Tag Archives: no excuses Thursday

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.