Friday 27 August 2010

C2C Day 2 - The Clone(d Sheep) Wars

As we cycled out of Reeth (at an unspecified time) we had little idea of how long the rest of the day was going to be. The route was flat to downhill road for the first 70km, followed by a couple of cheeky road climbs, before hitting the off road sections across the North Yorkshire moors. Our experience of the day before had left us uncertain about the moor crossing, as with all the rain it could be saddle deep in mud. Still, there was good weather forecast for the day and we even had a scraping of suntan lotion on.

The 70km passed quickly, with just the occasional piss stop to break up the flow (there's a joke in there but you can work it out for yourselves). We stopped at a village where a couple of locals pointed us towards an open pub and a closed shop. At least I assume they were locals, as the pub wasn't going to be open for another week and the shop had at least three "Open" signs. The shop was probably the most poorly stocked convenience store since the closure of the Artyk Non-Stock in Siberia. We surveyed the shelves, rejected the tinned sweetcorn, Frey Bentos pie and shoelaces, and chose the biscuits instead.

Onwards and unfortunately upwards. After an unexpected half hour on a motorbike racetrack we turned off the road, and onto the off-road. This was shockingly rideable, meandering through the woods and gaining height quite rapidly. We didn't actually ride it though - but we could have if a) we'd really wanted to and b) didn't have knackered legs. This trail led up to the moors, the trail of truth that would resolve our fears of a four hour trudge through a boggy mess.

At the top of the climb we were greeted by this.

Deceptive isn't it? That boggy mess looks almost like a dry, hardpacked, slightly rocky trail, surrounded by purple heather in bright sunshine and a 10mph tailwind. We stopped and prodded the ground. This was promising... very promising...

We almost flew along, taking care not to run over any walkers, dogs or other cyclists. Sheep were different though. The sheep were... evil.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuur!

Your standard evil sheep would stand in the trail, forcing you to slow down until you were almost on them, at which point they would run along in front of you a bit before leaping aside.

Your enhanced evil sheep would stand in the heather, at the side of the trail, then leap in front of you as you came close, causing violent braking, cursing and slight moistness "down below".

And then we came across the most evil of all sheep... the ninja sheep.

The ninja sheep nearly killed Darren.

Picture the scene. You are riding at 20-25mph down a narrow rocky track. You spot a bunch of enhanced evil sheep on the right hand side of the trail, and prepare to brake whilst watching them carefully. As you get closer, they scatter into the heather, away from the trail.

You relax, and release the brakes.

False. Sense. Of security.

You have fallen for their trap.

Ninja sheep is waiting. Ninja sheep has buried itself in the heather on the left hand side of the trail. Ninja sheep is undetectable, a stealth sheep.

As you come alongside ninja sheep, it explodes from the heather like a woolly IED aimed at your front wheel...

At this point I screamed, and it wasn't even my wheel ninja sheep was aiming for. Darren shouted "duck" (or something) and somehow, no doubt the result of years of Quantocks badger avoidance, managed to leap the ninja sheep. Then ninja sheep was gone, in the blink of an Oakley clad eye.

We made it off the moors without further incident and with plenty of fun. The last 20km were a drag, forever uphill, with a 25% climb followed by a 33% climb. Round every corner we thought "it's got to start going down soon, surely the sea has to be at sea level... or pretty close". Yet on and up we continued. Finally the road flattened, and with just 2km to go, we plummeted down. I think we were still on the road, although judging by the speed of the descent we may have simply rolled off a cliff.

Robin Hood's Bay is your Hollywood seaside village, all quaint houses, souvenir shops and fish and chips. Oh, and tourists, lots of them, who tried their best to knock us off in the last few hundred yards of the ride. Compared to the sheep, they were amateurs.

So finally, after 240km of riding, 10km of hike a bike, and 30km in a car, we came to the sea.


(Thanks to Becky and Caron for the support, and the lady who took the picture at the end. I doubt you're reading this, but if you are, that was a lovely jumper - don't let anyone tell you otherwise)

More pics here

Wednesday 25 August 2010

C2C Day 1... still.

As I mentioned, we had chips.

They didn't last long.

We also had an emergency planning session. Given that it had taken us seven hours to cover the first 55km, with 95km left to go, it seemed prudent to try and optimise the route a little. By optimise, I mean "cut out anything off-road that might slow us down". There were a few sections that we could divert around, but we still had a lot to do to make Reeth by anything close to dinner time.

We set off. Going by road was less interesting but much quicker. Darren's knee was getting steadily worse, to the point where he couldn't really put any force through it. I suggested pedalling one legged, but he announced that he had been since 9am. Oh.

Not much happened. We did re-ride some of the LEJOG route, along the A6, although I didn't notice. Darren was fairly convinced, and a map check after the event proved him right. The fact that I didn't notice is hardly unexpected - not looking at the scenery whilst riding is one of my superpowers. I've missed great swathes of North Africa, Italy, Norway, Sardinia, Yorkshire...

At about 7:30pm we arrived at Kirkby Steven, with 30km still to go. This 30km included the climb up to the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England. I don't remember the exact point that we decided we were going to stop for the day in Kirkby Steven, but it might have been halfway through consuming the Frijj Cookies and Cream milkshakes and Snickers bars. Somehow another two hours of riding (at least) didn't appeal.

Logistically, this left us with a problem. We could eat where we were, once the girls had driven over (they were out hunting for food for us East of Reeth, in the assumption that we'd never get there whilst anywhere was open). We could then get driven to Reeth for the overnight - though this was about a 50 minute trip. We could then come back to K-S in the morning, and continue where we left off. Or...

One of these two things happened. One didn't:
  • We ate, drove to Reeth for 10pm, rushed around sorting out kit and food and drinks and routes and GPSs for the morning, plus showering and trying to stuff newpaper in our sopping wet shoes. We then set alarms for 6am, slept briefly, woke up, leapt out of bed, drove back to K-S for a 7am start to ride the 30km back to Reeth over the moors with the highest pub in England, arriving back in Reeth for about 8:30am ready to tackle the day 2 route, all 135km of it.
  • We ate, drove to Reeth for 10pm, showered, chatted, relaxed, sorted out a few bits, ordered breakfast, set alarms for 7am then went to sleep. In the morning we had a pleasant fry-up, got kit sorted and changed without any rush, then set off at 8am to ride the day 2 route, all 135km of it.
Day 2 to follow...

Tuesday 24 August 2010

C2C Day 1 (A story this epic needs two posts. At least)

Every story needs an angle. Something to hang the narrative off of, to give depth, substance and a false sense of being a better writer than you really are.

At the moment, I'm angle-less. Let's just see how this goes. I'd suggest getting a cup of tea, maybe a biscuit (choc hobnob?) and a comfy chair. This could take a while.

We left Newbury at 5pm on Friday, with Darren driving his giant bike-mobile. After picking up Becky and Caron at the station and dropping off Becky's folding bike we joined the summer holiday traffic oozing up the motorway to "the North". I'd had a moment of amusement when Darren realised how long it would take to get to the B and B but this was tempered by realising myself. Sat Nav says... 10pm arrival.

11pm. We arrive at the B and B. We were greeted by a very friendly lady, asking if we wanted tea to go with our wine that was already waiting in the rooms. Not only did we have wine, but we also had slices of chocolate toffee crispy cake and little chocolates too. The lady also helped us with our kit and let us put our bikes in the beautifully decorated hallway! A big thumbs up to Fleatham House.

Morning, and the usual rush of breakfast, making energy drink, packing camelbaks, putting on sun tan lotion (risky, I know) and checking the GPSs. We managed to get out by 8am and rode the 1km to the beach.

Here is my bike at the beach. There is a photo of Darren and I, complete with bikes, but I don't want you getting too excited.

You may notice that my bike is leaning against a bit of a ramp. This is the slipway which I walked back up to the path. Darren rode up, stating that he was going to ride the whole way. Remember this.

The first part of the route was on the road, before turning onto a cycle track. We had a tailwind, almost sunshine and were feeling pretty confident at getting to the lunch stop (Ambleside) by about midday. Remember this also.

The first section of off-road arrives. Across Banna Fell, Whiteoak Moss, Mosedale then down to Crummock Water. You don't get names like that round Newbury. You also don't get tracks that disappear, knee deep bogs and suicidal sheep - including one that seemed to be stuck upside down. Not being well versed in sheepish ways we didn't know if this was normal or not, so felt it best to leave it as it was. Better that than getting savaged.

I walked quite a lot of this section. I'd say that Darren walked too, including a stumble caused by his front wheel disappearing up to the hub in a puddle, but of course Darren was going to ride the whole way.

The track next to Buttermere was surfaced and quick, but also full of walkers. On this ride we soon learnt that walkers meant we were near civilisation, and soon enough we arrived at the road by Buttermere Fell. Brilliant, we thought. Road! Road that goes up! At 25%!

Honister Pass. Actually, it was fine - we were on mountain bikes so just spun our way up. It was at this point that Darren pointed out that his knee was a bit hurty, and had been since the morning. Still, sitting and spinning wasn't too stressful on it. The descent was fun, dodging the traffic and more sheep. A few more roads and we arrived at the bottom of the big climb of the morning, Greenup Edge.

Let's have a look at the map.

Hmm. Lots of those funny red lines, quite close together too. Still, Darren's going to ride all the way.

I started walking. It was steep, rocky and quite hard going. It also went on... and on... and on. Without looking round (to avoid having to watch him ride it all like a mountain goat on a bicycle) I asked Darren how it compared to Trans-Rockies. Quite similar, apparently, although he walked that.

We got to the top. Well, we thought it was the top. Thing is, the path seemed to end and we were surrounded by what I can only describe as "minor cliffs" on all sides (except backwards). Then we spotted the path. It was more of a scramble than a walk. Well, more a climb in places. Up a waterfall. With mountain bikes on our backs.

Greenup Edge is not a bike route.

Strangely, we were still enjoying ourselves. The sillier it got, the more it made sense. A cross-the-country route should involve some hike-a-bike. Just not this much. It was now about 12:30. Lunch at 12 was looking increasingly difficult, unless it was the next day.

Once over the top the track did the comedy disappearing act again, but we managed to find our way across the mushy bits until we found something that could loosely described as a path. Or a stream. A stream would be an equally good word. We scooted/ran/walked/climbed/swam and even rode downwards, confusing some walkers who couldn't fathom how we had got across with bikes. Truth is, we were a little confused about the whole event too.

We made lunch at 15:30. Lunch was good. There were chips.


Friday 20 August 2010

The B&B

Cake, wine and chocolate! How cool is that!


On the way to the lakes, the M6 is as busy as ever. Random weather forecasted. Hot Cross Buns bought in case of emergency.

Sunday 15 August 2010

The Quiver

Plans change, and due to an unavailable riding partner, who was doing the decent thing and looking after an expectant wife and small child, I didn't go to Afan. I did however do a 4 hour, "local" 70km ride on my full-sus mountain bike - the one that I tend to use for long days off-road. This (and the slight front wheel/slippy root/ouch incident) left me in need of a recovery ride today. The depressing drizzle of the past few days had lifted so I released the Orca from the underground vault where it lives, after first drugging the irate badger that guards it.

Recovery rides are strange things, to me at least. I have to ride a bike, and try not to put any effort at all into it. I'm rubbish at this but it does encourage me to do something that I'm equally rubbish at - looking at the scenery. I've cycled in some amazing places, from the Atlas Mountains to the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle, from the mountain top villages of Croatia Bucklebury Common... and I barely remember any of it. Occasionally I'll stop and take in the drama and beauty but 95% of the time I'm staring at the tarmac/gravel/dirt/arse in front.

I digress.

So there I was, straddled across the graceful carbon fibre curves of the Orca, and I realised that this was my fifth bike of the week.
  • On Monday, I rode the commuter. Singlespeed, pig-ugly, rack and full mud guards. I actually rode this most days.
  • On Tuesday, the Scandal hardtail, for a couple of hours.
  • On Wednesday, the Scandal again. To work, then for a cheeky lunchtime blast, then home again.
  • On Thursday, the track bike. On the track at Southampton, its first proper outing.
  • On Friday. the Scandal again. I must be enjoying it. I also did a spin class, so that's almost another bike too.
  • On Saturday, the Marin full-sus.
  • On Sunday, the Orca road bike.
I now have a challenge - seven bikes, seven days. I'm such a saddle slut.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Big Weekends

I'm not quite sure how but I've ended up committing to four big weekends in a row. The kind of things that I used to train intensively for, building up my fitness carefully before resting ahead of the event, to come to a best-of-the-year peak. Instead of this I seem to have just said yes to everything.
  • This Saturday, 14th August, I've off to Afan to ride all the MTB trails in a day. OK, so only The Wall, Whites Level and Skyline are open but it's still a fair bit of riding.
  • Next Saturday, 21st August, I'm going to dip my wheels (thankfully not a euphemism) in the sea on the West coast then ride for 90ish miles across the Lake District, off road as much as possible. Then I'll do something similar on the Sunday, except across the Penines and dipping my wheels in the North Sea, on the East coast. Also known as the C2C (either Sea to Sea or Coast to Coast). This looks pretty scary to be honest.
  • Sunday, 29th August I've entered the Gorrick 12:12 Torq in Your Sleep 12 hour race, as a soloist. I might treat this as a rest weekend and take thing a bit easy. Or maybe not.
  • Saturday, 4th September I'll be doing the 100 miles+ of the South Downs Way. Hopefully. I may be very broken by this point.
I blame Jon (for Afan), Darren (for the SDW and C2C) and Caroline for the Gorrick 12:12.

I'm not really one for personal responsibility.