I’ve been attempting to give an overview of my introduction to mountain biking in my last few post but I am quite anxious to start writing about now. So this post will attempt to summarise the interesting bits of the last six months riding.
Ride 3 – Houndkirk & Blackamoor 7 May 2011
No drama until we hit the cobble stones at the top of Blackamoor. I was feeling fairly confident having cleaned this the previous week but I wasn’t carrying enough speed to roll over one of the large stones. I stalled, pitched forward and almost in slow motion hit the trail with my face. Initially I thought I’d broken my nose as I heard a crunch, this turned out to be the visor of my helmet wich took the brunt of the impact and transferred this force to the rear of the helmet, snapping a chunk of the back. I laid there for 20 seconds, wiggling fingers and toes to see if there was any other damage. I got away with just a cut on my nose. Time for a birthday pint at the Norfolk Arms.
Ride 4 – No Excuses Thursday 12 May 2011
No excuses Thursday is an attempt to get out and ride during the week in Summer (easy) and more importantly in winter too (quite difficult). Two riders will do but three is better as the other two can usually cajole, bully and cast aspersions on the thirds sexuality until he relents and drags his carcass to the meeting point.
There are a number of routes we take but this first attempt took us along in Rivelen Valley. The first obstacle is a shallow set of stairs that gentle curve around to the left as you descend towards a narrow bridge. The fork needs to be correctly loaded by the rider on this section to stop the bike pogoing down the steps with increasing vigour. Adjustment of the rebound damping can also help stop this. This is the easiest of three sets of similar steps that increase in steepness and curvature as you progress.
Perhaps the most intimidating hurdle on the ride is a 10 foot descent down a steep flight of 15 steps. I came unstuck as I reached the bottom, the fork compressed, rebound and threw me off the back of the bike onto my back. In trying to not go over the bars I had positioned myself too far off the back of the bike. No harm done, a grazed back but the bike escaped without injury.
Next is a woodland climb, followed by a nip across a road and more wooded uphill. A steep road climb greets you as you exit the woods then a narrow, technical and often precarious piece of single track. This path has narrow rocky channels and densely wooded, root smothered areas where the track almost disappears. Along climb follows, it is tradition to climb to Stanage Pole but the guys took pity on me and we went straight to the Sportsman.
There is a self-imposed, two pint limit. Any less than this and you might start to question the merits of riding, at speed, through the woods in the dead of night with a torch on your head. Anymore and you end up sailing off a bank into the night, dropping 7 feet into the river as Gareth did after a three pinter. Incidentally, he landed it.
The descent was without incident, we took some time to session the impossible step, a root edged, foot deep step, that needs to be tackled whilst turning the bike to avoid the tree that sits directly after it. Gareth and Matt both managed it but I felt like I’d save my luck for the rest of the ride and walked the bike around it.
Night riding is all about the pool of light three metres in front of you, your senses are heightened and reactions take over. There is a tangible high at the end of the ride, knowing that you’ve ridden along treacherous slabs of rock, ducked branches, traversed narrow tow paths flanked by water on one side and steep black emptiness on the other… and got away with it.
Rides 5 & 6 – No Excuses Thursday
I emerged from the second No Excuses Thursday without incident and feeling like I was starting to get the hang of it. This feeling evaporated on NET 3 when we took a slightly different route which took in took in a series steps followed by a couple of 2 foot drops. I didn’t have full control of the bike down the steps so I was too far forward when I went I came to the first drop. I briefly unicycled, tried to turn away from the second drop, went over the bars onto my shoulder while the bike headed off into the river.
Apart from a few scrapes I’d got away with it, the bike hadn’t. Gareth had gone on ahead, but Matt had witnessed the accident and as we dragged the bike from the river we saw that the front wheel had a 30 degree angle in it, like Salvador Dali’s clock. The back wheel was also bent to a lesser extent, the sum total of this damage was £260. I was gutted but as we stood about scratching our heads looking at the seemingly ruined wheels that had written off our ride Hobson rode back towards us. “You’ve rolled this up well” he said as he removed the front wheel and proceed to bend and beat it back into alignment on a roughly hewn bench by the river, the back wheel took less abuse to straighten out. 15 minutes later after some fine adjustments with a spoke key I had rideable bike and we finished off the ride, testament to Gareth’s unflinching positive, no problems, just solutions attitude.
The rest of 2011 can be summarised as a series of off-road bike rides punctuated by blunt trauma and puncture wounds, I’ll summarise.
Ride 7 – Ladybower Loop & Jacob’s Ladder
Enormous 18 mile loop around the lake on the Saturday taking in the Beast of Hope Cross, I had to walk down the worst of it but rode about 60%. The Beast did take a bite out of Chris however, he fell off and damaged his wrist, but he completed the ride even though he was in some pain. Uneventful apart from that. There were several sections where we had a “who can clean it” competition” Matt L came out on top in most cases.
On Sunday we cycled up to from our Edale campsite to the cottage where Beachy and family where staying and after a quick bacon sarnie hit the road heading for Jacob’s Ladder. We started the ride on a steep rocky ascent, it wasn’t long before the sky darkened, the wind picked up and the rain came in sideways… this was beautifully described by Matt W as a “Road to Mordor” moment.
The previous day had taken it’s toll and we found ourselves pushing our bikes up the really steep stuff more often than not. Jacob’s Ladder was the final downhill, and the videos on You Tube don’t do it justice, it is very steep. I was the last to go and didn’t take enough speed into the first section, the front wheel stuck in a rut and I went straight over the bars and bounced down the ladder on my knees, I did manage to catch the bike as it sailed over my head.
The rest of 2011
That was the last crash I had for a while. there were lots on No Excuses Thursdays in some foul weather. Rivelin claimed a victim that wasn’t me in October when Jim lost control on one of the many stone bridges and nose-dived into the river knocking his forearm quite severely, we continued for half a mile but Jim was in too much pain and we got back on the road and headed back to Matt’s. Once in the kitchen we saw that Jim also has a large deep cut on his calf that had that joke shop look to it, no blood weirdly.
My next accident came at Dalby Forest trail centre in November. We met in the car park on the Saturday morning and had a great day on the red route that has some really quite challenging sections on it. This was the first time I’d been to a trail centre with my own bike and it made such a difference. Rather than dragging around an unfamiliar lump of rental bike, I had a light, well specced On One 456 to play with. Everyone was on form and we made it back to the cars at dusk.
Sunday didn’t go so well and on the same red route I went over the handle bars and the bike came over the top and I think a pedal caught me around the cheek. Nige and Arnie helped me up and, throughly pissed off, I marched the bike back up the hill to tackle the section again. It wasn’t until we reached the bottom where the others were waiting that i checked the rest of me and found a deep wound in my right side, a proper ride ender. I still don’t know whether it was stone, tree root or gear lever that took a chunk out of me.
The drive back to Sheffield was stressful enough without the sat nav playing up taking me miles out of my way. With the car beginning to smell like a butcher’s shop I decided to duck into Huddersfield A & E. Several x-rays to check for foreign objects and 2 stitches later I was back on the road with the sat nav unceremoniously slung on the back seat.
That was the last ride of 2011, the injury kept me off the bike for several weeks and then it was nicked from the shed, goodbye On One 456, may you through the scum that nicked you off as often as you did I.