Tag Archives: houndkirk moor

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.


After riding everything else in your life has the volume turned down…

After riding everything else in your life has the volume turned down…

I limped into work last Friday morning with welts and cuts on my arm and a large patch of skin missing where the granite kissed my knee – I’ve let Strava egg me on. This has led to a consensus of opinion between my friends, stop chasing King of the Mountain, use Strava to push yourself and concentrate more on enjoying the ride and less on the stats.

Does this mean I am going to stop turning Strava on before my rides, no, but I am going to stop chucking myself down stuff faster than my limited skills will allow, and this Thursday I have the perfect excuse to concentrate on riding well as I will be setting an example to our newest recruit.

I’ve been bugging Adam to come out for ages, almost as long as he’s been moaning that he doesn’t see enough of us, Lambo thought that it might have been the moaning that was the important part, rather than the doing something about it, but I have set about removing excuses for not coming biking as they present themselves.

So decked out in all my spare gear, which is all pretty decent kit, I stuck Adam on the Dawes which is not decent but is ridable and has coped with everything that we’ll find ourselves on this evening. The consensus was that if we’re going to convince Adam to spend £500 on a new bike we’d need to hook him, and the way to do that was to take him down the best technical downhill our humble Thursday night ride has to offer, and that means the Flow House.

Why is the Flow House so good? For a start, being mostly granite it stays fairly dry, there is only one short steep section during the down hill, meaning the rest can be taken at your own pace, it has some wonderful natural technical features and there are so many lines that you never ride it the same way end to end twice. The problem with it is that it is a 8.5km up hill slog to get there.

This has stopped being a problem for us regulars a while ago but Adam struggled. I should point out that Adam is cardiovascularly the fittest person I know, but it’s football fitness which is a different set of muscles. It doesn’t really matter how much you want someone to enjoy an activity, when they reach the “good bit” on their last legs, having rubbed raw their virgin perineum and their two fat mates are fresh, chipper and full of encouragement, it seems unlikely that they’re going to see the attraction of this sport.

Adam commented that this wasn’t like football where if someone is slow and crap you just shout at them until they get better or leave and I think he appreciated the nurturing inclusive environment we tried to provide for him. Lambo and I both know that he can’t stand being the worst at something and we really wanted him to get into it. Sadly I fear we have failed, you can tell when someone has been bitten by the wild, glad to be alive glint in their eye that accompanies their first high speed completion of a descent, there was no glint. Oh well, you can’t say we didn’t try.

Despite failing to recruit another rider to our chapter the benefit of taking out a newbie is that you have to slow everything down, the climbs, the descents and this means that you have time to think. You have time to spot the line you’ve never seen because you’ve just been bundling through chasing your personal best. You have time to go back and do a section again whilst they catch up. Going slower could be the best way to go way to go faster.

Melted ice and snow, mud and of course rain.

Melted ice and snow, mud and of course rain.

Just me and Jim last Thursday, it had been fairly dry but as we set off from Endcliffe Park the drizzle started, as we ploughed up Clough Lane the wind howled and as we pulled onto hound kirk moor the mist descended. With nature screaming in our faces to go home or straight to the pub we pushed on up to Jim’s rock as tradition now demands. This track has now become one long rut though over use, we suspect because the “improvements” to Houndkirk road have rendered it so boring many more riders are using the alternatives. The climb is a real test of skill and although I rode up more of it than I did in last week’s snow and ice the stop start, wheel spinning  and pedal strikes made it an exhausting slog. The way down was not much better, slippery mud threatened to drag us into the heather and the mist meant we couldn’t see the steps until we were on top of them, I was glad to be at the bottom in one piece.

For the third week in a row we called off Cabbage Bench, it’s hard enough in the dry when you can see more than three feet beyond your front wheel, tonight was not the night. We took the bikes about half way up the Houndkirk Road before turning back to the pub. We broke the 2 pint rule; this is the rule that states, any less than 2 and you might question the wisdom of firing through the woods at speed, in the dark with a lamp on your head, any more and you may end up in a river/ ditch / tree trunk.  That said, this rule was established by short people with less blood for the purposes of dilution than Jim and I so to hell with it. We found a different route back to town that took in Jim’s local circuit that he does a couple of times a week. It would be pretty tame in the day but at night, swooping silently through the trees not really knowing where you’re going with three pints inside you makes it quite interesting.

We popped out in Whitley Woods and went our separate ways, both glad we’d dragged ourselves out and grateful for mud guards.

The first rule of bike club is… You’re going to need a bike.

The first rule of bike club is… You’re going to need a bike.
No Excuses Thursday – 2 Feb 2012

No excuses Thursdays has taken a back seat over the last few months, equipment failures, Matt’s pre wedding riding ban, Matt’s Honeymoon and then I had my bike nicked. Apart from last weeks ill fated puncture fest we haven’t been out as a group since Jim and I meet up at the Norfolk Arms at the end of November and as we set off Jim’s rear brake caliper seized up and that was the end of the ride, three pints in the pub and home.

So with a text from Matt on Monday asking if I had plans, and a response from me stating that I had no excuses, we arranged a 7.30pm meet. It would have been a less stressful start to the evening if, upon wheeling out the bike from the shed at 7.20 I hadn’t discovered that the rear wheel had a flat. I left a message on Matt’s phone telling him that there weren’t enough swear words in the English language and set about prising the tyre from the rim. On doing to the usual checks of the inner wall I found another f-ing thorn. I had to go back into the house to find the tweezers to get this one out. I was about 15 minutes late, this would have been bad enough if it had just been Matt and Jim but also there where Gav (Jim’s Brother and Chadders, a new one). I apologised profusely and we set off.

It was clear, dry and not as cold as I was expecting as the five of us cycled through Whitley Woods, I explained that I’d had two punctures last week and that this evenings flat technically made it three. Silence descended upon us as we concentrated on keeping the wheels turning up Clough Lane, as the fittest among us Gav broke away with Jim not far behind. I kept them in my sites but I always find this the toughest part of the ride, just when you think it can’t get any steeper, it does.

We stopped at the end of the lane to wait for Matt and Chadders. I hadn’t realised that this was poor Chadders’ first time out: welcome to No Excuses Thursday, now ride up this wall. As we all had on our first attempt at Clough Lane, he ended up pushing the bike to the top and it took a fair few platitudes and reassurances that the worst was over to keep him in the game. We took the ride up to Ringinglow Road slowly, Chadders told me that he would normally be sat on the sofa playing Call of Duty, hopefully the chat kept his mind off the fact that we were still slogging up hill, and would be for the next mile and a half we reached Lady Canning’s PLantation.

On to Jumble road and then right up to Jim’s Rock, the Dawes reminded me of its crappy clearance issues all the way up. Once we were all at the top we took a moment to take in the lights of Sheffield as the snow started to fall. Matt and Jim led the way on the descent, it’s a great little warm up and for Chadders it was the unveiling of the reason we ride up to the moors in February in the snow, rather than sitting in front of the telly. The smile on his face as he reached the bottom of the trail suggested that he’d been bitten.

Down to the “improved” old Houndkirk Road which has recently been filled in, smoothed out and essentially ruined for mountain bikers and off roaders alike, if I wanted to ride on a smooth surface, I’d use the road. We turned right towards Burbage Edge but only rode for 20 minutes before deciding to head back to the Norfolk Arms via Lady Cannings Plantation which is a pine forest that has a wide central track with a well concealed narrow path down to Ringinglow road. We’d hoped that the temperature would have frozen the worst of the quagmire that we usually find on this route, and it had but as we sped through the trees Chadders managed to find a patch that hadn’t frozen, his front wheel disappeared and he was over the bar, I was directly behind him and it looked like he could have left his testicles dangling from the stem. Fortunately he was all smiles as I handed his bike back to him. The rest of this blast through the trees went without incident and I even managed to clean the narrow bridge that I usually struggle to get across without putting a foot down.

Following a couple of pints in the Norfolk Arms we braced ourselves for the coldest part of the ride. Gav and I waited for the rest of them at the junction to Clough Lane as Matt approached he said that Jim had taken Chadders back down the road as his legs had cramped up and he couldn’t face any more off-road. Down Clough Lane, remembering to avoid the large patch of ice we’d seen on the way up, through Whittle Woods and home.

I should have stayed at home

I should have stayed at home
No Excuses Thursday – 26 Jan 2012

In the absence of anyone to play with (Jim had the kids and Matt had mashed his finger in the door of a Ford Mustang) a moment of stubborn single mindedness descended upon me and I headed out of the door on this cold January evening with intention of riding up to Houndkirk moor on my own. The Dawes felt a little sluggish up Clough Lane and my back started to ache to the point where I had to get off and stretch it out. I continued the slog feeling that this was unusually difficult but putting it down to being unused to rear suspension. Getting onto the road didn’t make things much easier and turning right onto Ringlow road the going got tougher and tougher to the point where I got off and discovered that the rear tyre was almost flat.

I set about removing the rear wheel, levering the tyre off and running my fingers along the inner wall of the tyre to establish the cause of the flat. I felt a spike and on closer examination I had an 1/2 inch thorn buried in the tyre, I pulled on the chunk of bark that formed the root of the thorn from the tread side of the tyre and after a little persuasion it came free. I replaced the inner tube and levered the tyre back onto rim as quickly as I could as the frost started to form in the grass around me and I began to lose the feeling in my fingers. I continued up Ringinglow Road and took a left onto a track called Jumble Road, it borders Lady Canning’s Plantation on the left.

I was a bit paranoid about riding off road without a spare tube, I thought I had one in the back pack but it could be a bust one I hadn’t removed. That said I was not going to ride out to the moors, nearly get frost bite and not get some down hill, so I took a right up to Jim’s rock. I’ve not had any gripes about the Dawes up until this point but I hadn’t really taken it up a technical climb, the single track up to the rock has a number of rocks to navigate and I never had to think about pedal position with the On One 456 and its apparently vast bottom bracket clearance. The Dawes frame demonstrated its limitations as a Peak District bike as I caught nearly every rock with a pedal or the chainring. The positive to be drawn from this is that without the opportunity to ride a different bike I probably wouldn’t appreciate such subtle aspects of frame design. The bike was fine on the way back down but I was conscious of the reduced clearance  and combined with not being sure about the spare, spare tube in the bag I decided to chuck a left upon reaching the Old Houndkirk Road and call it a night.

On the way back through Whiteley woods I felt the front wheel start to skid around, I hoped it was just the mud, turned out to be another thorn and another puncture. I had no intention of changing another tube in the dark so I pumped it back up and rode it until the street lights started. At least it wasn’t as cold back in the city and the second tube I had turned out to be sound, saving me a half hour push back home. Not the most successful outing, but  an outing non the less, and one that has highlighted an urgent need for mud guards.

Avoiding the wedding of the year

Avoiding the wedding of the year
Ride 2 – Houndkirk & Blackamoor 29 April 2011

This was the first ride from my doorstep and it was good to not have to muck about strapping bikes to cars. I met Matt at Endcliffe Park and we headed out to the moors via the horribly steep Clough Lane, it was a struggle to keep the front wheel from lifting off the ground and my fitness failed me again about half way up. The up side of this is that most of the climbing is out of the way early on. Taking the road for a mile or so towards the Norfolk Arms, turn right towards Houndkirk which is more of a fire road than a trail, it does have some rutted, rocky sections that get interesting but for the most part it’s a pretty leisurely ride.

Riding straight across the moor brings you out on the A6187 near the Fox House pub, chuck a left then a right after 100 metres off the road into fields along a rutted and puddley track. This doesn’t get interesting until you hit a section of downhill that looks and feels like a metre wide cobble stone road. Bearing left at the bottom of this through a gate there is more steep downhill, but this time dirt with a number of retaining steps down to another gate. More narrow twisting dirt single track with roots and steps runs down to the ford where, after a little more dirt track, you’re back on the road and begin a long road climb back up towards Houndkirk via Sheephill road and some more technical climbing. Riding up rocky tracks has to be one of the most frustrating parts of mountain biking, it requires high levels of fitness, explosive reserves of power to retrieve a stall, concentration and technique. Still lacking in all these areas I found myself pushing the last 50 metres yet again.

We stopped at the Norfolk Arms for a couple in the garden and talked about our next outing and not watching the royal wedding.