Tag Archives: night riding

No Excuses Thursday Returns

No Excuses Thursday Returns

Spring is here and No Excuses Thursday is back baby! I had to miss the 6.30pm meet on the 11th of April (children to bath, stories to read) and instead met the guys and girl at the Sportsman pub for 8pm. This meant I didn’t have to try and keep up with Julia Hobson going up hill. Keeping up with Julia was hard before she won Single Track Weekender, won Mountain Mayhem, cycled from John O’Groats to Lands End off road,  left blighty to compete in Mega Avalanche, worked as a mountain bike guide in portugal over last summer and then competed in the Cape Epic in South Africa. Mmmm, I’ll meet you in the pub Julia after I leisurely grind up the road to it, in the granny ring and in my own time.

Two pints of liquid courage and then lots of down flowy and technical downhill into Hillsborough left us all grinning. The only notable event was my head light going out half way down one of the technical descents, not for the last time. That’s a Thursday night that is.


Appetite for night riding reinvigorated the next Thursday saw the introduction to No Excuses of Martin, who has just opened Sheffield’s latest bike shop, Over Ride Cycleworks, and has therefore not been out on his bike for quite some time. We showed him the Flow House, he liked it, we went for beer.

During the third NET on the trot we rode up the Rivelin Valley, met Jim at the top of the Wyoming Brook downhill and had two pints of Landlord and some rather nice jalapeno pretzels. Resisting the urge to save myself 10km of riding by pootling straight downhill on the road to my side of town with Jim, I opted to descend into Hillsborough with Lambo and Chadders and take in some steep, technical descents through the woods on the way.

Chadders has just bought himself a new 26″ Cube with 100mm up front, it’s a very nice looking bike, quite racey for some of the stuff we throw ourselves down, but he’s done the right this going for a high end hardtail, you wouldn’t get much of a full suspension bike for £1000. The other aspect of opting for a hardtail rather than full suspension bike is that full suspension can make it too easy to get down technical descents, which on a hardtail is more difficult and this means that the hardtail rider either improves his or her technique or falls off a lot.

So No Excuses Thursday is back with a vengeance and the main players all seem suitably enthused by the fun we’ve had on the last three rides to maintain the trend. The momentum required to drag yourself away from the telly on a Thursday night is not always easily mustered but having a couple of mates to drag you out always helps.

Wharncliffe Woods… Mud and Glory

Wharncliffe Woods… Mud and Glory

There is much to smile about on this sunny Thursday May evening. I’m going on a ride, it’s not raining, it’s not cold and I have fixed my bike.

I went out with Lambo last weekend on the Inbred 29er and we relived our first ride, the Win Hill, Blackley Hey loop. This was I think only my second ride with out a fall and it felt like hitting the reset button on my confidence after my disappointing performance on Snowdon.

Before this ride I put more air in the fork, this performed much better for it. I also spent an afternoon with the gears, tweaking and adjusting and finally got them shifting predictably. The only problem left was the headset, I couldn’t get the play out of this no matter how tight I made the top cap. As the ride progressed, the more the headset wobbled. Upon my return home it was clear that the movement had mashed this component and it was time for a new one. I bought a Cyclus headset press and a Chris King headset in mango. I installed the headset and found that there was still play between the bearing cap and the top cap… bollocks.

After having Gav and Jim take a look before the ride last Thursday, we all agreed that it wasn’t worth destroying another headset and I dragged the Dawes out again. With brakes dragging on the back wheel, frequent chain stuck and the chain stuck in the middle ring due to front derailleur issues I slogged my way round Houndkirk and Cabbage Bench, cursing my luck and the bike I found myself on.

I was on the cusp of giving up and taking the Inbred it to the LBS, but on reading some forums I discovered a theme running through threads about problems with Chris King headsets. Many posters claimed that the issue with the bearing cap not seating is often caused by the quite deep top cap bottoming out on the steerer tube and not applying the preload fully to the stem, spacers and bearing cap. Rather than trim the steerer I bought some oddly sized spacers (12mm, 6mm and 3mm), these increased the stack height by 1mm to 21mm. New spacers installed, top cap tightened, stem tightened, front wheel on and… NO PLAY, HOO RAH!

So I have a working bike and Lambo, Chadders and I are off to Wharncliffe woods, this involves a half hour ride over to Hillsborough to meet the lads and then another half hour on the road until we reach the woods. Fire roads crisscross the woods and make the climbing easier, although there is a short, very steep section at the start to get up that only Lambo cleaned, a trophy climb that will be mine one day.

Wharncliffe now has a sign posted, designated red route for bikes that is a mixture of swoopy single track interspersed with bits north shore, rocky slabs and muddy pits. The first section contained a tricky roll off followed by one such bog that we all approached with some trepidation. The expectation was that one of use would fly over the handle bars and skid to a halt in a patch of slop. With saddles dropped down and balls pumped up we all cleared it. We briefly lost Chadders but found him amognst the blue bells, berating his newly aquired clipless pedals – they do take some getting used to.

A short techy climb and muddy descent brought us back to fire road and after losing height for 2 minutes we decided it was time to find a more interesting way down. Slinging our testicals over our shoulders we rolled into the unkown.

We descended a very steep bank with wheels locked up and tails drifting. We popped a nose around the first corner, Lambo froze up so we parked the bikes to take a look. We’d found a step, that wouldn’t have caused too much bother if the run in was straight and the runout hadn’t be a large berm and a narrow exit between two trees. This was going to take some bottle. Lambo went first and did a good job, I made a start but lost my nerve and decided to start my approach again. Chadders wisely walked it. When I did go for it I rolled it whilst sitting on the back wheel, I remember thinking “surely my front wheel should have hit the ground by now?” as visions of a face plant into a clay berm flashed through my mind but I took the corner and stopped by the tree framed exit, not a catastrophic attempt, it will be easier next time.

More mercifully dry technical trail followed as we descended through the trees. The trail seemed to gradually increase in difficulty as went and as each section was cleared with out damage or injury our confidence grew. The last large drop off needed inspecting, after satisfying ourselves that it could be rolled, Lambo took it, I went next but Chadders stalled at the top and he walked it after common sense prevailed.

Thoroughly pumped up we made it back to the fire road and found some more fast single track through the woods to take us back to town, avoiding most of the road. We met Jim in the New Barrack tavern, he’d been on his own adventure on Houndkirk and had then ridden across town to meet us. Two pints and it was time for Jim and I to take on the hills of Walkley, Crookes and Greystones.

I checked my headset for play upon returning and the bearing cap was still seated snugly in the top cup, I will sleep well tonight.

Same old, same old…

Same old, same old…

I’ve been moving house and trying to build a bike, more on that patience sapping money pit later, and therefore not blogging but not much has changed except that I now live on the right side of Sheffield for easy access to the Peaks by bike, I am out of my door and on wooded single track in 3 mins. I’m still lugging around the Dawes, it’s keeping my eye in, but I’m yearning to ride something a little better equipped.

After many failed attempts over the winter due to poor visibility and snow, we’ve been riding a trail I shall call Cabbage Bench, for no other reason that it is technically a footpath and therefore off-limits to cyclists. As individuals we’re usually unnecessarily deferential to this stupid piece of legislation dreamt up by some moron in Whitehall, but as the council has made a concerted and comprehensive effort to ruin the old Houndkirk Road by making it smoother that most of the roads in Sheffield city centre, we feel entitled and obliged to seek technical riding elsewhere. If you don’t like you can take down my number plate call the police.

Rivlin Valley has also felt our rubber with Lambo leading us on new adventures in the dark to the un-ridden and potentially un-rideable. It has been a while since I rode a new descent, it’s been even longer since I rode a mountain bike off-road in daylight. A new descent in the dark is a mind focussing event that never fails to leave the adrenal gland empty and flapping.

The steps on our Rivlin trail still fill me with dread before they’re attempted and relief once they’re cleaned. On descending the big flight of steps on our route for its first time the Dawes ran out of travel towards the bottom and let out a PING as we hit the footpath. This is the sort of noise I would associate with attracting the attention of the concierge in a hotel lobby, not the suspension system of a mountain bike.

I have a ride around Edale with Beachy tomorrow and I was hoping to take my newly built Inbred 29er out for its first ride but I’ve been let down by Chain Reaction Cycles and have no front brake and no front shifter. So it’s going to have to be the Dawes which will probably give up half way round and result in a long walk back to the car in a dirty red cloud of anger.

Snow, ice and frozen rain.

Snow, ice and frozen rain.
No Excuses Thursday – 9 Feb 2012

Following last week’s puncture induced stress fest I decided to check the bike at 6.30 in preparation for the 7.30 meet and I discovered I had another puncture. I’m past the point of getting angry about this but I will be absolutely delighted if I drag the bike out one week and both tyres are still inflated. With an hour until the meet I had time bring the wheel into the kitchen an search for thorns in my own time, found two that required tweezers to remove.

I met Matt at the entrance to Endcliffe Park and Jim and Gav met us at Hanging Water Lane. The path through the woods was snow covered and had the appearance and slip to grip ratio of wet roughly cut marble. We pushed on through the freezing rain up Clough Lane and Ringinglow Road to Houndkirk. We did the usual warm up to Jim’s Rock, with the snow and the clearance issues, the Dawes was impossible to ride up the track and I gave up and pushed it to the top.

We decided that the route down Blackamoor would be the least treacherous but getting to it was tricky at times. Even now that it has been smoothed out the Old Houndkirk Road was a blend of snow, icy slush and ice coated rocks that kept us all guessing on our way down to Hathersage Road. A left and right took us on to Blacka moor and what wasn’t snow was frozen mud, the frozen rain persisted. The main challenge on this section was the cobble stone bridleway down to the river, tricky in the dry, daunting when covered in snow and ice. We got through that unscathed and the very steep track down to the gate. I’d forgotten just how deep the three steps that followed were, and more importantly, how close together the second and third were. With Matt in front and Gav and Jim behind I cleared the first one, wobbled on the second and wasn’t exactly composed for the third where I came unstuck.

I think the back wheel lost grip on the wooded edge of the step and I landed on my side to the left of the track. I didn’t land on anything hard or sharp for a change so no damage done. Gav told me afterward that the back of the bike shot out to the right and that it looked like a pretty big crash, I said that it was important to have these falls to remind you that it doesn’t always hurt.

After 8 weeks off the bike Matt struggled up the long road climb back to the pub, he was with us to see a herd of red deer cross the road directly in front of us. We arrived at the pub 20 minutes later, cold, wet and knackered. The ride home was painfully cold on the hands and I will be taking ski gloves with me next week.