Twinkly Dave – Mud splattered bicycle and pizza enthusiast Growing old disgracefully

July 27, 2009

A glance at Gisburn

Filed under: bikes,rubbish weather — dgpowell @ 1:57 pm

With the promise of ‘fantastic new trails fully finished and open to the public’, Wayne and I battled against the wind and rain (in the car) on Sunday and made our way over to Gisburn forest to see what improvements and additions to the old “cycle trails” in the hope of finding a new Glentress in Lancashire.
Obviously that was a little optimistic, what with Lancashire being a tad flatter than Scotland, but we did find a lot of very well built new trails that link together to make a decent sized ‘red’ grade route, with a few notable ‘black’ grade runs added for extra interest.

climb

Somehow – we couldn’t figure out how – the most notable thing about the trails is that they all seem to point uphill! There seemed to be very little in the way of descending (though some of the descents, as short as they were, were fantastic fun) and a lot of riding up stuff that looked like it would be brilliant in the oposite direction (why do we now ride up through the old quarry, for example). Oh and there were a LOT of berms. A LOT. Big ones pointing downhill, little ones pointing downhill, several in places were berms never used to be that seemed to add very little to the route…and loads on the climbs for some reason?! Not brilliantly helpful ones that meant you could clear an uphill corner that might otherwise have been tricky, just well built but somewhat pointless ones.

pine-fresh-berm

That pic is of one of the nicer ones pointing downhill.
The whole bermutopia (I’ve just copywrited that word, before you nick it) though, is nothing in comparison to the black run down a gully near the top of the old red route: If you’ve been to Lee Quarry and thought “gosh, these berms are big”, then the big ones at Gisburn will blow you away. They are MASSIVE. HUGE. ENORMOUS. and other such words for bigness. I didn’t get any pics of them as my camera ran out of juice before we got there, but they were big and fast enough to make me ride back up for a second go, giggling like a maniac, even though the pissing rain had made the surface disturbingly slippery. There’s not much else to that ‘black’ graded section, just little-berm, little-berm, slightly-bigger-berm, pedal, pedal, MASSIVE-BERM, MASSIVE-BERM (with 2 line choices – jumpy or fast), MASSIVE-BERM, off-camber-section, harsh-berm, grin…but bloody hell is it a rush!

Oh, and there’s a catering van down at the main car park at the moment too, that does really nice coffee – the bloke runing it rides a bit as well and has maps (which you’ll need as the waymarkers aren’t up yet), so that’s good.

If I had to give some sort of overall verdict to other peoples work, in this case I’d say: Pedally.
Some of the sections seemed longer than they really needed to be, to the point where you’d get a bit fed up of following a (albeit singletrack) track slightly uphill through some trees for ages to have a few moments of berm-centred dropping back down. hopefully the trails will keep evolving though (it’s infinately better than what used to be there) and developing a bit more character – it’ll certainly make a great place to test out new equipment 😀

July 22, 2009

Another daft ride

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,lunacy - other peoples — dgpowell @ 12:10 pm

There’s something perverse about getting up before the dawn during summer. It’s manageable during the winter months because, lets face it, you’d never get up otherwise, but when the sun is due to come up at 5am anything before that isn’t a natural time to be awake in my book.
It’s certainly not a natural time to be hammering it up the M6, with a badly packed bike swinging freely in the back of the van and a sense of mild panic about the size of the ride you’re intending to do. Non the less, that’s where I found myself, guzzling a bottle of “energy drink” (from Morrisons) and trying to stop a novels worth of A4 maps sliding off the passenger seat while ignoring the fact that even the birds were still soundly asleep on the motorway bridges.
A 4.30am start to the day had seemed necessary when my route plan for the day’s ride wasn’t immediately dismissed as ‘insanely stupid’ which I was secretly hoping it might be. That gave me a couple of hours to get past that horrible “I’ve got up to early” feeling, eat something, fling bike and kit in the van and mosey on up the road to Cumbria. Morland, to be precise. A little village in the middle of nowhere picked for no other reason than it seemed to be about halfway between the first bit of off road on the ride and the last descent. A little village that, as I pulled up outside the church to meet Jason, was definitely still tucked up in bed.
Jason arrived bang on time and we unloaded bikes and kit in a deserted village hall car park that seemed to be set up for a busy Sunday fete as the early morning sun began to warm the air and make being up and about a much more palatable option.
Apparently it had been pouring down in Manchester when Jason set off, but Morland was bathed in sun, with just a few clouds to make the sky that little bit more scenic and as we rode away from the village centre the promise of views for miles from the tops of the fells beckoned.
I had planned for the first few miles to be on the road to let our legs get nicely warmed up for a bit before hitting the trails and the route seemed to work quite well; we positively flew through picturesque village after picturesque village on our way to Pooley Bridge and finally hit the dirt road leading up to The Cockpit full of enthusiasm and wide eyed at the views across Ullswater. I love riding round Ullswater, it’s quintessentially Lake District in the way it looks and the trails hold up well to most weather conditions so you can ride along the shores even in winter without getting too bogged down, on a morning like we had though, it’s awesome.

me-ullswater

We followed a great, fast track down to Sandwick and then continued along the waters edge on a bridleway that offered us a little bit of everything, nadgery climbs to clean, little rock drops to nail, completely unrideable sections to walk over uttering the immortal “well, if I was on my other bike…” to each other before remounting and setting about swooping along a sudden flowing section that would appear, draw us in to pushing the limits of traction from our tyres and then spit us out on another tricky section with just a little too much speed for comfort. Ace fun, made even more ace by the distinct lack of other people that early in the day.

jase-ullswater

By the time we hit the road again at Patterdale the mood of the day had been set. My attempts to fill the ride with as much scenery as possible was definitely working – in fact we’d already sent the first smug picture messages to family back at home – and some decent trails had set the bar for the rest of the ride very high indeed. Everything was well with the world as far as we were concerned, we had the whole day, decent weather and a lot of hills to play with. So we pressed on to Hartsop and the first real climb of the day up onto High Street.
It’s a right bugger of a climb up form Hartsop itself towards Hayeswater halfway to the top; occasionally steep, usually loose and gravely and definitely long enough to cause some discomfort in the legs and lungs. As we rode up we agreed it was the kind of climb that could do with some signs on it stating “MTFU” at regular intervals to keep you riding. Gravel graunched beneath wheels and lungs began to burn as Hayeswater came into view and as it did I began chanting apologies about what we were about to face.
Jason, who hadn’t been up to High Street before, looked a bit puzzled as I pointed up the side of what isn’t all that far off being a cliff. “Erm, it’s good training for the 3 peaks” I said. “Sorry, it won’t take long…and it gets rideable again soon, really, it does”. I added, as we hung the bikes off camelbacks and began to trudge up the grassy slope with a top so high above us we couldn’t actually look that far without nearly falling back down. Our cycling shoes weren’t really the best footwear for this bit and the lack of a distinct path didn’t speed progress up either, but after clambering for a while with gritted teeth and straining hamstrings we reached the top of the ridge and a gentler gradiant towards the top of the fell. Soon enough we were riding, though the desire to glance across to our right back down the valley and across at what seemed like endless mountains did cause a few comedy ‘ride straight into a rock’ moments!

After a brief pause at the Beacon near the top to guzzle drink and swap maps around we headed off down towards Troutbeck, much to the confusion of several other riders – few people use the track from Troutbeck to the top as a descent simply because it makes for a half decent way to get up the fell. But our route demanded it and (as was the theme of the day) the views more than made up for anything we were losing…not that it wasn’t fun, with a few fellside singletrack sections and some seriously steep stuff to test the brakes out fully

high-street-view

With the descent cleaned some 10 minutes later (yep, it is quite long!) another road section through Stavely (no Wilfs stop though), Burneside and innumerable other hamlets and villages saw us chase down some roadies completely unintentionally before rolling off the road and down a nice gravel track following a river through Borrowdale. I’d not ridden this track before so was a little wary of what it might actually be like, but the decent surface saw us ticking of the miles in double quick time as we cleared the hills and rolled under the M6 to a chorus of “Oh, I know where we are now”. Hills that had been sped past much earlier that morning on the way to the rendevous made another appearance, looming over us while we made our way towards Sedburgh considering just how much quieter the valley to our right must have been before the roar of the motorway and rumble of railway line arrived. I guess that’s progress – the existence of the roadway had allowed us to do the ride – so wishing it wasn’t there as we rolled along some undulating tarmac a mile or so across from it seemed hypocritical, instead we contented ourselves with enjoying the sun we were being treated to and began preparing for the next big climb up to the top of The Calf.
The climb up onto the Howgills is another beast; more open than the climb up onto High Street it’s basically a unrelenting grass track that saps away at your legs for what seems an eternity. There’s over 500 metres of vertical height to gain from the bottom to the top and much of it is done in a straight line with the highest point visable long before it becomes a reality. We rode as much as we could, though we would occasionally lose traction and have to push for a while before those immortal letters MTFU forced us back into the saddle to readopt the hunched down position over the bars, waiting for the summit to some to us.

me-howgills

The trig point gave us an opportunity to look around at the view on offer; everything from the peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside to our left, across Lancashire to the Irish sea in front of us and the whole vista of the Lake District to our right could be seen clearly, I can’t really describe how good it felt to be up there, I’d just advise you to try it for yourself – on a bike preferably, so you can try out the descent down Bowderdale!

trig-point

It’d been a few years since I last rode down the singletrack that runs for miles along the valley down from the summit, but as I began to drop down it seemed like only a few hours has passed. First swoopy across moorland, then increasingly steep and rocky before easing off and turning into the singletrack that makes everyone who rides it rave about it for miles, it all seemed wonderfully familiar. Familiar and fast! Flicking the bars from left to right, tracing the contours of the narrow trail with an ever growing grin I felt like I was really ‘on it’ and loving every second. Occasional technical sections would appear and be flown through and nothing could stop me.

howgills

Well, nothing but a sudden, strange, rhythmic thud-thud-thud coming from the rear wheel. I thought a stone had lodged itself in the tread of the tyre, but a glance down revealed a gash in the sidewall allowing the innertube to buldge out and smack against the seatstay.
I dumped most of the air out of the tube before it burst and rolled the final section to the road cautiously, before initiating the Bodge of the Day by wedging my work ID card behind the hole to prevent the tube popping out and add some support to the tyre carcass.
It seemed to hold as we rode along the busy main road and by the time we crossed Crosby Garret Fell we’d forgotten all about it – our attention taken up by finding our way back onto the bridleway we somehow managed to loose and avoiding some psychotic cows that seemed up for a fight.
Once we’d rediscovered the trail into town and got back to the road a few miles of tarmac lead us towards Appleby-in-Westmorland, where a raid on the local Spar saw us refill waterbottles and me down a bottle of milkshake in world record time.
Time had been marching relentlessly during our adventures and as we headed out towards Cross Fell the countryside was already bathed in a golden glow as the sun began to set and we began to realise and admit that we wouldn’t get round the whole route before night fell. It seemed a shame, but we decided we’d at least get the last big off road climb done before giving up and so set about the ascent with renewed vigour. We reached the bothy that signals the end of the steepest part of the climb and watched a glider drop silently down the valley below us before turning round and making our way back to Kirkland and the roads back to the cars. Our descent was not as majestic as that of the glider, but we made it in one piece and set about finding our way back to Morland.

jase-cross-fell

This actually proved harder than it should have been, mostly due to us (rather stupidly) asking the world’s dottiest woman in a car if there was a shorter way back across the A66. We ended up at the Penrith motorway junction in the rapidly fading light and, as we realised we’d have to ride down the A6 and basically do a big loop to get to the end of the ride with one set of lights between us I noticed that my rear tyre was going down. I was in no mood to sit at the die of the road in the dark trying to fix it so the last 6 or so miles we done stood up, willing the car park to appear!
Back in Morland, bikes were flung in/on cars in double quick time and apologies were rung home as we realised it was already after 10pm. The sun that wasn’t around when we’d set off in the morning was long gone again as we hit the motorway in the opposite direction, past the hills we’d just ridden over, with heads full of views, legs full of miles and a sudden perverse feeling that it was too late to be still out and about after being up so early hit…

July 16, 2009

A round up

Filed under: bikes,not bikes — dgpowell @ 9:43 pm

Hello there, I’ve stuck the site back together with a bit of glue and string in between bouts of doing stuff including:

  • going on a ‘bikability’ course, to teach people how to ride bikes (you know, kids and the like – I’m not teaching people how to do super gnarly stuff, or coaching them to be uber fit bike monsters cos that’s well beyond me!).
    The course has been good so far, though the commute into manchester each morning hasn’t been (i miss walking/riding into work, motorways suck – as do rush hour jams and people to late to bother looking where they’re going), only tomorrow to go (final assessment etc)
  • moving house, from the diddy wee end terrace i’m in right now to a cool big detached thing with gardens (i have to mow a lawn and everything), more bedrooms, a big garage for bikes and car all at once and enough room to actually swing a cat. Suffice to say everything i own is being mashed up into boxes right now.
  • trying to get the phone/broadband reconnected after talktalk disconnected it 3 weeks early (then claimed it was a fault with the line…)
  • plotting a route for sunday’s Daft Ride and doing a little more recceing of said route. This Ride is going to be Massive…Massive I tells ya!
  • Getting ready for another Big Week on the bike next week, after chilling more this week, yay for big rides!

more soon 😉

July 6, 2009

As if an excuse was needed (recceing)

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,lunacy - other peoples — dgpowell @ 10:06 am

Planning another Daft Ride in a few weeks, this time up in Cumbria (mostly…), which includes a few bits I’ve never ridden before, so I took myself off to have a gander at some of them yesterday.

Now this route I’ve got planned has a fair amount of road in it – it just has to, to link up the off road bits, but my aims were a) to get the road sections over as soon as possible b) wherever possible use the roads to cut out what would otherwise be crap bits (ie do a bit of climbing on the road to not have to crawl up some awful tussocky hillside) and c) use smaller and more scenic roads. The road sections on yesterdays bit of the ride did that quite well; cruising round Dufton over to Kirkland was a nice leg stretcher (or, during the Daft Ride will be a good chance to recoup and eat) and the road over from Garrigill towards Cow Green Reservoir gets quite a bit of climbing out of the way after a long (off road) descent. It’s a bugger of a road though, that one out from Garrigill, a real long drag…scenic though and obviously quite remote – in fact it was the first time I’d ever seen snow poles along a road in England!

The more important off road bits were quite good; the climb up from Kirkland onto Cross Fell is ridable most of the way up (well, it was with fresh legs anyway), with a bit of a push onto the plateau where a nice rocky path leads the way back down to Garrigill over some seriously remote hillsides:

Cross Fell

I saw one other person in the first 20 miles…and this was on a Sunday afternoon in decent weather!

The off road back over to Dufton, past Cow Green reservoir (and the photo-op that i didn’t take at Cauldron Snout) had a bit of everything, some techy sections, some fast grassy bits, some annoying bits that look like they should be rideable but aren’t, some paving slabs, some tank tracks (yes, army tanks) and lots more remoteness, culminating in a ride round the edge of High Cup Nick and a nice drop back down to the village.

High Cup Nick

High Cup Nick

All in, that bit of the route was 43 miles and had 1673m climbing in it. It wasn’t super technical anywhere nor did it have any real singletrack in it (the tech bits and the singletrack come elsewhere in the route) and it’ll be a right bugger after a big day out on the fells & mountains, but it ticks all the boxes for inclusion in the Daft Route, so it’s in. People will no doubt be cursing my name during the hard bits 😀

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