Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Mirky, mucky riding

I managed to use up some of my holiday allowance last week. We were going to have a few days away but Cath had managed to double book a couple of events so we ended up just having one night away. I'd never visited Chatsworth House so we planned on a couple of rides in the area along with a look round the house and gardens.

I'd got a new rear tyre the previous weekend and was running it tubeless. At the top of the first hill I got the feeling that the tyre was a bit soft and as soon as we went off road I felt a thud. Out with the pump to put some air in. Unfortunately unscrewing the pump from the valve also unscrewed the valve insert, resulting in a completely flat tyre! With no way to inflate the tyre Cath nipped back to get the car and we headed for Chatsworth House.

The following day was again overcast and we did a loop starting from Calver and in to an area of the Peak I'd never visited before, partly because there's no crags in it. Unfortunately quite a bit of the ride had been "sanitised" so what had been an interesting descent was now little more than a blast on old road planings. There was one good bit along a rooty-rocky track to a ford but after that there wasn't much until the traverse above Baslow Edge which while not technical at least wasn't road.

Saturday was another grey overcast day and Cath was leading the club ride so I decided to have a blast along the Pennine Bridleway down to Widdop and back. The lane down from the house is really muddy at the moment and I managed to fall off within 50 metres - oops! Everything went much better after that but it was pretty muddy getting to Wycoller. I thought I might have problems getting up the fields out of Wycoller but I managed to get a decent line with some traction. The next couple of kilometres are the most technical of this part of the way and there's quite a bit of avoiding rocks, slots and holes. Before too long the surface improves and then it's a blast down in to Thursden (I saw the only other biker all day on this part).

The climb on the road over to Widdop felt hard with the slight headwind and also slightly worrying in the fog with drivers not switching their lights on so you didn't see them until they were a few metres away, it was a relief to turn off and cross the dam and start the climb up Gorple Gate. This was as hard as ever though the top part isn't as loose as it used to be. The traverse round to the gate is wet and gritty then it's the blast down the track to rejoin the PBW. Up, big down, big up and a big down get me back to Thursden and then it's back home the same way out with a cafe stop at Wycoller. I was so muddy when I got home that I needed to rinse my clothes twice before putting them in the washing machine.

Sunday was actually a nice day, Cath suggested a route out of the VP Dales MTB guide. I'd done most of the tracks before but nearly all of them in the opposite direction. The one track I hadn't done was the descent down in to Littondale. Most tracks in the Dales are rocky so are pretty much all-weather and all year round so apart from the odd big puddle there's no real problem in most of the first part of the ride. The descent in to Littondale is damp though and being both steep and either grass or limestone means that we need to take care not to let the front wheel wash out.

A bit of a bite to eat at the bottom and then it's road work to get to Arncliffe Cote and the big climb of the day. The bottom of this is again wet grass over limestone and it's basically a push as it's too steep to gain traction in these conditions. Further up we can ride more and more but it's heavy going. We get passed by a group of lads who've ridden over from Hetton and who are the first mountain bikers we've seen all day. Once on top there's a chill wind and there's no hanging around but it's a blast anyway down to Street Gate.

All that's left is the climb up to the Settle Loop and then follow this back towards Langcliffe. It's not all downhill though and there's a few short climbs before the final drop down to the road where I happen to bump in to someone I worked with at my last workplace so after a quick chat it's the final climb up the road before dropping back down to Stainforth on the Pennine Bridleway.

A total of 90Km mostly off-road for the weekend which does feel like hard work.

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