the top the trail and did the whole thing. The section beyond what we’d been working on had some interesting features that interrupted my flow; the first was a fork that I hadn’t expected and the next was a very steep slab of granite that gave me pause for thought and I had to let the guy behind me know that it had got a little fruity. He was quite grateful that I’d let him know about this feature as he had no intention of riding it. I get pretty disappointed in myself if I don’t have a go at the scary stuff so I took a run up, pumped my balls up and gave it a shot. I got a little out of shape at the bottom but not too shabby, I did lose the trail and end up scratching my swede, trying to see where the others had gone. As it happens the end of the trail was close by and we reconvened at the road.

Pecket Well Descent

Another road climb took us to the top of what Strava tells me is called Pecket Well Descent, another steepish, rocky bridle way with a pretty gnarly rock garden at the bottom. Taking the “speed is your friend” cliche as my mantra for this section I did a pretty good job of keeping up with the full sus boys and staying in front of the Orange Five breathing down my neck.  The down side was that the hammering left my wheels weaving in a disconcerting and hypnotic fashion.

By the time we reached the pub my rear wheel was rubbing on the chainstay, I got lunch ordered and left instructions with the guys to come and get me when the food arrived, I had an appointment with a spoke key. I had to fall back on the key on my multi tool for this job, it would have been easier with my M:part Spokey but needs must. By the time the food arrived I had the back wheel approaching true. I chucked down my battered haddock bap and hurried back to my wheels to finish the job.  I don’t think I kept people waiting too long.

We retraced our tracks of the morning session with a steep road climb that took us past the Blue Pig and up towards another trail. Using our manual and rear wheel lift to conquer the step up off the road, we found ourselves at the top of a very steep woodland trail. This is where being able to drop ones saddles helps and not being able to really restricts movement and positioning on the bike.

I got into trouble on the third corner. Paul went over causing Beachy to slam on the brakes and caught between the trying to stop and find a way around this jam I pitched over the bars and landed on my face. After a helmet had been thrown and a tree kicked I felt a bit better about the whole thing. Ed wandered back up and said “your nose is bleeding.”

“is it broken?” I asked.

“I don’t know, has it always looked like that?” Ed replied chirpily and then took a photo so I could take a look. No it wasn’t broken and yes, it has always looked like that.


No real harm done, just a dent in my pride and my confidence that saw me bale out of the rest of this trail in favour of the Blue Pig. Our last run of the day saw us hike back to the top of the steep trail we’d just descened and take the alternative route that forked to the left, another wooded rocky, rooty trail. We paused for a moment on our way up to study a steep tricky feature with awkwardly placed  roots that looked rideably but sadly my nerve failed me and I opted to take the less dangerous route on my way down.

We reconvened at the Blue Pig for a final summary before heading down this trail for the last time and back to the Stubbing Wharf Inn for a pint of Copper Dragon.

Final Thoughts

I’m not a very good pupil and I don’t like being taught but I found Ed’s laid back and knowledgeable delivery very engaging. The terrain he selected for the sessions was perfect for the techniques we were working on and the whole day was very well thought out. Ed comes across as someone who loves what he does and his genuine enthusiasm for riding is infectious. I’ll be putting the stuff I learnt on the day into practice as soon I can get this bloody saddle shifted.

You can book a session with Ed by heading over to

How to fit a Schwalbe Marathon Plus

How to fit a Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Ok you’ve found this page because you’ve just spent several hours trying to mount a Schwalbe Marathon Plus onto your bicycle wheel and this seemingly simple 10 minute job has left you exhausted, possibly bleeding and probably a little hoarse from screaming “GET ON YOU FUDGING BAR STEWARD, MOTHER LOVING SACK OF SUGAR” at an inanimate object.

What you may have found on embarking on this endeavour is that you get the bead of the tyre onto 90% of the rim and then spend the next two hours chasing the last 10% of the tyre around the rim bending your tyre levers on the way. Before you jump up and down on your wheel or march back to your local bike shop and shout at a spotty teenager for selling you the wrong size tyre, I have two words for you.

Cable Tie


You may know this trick, but if you don’t it works very well with Schwalbe Tyres, some of which are an absolute pig to get onto a rim, Hans Dampf I’m talking about you. Here are the steps:

  • Get one side of the bead of the tyre on the rim. Ensure you have the arrow pointing in the direction of travel.
  • Put the inner tube in, inflate it a bit if this helps you.
  • Get as much of the other side of the bead on as possible and then wrap a cable tie around the rim a and the tyre keeping it in place.
  • Working the rest of the bead onto the rim towards the cable tie. You’re done.

Hope this tip saves you some time and energy.

You have nothing to fear… but fear itself

You have nothing to fear… but fear itself

Two weeks off the bike have left me feeling fat and nervous about the next ride, so much so that I considered excusing myself  from No Excuses Thursday at the 11th hour. My nervousness springs from the fact that my shoulder is still stiff and achy from my last crash on the 9th of May; it’s one thing to fall off when you’re fit but to fall off onto an existing injury is an unpleasant thought.

Anyone who has had an exercise routine embedded in their schedule will be familiar with the invisible hand that gently helps you get your kit together and then applies pressure to the middle of your back, easing you out of the door into the cold, wind and rain. The chunk of psyche screaming at you to put your pyjamas on and spend a warm night on the sofa with Netflix is no match for this trance inducing force.  A few pedal strokes in and the hands last job is to wave you off, its work is done until the next time you really can’t be arsed to drag your carcass uphill and down dale.

Sunset over Houndkirk Moor, Sheffield

Sunset over Houndkirk Moor, Sheffield

Joining me on this evening’s jaunt were Gav and Jim, a spin up to the top of Houndkirk and then time for something new. We turned left and took and well hidden path through the heather, a gentle, muddy descent took us through a gap in a wall and along twisting single track for a 1/2 a mile. Jim had previously taken a tumble on this trail and pulled over to give us a description of what to expect from the next section: narrow, rocky, technical will large steps and lots to trip you up.

I took the lead and found the description was accurate, a selection of granite obstacles presented themselves in quick succession, from awkward jagged channels to deep steps and loose stones. It occurred to me that this just the sort of terrain that catches riders out, the inclination of most people with an ounce of self preservation is to take the speed off through such a gnarly section but it is often just this approach that causes the bike to stop suddenly on hitting an obstacle rather than rolling over it, catapulting the rider over the handle bars.


New bit of trail, marked on Strava as “Unsafe”

As we approached the road the trail got a bit looser and presented a couple more tricky sections, I found myself muttering the mantra “look three metres ahead, look three metres ahead” as I caught myself staring down at my front wheel.

I was just starting to tire from the relentless pounding when I reached the gate and waited for the others to catch up. Jim wasn’t far behind a we had the usual enthusiastic exchange that follows the successful descent of a granite lined channel with your bike intact and all your teeth still in your head.

When Gav arrived we headed for the pub, tarmac all the way.


A Decadent Way to Travel

A Decadent Way to Travel

The rain stopped long enough for me to change my mind about venturing over to Hillsborough for our weekly night ride. With the hole in the elbow of my expensive waterproof cleverly stitched up by my talented wife I headed out the door and into the fleeting sunshine.

I opted for a new route that took me in a straight line down a steep path through the woods that border Bingham Park. This got pretty gnarly almost immediately with the combination of gravity assisted speed and large blocks of granite embedded in the trail making for an unexpected early doors adrenaline rush, I paused briefly to asses the rideability of ancient set of steps at the bottom of this path before deciding it was doable.

The ride over to Hillborough was uneventful and we met Dan at the Rivelin Valley “Big Steps”. While he’d been waiting for us he’d taken the opportunity to have a go at this intimidating hurdle for the first time. Always scary, but oh so rewarding and easier without the pressure of an audience.

After a brisk pedal up the Rivelin Valley we met Jim at the Lodge Lane car park for a bit of Wyming Brook downhill. On the climb up from the brook we decided to do the climb to Stannage Pole, despite the wind and rain vigorously trying to dissuade us.

Standing in the wind and rain on this exposed peak I asked the night “Who thought this was a good idea?”. The night threw back a line from The Motivativators Guide to Outdoor Pursuits, “You’ve got to go up to get down!” I told the night to stop quoting James Brown at me and we turned tail and headed back the way we had come. I had no intention of setting a time down this trail not least because I don’t know it that well and I was wearing my glasses as I’d run out of contact lenses, didn’t see that coming. The first section down to the gate went smooth and Lambo and I were neck and neck down the second section.

Egged on by this unexpected dual we found ourselves doing 25 miles an hour down the stoney fire road. I was aware that there was a barrier at the bottom of this road but it loomed out of the darkness earlier than expected. Pulling on the brakes at this speed didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, the wheels locked up and I hit a fist sized rock. This had the effect of turning the bike into something akin to a fairground broncho ride, minus the disappointed looking, tattooed operator and the squashy, padded landing area.

I was flipped from the bike landing on my shoulder and sliding to a halt on my back about 10 metres further down the trail. Despite the high speed nature of this event I escaped with relatively minor injuries. The same cannot be said for my bag or my coat. I expect it would appear to the casual observer that I’d been dragged behind a car down a rocky fire road for 10 metres at approximately 25 miles an hour, or that my left arm had be mauled by a hungry beast with a taste for Gore Tex.


Here’s a stat extracted (after a bit of zooming in) from Strava:

From 47.8 km/hr – 0 km/hr

in 3.5 seconds

over a distance of 10 metres

=  5th place overall





Troy Lee Moto Shorts Product Review

This feels like a fitting time to write a review of the Troy Lee Moto Shorts that I’ve been wearing for the last year. Despite being exposed to a significant number of crashes they show no signs of wear and tear and their tough but comfortable material has saved my thighs on a number of occasions, even with the velcro hip padding removed.

They have a rachet style buckle fastening that copes very well with fluctuations in waistline and the rubbery coating on the inside of the waist clings to lycra undershorts helping to keep them in place. They have two zip up cargo pockets on either leg that are perfect for soft items like wallets or gels, I wouldn’t stick your keys or phone in there. In short, these things appear to be bomb proof, or at the very least me proof.

Over Ride Lapierre Mountain Bike Demo Day – Parkwood Springs, Sheffield

Over Ride Lapierre Mountain Bike Demo Day – Parkwood Springs, Sheffield

I wouldn’t say that I’m in the market for a new mountain bike, I’m quite happy with what I have and there are other, more pressing demands on my wallet. That said, when Martin (Over Ride Cycles, Sheffield) said I’m having a Lapierre demo day, you should pop down, I’m unlikely to pass up the opportunity to spend the morning riding some very high end mountain bikes around Parkwood Springs Trail Centre.

For those of you that don’t know, Parkwood Springs is a newly developed Mountain Bike trail in Sheffield near what used to be the Ski Village. Made up of flowy berms and small table tops with a choice of descents designed to inspire every level of rider, a job it does very well.

Parkwood Springs MTB Trail Sheffield from Vertebrate Publishing on Vimeo.

I cycled from home, it’s only about 6km and served as a good warm up. When I arrived the bikes were all out and the menu consisted of the Zesty 514 (Medium), a Spicy 516 (Large) and XR 529 Carbon 29er (Medium) with electronic suspension.

Lapierre Spicy 516


This is a 26″ 160mm travel rig aimed at the big mountain enduro rider and would happily chew through anything the Peak District could throw at it. I would love to take this thing down The Beast or Jacob’s Ladder and see what it does to my personal best. On a track like Parkwood Springs the travel and slack head angle feel a touch over the top on the hardpack single track, and they are, this is not the Spicy’s natural habitat.

I’ve not ridden a 26″ bike for over a year so the Spicy’s small wheels and short stem took some getting used to. For this reason I’ve posted the second lap where I was a little more settled. I’m not going to get hung up on the technical stuff except to say that the slack head angle of 66 degrees means the 516 is not a great climber and the front end wandered a bit going up hill, that said, at 13kg, this is a light bike considering the applications.

Downhill the Spicy felt lively and quick, really quick. As I chucked this bike around the berms I couldn’t shake the unnerving thought that “this thing is egging me on because it wants to hurt me”. Taking this bull by the 750mm horns was a lot of fun, but warm, fuzzy thoughts like “stability”, “control”, “grip” were far from my mind, terms like “skittish”, “unbridled”, “mental” came to the fore. Add to this the not unlikely prospect of running out of talent and stacking someone else’s £3000 bike and my over all impression of the Spicy 516 was unsettling, fun yes, lots of fun, but it’s a mad man.

Lapierre XR 529 29er

demoday4There were two XRs on the demo, sadly they were both mediums and the Lapierre rep suggested that I might need a large or even an x-large. An interesting feature of this frame is the electronically controlled rear suspension (£400 extra) that is supposed to calibrate the rear shock depending on whether you’re peddling uphill or pointing down.

Perched on top of this undersized frame I really wasn’t expecting to get much out of the XR as I pootled up hill but it climbed well and the times going down hill weren’t awful, a wider bar would have been nice and I’m not convinced handing over the configuration of the rear shock to a computer is for me.

I don’t feel I can really give this bike a fair review as it was considerably too small for me but Jim was a better match for it and was blown away by it, so much so that I think this could be his next bike. I might get him to add his comments at the bottom.

The Zesty on offer was also a medium but with 26″ wheels even smaller than the XR, this really would have looked like a clown bike with me on it so I didn’t bother taking it around the loop. It is however interesting to note that Lambo didn’t rate the Zesty while he was riding it but when his Stava results came back he’d beaten all his best times laid down on his own bike.

Back on Katie

I was expecting to get back on the old girl after riding full suss dream machines and find myself a little despondent but quite the opposite was true, she climbs better than the Spicy, felt more stable and grippy in the corners and granted I didn’t have that exhilarating  “glad to still have skin on my knees” feeling that the 516 gave me at the bottom of the hill, but I’m not sure I want that from my everyday mountain bike. The times were just as good as the mad man too so it just goes to show that feels fast is not the same as actually faster.

So it would seem that all I have to show for a Lapierre demo day is affirmation, I am better off for good or no, on a home built steel hardtail. Of course this isn’t true, benchmarks are important and it’s always interesting to compare and contrast and when all the proceeds are going to a great cause like the Lady Canning’s Mountain Bike Trail, everyones a winner baby.