Tag Archives: MTB Peak District

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 spinningΒ  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.Β  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.

Getting used to a different bike

Getting used to a different bike

Despite telling myself “that it’s just stuff” I’m still very angry about my bike being nicked. In attempting to rationalise the problem I have tried to see the positive angles. The insurance has covered 95% of the cost of the stolen bike, I’ll be getting the next one through the cycle to work scheme, saving me a few hundred quid, and my boss has kindly lent me his mountain bike.

Up until this point my frame of reference has been a heavy Orange hire bike and a light well specced On One 456, both hard tails. I now have at my disposal a Dawes full suspension bike with a Marcozzi fork and Shimano Deore brakes and chainset. Mountain bikes have come along way in the last six years and it is somewhat of an education to ride a bike from an era when disc brakes weren’t the norm and lighter full suspension bikes were starting to become affordable. It’s first outing (maybe in 6 years) was a loop around Beachy’s house in Diggle, Oldham. First impressions were good, it climbed better than expected and didn’t leave me gasping for breath at the back of the pack. Not being fixed to the pedals felt unnatural down the first rocky track and the rim brakes were no substitute for the Elixir 3 disc brakes on the old 456. The stout, grippy winter tyres impressed as we crossed claggy fields and descended muddy frozen tracks.

My introduction to full suspension left me pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t horrible up hill, it felt competent on the descents, wider bars and better brakes would help but all in all not bad for an 6 year old, entry level rig. The real silver lining is the exposure to a different bike. It made me appreciate the lightness and superior components of the 456, but also left me aware of areas like ride quality and tyres where the old bike could have been better.

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.

If you don’t fall off, you’re not trying hard enough…

If you don’t fall off, you’re not trying hard enough…

Learning to ride a mountain bike is fun, frustrating, thrilling, exhausting and expensive, but most of all it’s really bloody painful. The older I get the less I bounce, and I can’t help feeling that I should have given this a go 10 years ago. That said it’s often the falls and the injuries that make a good story, who’s really interested in hearing about a ride without incident? Wouldn’t you rather hear about the one that ended up in casualty?

Ride 1 – Blackley Hey (Potato Alley) Mid April 2011

The climb up Win hill just about killed me and I had to push the bike the last narrow, steep 100 or so metres. I was rewarded with the fast, smooth snaking trails along Hope Brink down to the junction of Brinks Road. Here Matt and I had a sarnie and talked about the way down – Brinks Road, The Beast or Potato Alley. Brinks Road cut the ride a bit short so we discounted that. I had questions about The Beast, like “Why’s it called The Beast?” Answer: “Because it’s pretty gnarly”. As this was my first non trail centre ride, I decided that I wasn’t ready to meet The Beast of Hope Cross so we hit the Roman Road with Potato Alley as our destination.

The Roman Road is strewn with a variety of loose rocks of different sizes, I’d never tried to ride up something like this before and I really struggled. Every rut and bolder seemed to draw my front wheel towards it, and every falter resulted in a foot dabbed and the loss of precious momentum that usually caused an energy sapping restart. I found myself again pushing the bike up to the gate feeling wiped out and a bit despondent. A group of riders at the gate dished out some “bike love” to me and the shiny new 456, I thanked them and said that “now I just have to learn to ride it.”

After a little more climbing we reached the top of Potato Alley, a steep rocky descent, I wondered “how much worse could The Beast be?”. Much, is the answer, but I found that out a few months later. The main trail has a thin track running along the narrow grassy bank on the right hand side and, where possible, I made use of it. This offered some respite from the pummeling I was taking from the rocks on the main trail. About 3/4 the way down we meet some riders coming up. Avoiding them interrupted my line and I went over onto my side. Apart from a bruise the size of a dinner plate on my arse I got away with this fairly unscathed. As we ploughed through the shallow stream at the bottom of the slope and onwards down towards Ladybower reservoir that old friend adrenaline said hello and I remember thinking that this must be what Peak District biking is all about.

http://monkeyspoon.com/peak-district-mountain-biking-route-map?track=1581