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

June 9, 2011

Rapha do a nightride

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,lunacy - other peoples — dgpowell @ 2:07 pm

They don’t do things by half over at Rapha.
Getting ready to go out for a ride as the sun sets is a rather peculiar feeling (unless you’re Jase – in which case it’s the norm) and nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling for rolling though Manchester on a Friday evening, trying to warm up and avoid thousands upon thousands of middle aged women stumbling out from a Take That gig at the same time. (OK this wasn’t strictly part of the Rapha organised bit, but it didn’t half add to the ‘overall vibe’…)
Suffice to say we arrived at the meeting point somewhat muddle headed, not as mudle headed as a few of the stumbling drunks we’d ridden past en route, but muddle headed nontheless.
A quick sign on and handful of freebies later (freebies are A Good Thing, mmmkay) we set about necking freshly and expertly brewed coffee in order to maintain some sort of grasp on the evening. Swigging cappucino we read through beautifully designed and printed the audax style route card, slowly coming to the conclusion that this was no ordinary ‘vat of tea in the corner of a musty village hall & handwritten unintelligble route descriptions’ style bike event. I felt slightly guilty stuffing the guide into my jersey pocket…

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At the stroke of exactly 12.32am the group set off. 11 of us in total, making a wonderfully rag tag peloton of overtly expensive carbon, retro steel and “it’s all I could find in one piece” cyclocross bikes that wound its way through the sodium lamp lit back streets, chatting and nattering as the mixture of excitement and massive doses of caffiene worked their magic.

Urban backdrops bagan to fade away as we rode out through Ashton-under-Lyne towards the first climb of the day up Mottram Moor, which held the honour of having the only “prime” of the night.
Early-ride-eager legs saw quite a few of us pick up the pace, all gunning to be the first over the top to take any glory on offer. I had no idea where I was going, how far it was to the top, or even exactly where we were supposed to race up to, I just put my head down and kept cranking at the pedals, waiting for a rush as I got mugged by Jase, Phil and John, who seemed to know where the finish line was. To my suprise (and secret delight) the rush never came, from my vantage point (hanging limply from the bars, as my lungs attempted to escape, head so low I could see behind me) I could see bikes thrashing towards me but as the sound of my rasping breath reached near crescendo levels they dropped away again. I’d hit the top in front and for my efforts I was rewarded with a really rather pimpy Rapha Essentials Case

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From there the true hills began. As did the true nightride experience; the utter darkness of the empty countryside lit only by what lights you had on your bars made for some fantastic ride-by-the-seat-of-your-pants descents – made even more exciting by trying to chase Jason down roads he knew quite well when all I could see were the fast flowing white lines marking the edges of the carridgeway – there was no shortage of adrenaline induced giggling each time we regrouped and began exaggerating how close we’d come to losing it on corners that had leapt out of the blackness!

Riding through a deserted feeling Macclesfield, attention turned to the main climb of the day (erm, night) over the Cat & Fiddle, a climb normally buzzing with speeding motorists and boy racers, at 2.30 in the morning it was as deserted as you could possibly wish for. Totally slient apart from the deep breathing of the group as everyone pushed themselves hard ni the cool night air.
As the climb continued, groups began to spliter off the back of the pack until Jason, John, Phil and I were left, pulling ourselves towards the pub marking the pinnacle of the ascent at the front.
Backwards glances revealed a string of bright lights weaving their way upwards as the seemingly endless turns of the road wore down legs. We pushed on into an ever growing headwind, eventually hitting the top just before 3am, as the blackness of the sky showed the first signs of warming towards morning.

top of cat & fiddle

Regrouped again, our peloton began to plummet back down towards Buxton, urged on by the promise of mid ride refreshments. Again the descent became a game of staying in the blackness between the two white lines, going as fast as you dared. The wind began to roar as speed built up and corners started to come faster and faster, each one railed around, leant right over, wishing for lights to pierce further into the gloom.
I yelped.
It was intantaneous.
Fully leant over, feeling like I was inches away from “getting my knee down”, with riders hanging right on my back wheel suddenly the black space between the white lines wasn’t black.
It was white, sort of wooly and had a pair of startled looking eyes!
Through luck as much as any skill I managed to drift wide enough to not clatter into the lamb, as behind me all hell broke loose. More shouts, the squeals of cantilevers wrenched against rims, the high pitched squeak of tyres loosing grip and sliding across the cold tarmac filled the air as nighttime reactions were tested to breaking point.
How we all managed to stay upright and not embedded in a small sheep I have no idea, but suffice to say we hit the outskirts of buxton very much awake…

We barely needed the coffee on offer from the Rapha moblie truck-come-shop-come-hanging-out-area-come-cinema, parked up in a layby just out of town. I imagine may of the early shift lorry drivers did, as the sight of a group of lycra clad cyclists, swigging brews at Silly Early am was probably the last thing they were expecting, but gathered around the Gaggia we were still buzzing from the ride so far.

Refreshed and refuelled we headed back out across from the Dark to the White Peak as the brightness of the pre-dawn sky began to illuminate the scenery we suddenly discovered we’d been missing. Rolling hills swathed in morning mist kept the effort needed high as we cruised through Tideswell and began to climb over Miller’s Dale. Once again the group fragmented on the ascent as tiredness began to hit home, just as the sun exploded over the horizon, almost instantly warming the chilled air.

Through a still asleep and silent Buxton for a sencond time as the route turned and began weaving back towards Manchester, we turned our attention to the the return climb over the Cat & Fiddle. This time the climb was shorter, but the breaks between groups became larger and Jase, John, Phil and I decided to push on back to the velodrome in order to finish the ride before we lost too much of Saturday.

Spinning out 52×11 gearing was the order of the descent, before hitting the flat, taking to some dual carridgeways and getting our heads down for some fast paced spinning through Stockport as the world begain to wake up around us.
The remnents and casualties of Saturday night’s exuberance were crawling their way home through litter covered streets as we chainganged our way back through the outskirts of Manchester. Bleary eyes not quite focussing on us as we thundered through, trying to come to terms with what they’d been up to the night before as we did the same…only for very different reasons!

We rolled back up to the velodrome at around 7am, having some trouble getting grips with what time of day it actually was, before agreeing in principle the idea of many more adventures in a similar vein and heading home to start the day, exhausted and aching…

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