Most mountain bike rides are pretty short, last week's ride in the Lakes for example was just 37Km for example, they feel a bit more intense as the terrain isn't conducive to rolling along but that of course is part of the attraction. With Cath away riding on the Seven Stanes I'd free rein in getting out for a longer ride.
The Pennine Bridleway passes quite close to us so I worked out a route that picked that up and headed north in to the Dales then back via other trails. Most of the outbound route would be new to me but the way back was on known trails, we'd actually done most of them when riding the route back from Garsdale Head earlier in the year.
The morning was foggy, really foggy and some of the early road sections up above the house were quite worrying but once I was on the trail leading down to Earby the visibility improved and the stress level reduced. A bit of main road along to Sough and the start of the PBW part of the ride.
Climbing almost immediately on steep grass felt hard work, I still hadn't warmed up, but once that was over the trail followed hard packed ginnels and lanes to gain the edge of Barnoldswick. The climb up from the main road was a bit of a shocker - I'd expected a steady ascent but it began with cobbles at 20%. Fortunately the angle soon eased and I climbed steadily to cross round to the road leading to the top of Weets. All this was new to me, but the route was easy to follow for the moment, the tarmac gave way to an old track dropping down towards Gisburn. This was quite wet and muddy and I was filthy by the time I gained the roads in the valley bottom.
The next section hadn't made much sense when I had looked at it on the map as it looped in and around Gisburn Park (which is a rather grand looking stately pile) but by dint of following the most obvious way I didn't get lost even though I didn't really have much clue where I was! From here to Paythorne was a bit frustrating as there were quite a few gates to negotiate. The gates continued all the way until just short of Long Preston. This was probably the hardest section as even though it was flat(ish), riding over pastureland is much harder work than you might realise, it was relief to get on to the climb out of Long Preston.
The bridleway over to Settle was really quite nice, you are on the very edge of the Craven Gap so have a great view over to the Forest of Bowland and the Southern Pennines, or you would if the weather was clear. A blast down in to Settle and time for some food. I'd been on the go for just over three hours.
The climb out of Settle is hard work on a recently filled stomach but soon I was descending back down to Stainforth and a section on tarmac up to Helwith Bridge. This was my turning point and from here on I was on tracks I'd ridden before and knew that they were fast going.
First though was the little matter of a big climb back up on to the tops. This was a long loose track fortunately with a few easy bits to get your breath back. There were a couple of bikers coming down (only saw six MTB riders all day and not many more roadies) so a quick hello and it was onwards and upwards. The next bit was on road and possibly had the steepest climb of the day out of Tongue Gill then it was on to Malham Tarn and an ice cream.
From here on the end was in sight (for most of the time) or would have been if it hadn't been so mirky. On to Mastiles Lane then cut through to the short steep climb up to Weets Top. The last time I was here it was blowing a hoolie and you had to pedal to keep moving downhill. No such problems today and the descent towards Calton was a blast.
By the time I got to Gargrave I was in need of more refreshment so a quick trip to the Co-op was in order. The next few miles were easy in that I followed the Leeds-Liverpool canal for a while before roads and old railway line lead back to Earby. All that was left was the climb back over Pinhaw. I stopped the GPS with 104Km of riding done in 6hr45. I don't think I'd have liked to have done much more with my current level of fitness but it was good to find out what a long distance ride feels like.
I think a hardtail is best for longer rides like this - lighter and less faff, but against that is the constant minor bumping of the saddle against your backside, non-technical tracks seem to be worst for this. This for me is the only real downside of hardtails vs full-sussers: you tend to be out of the saddle for the bigger bumps so don't notice them as much.
No photos as it was such a mirky day.
I just went for a steady spin over to Clitheroe and back on the Sunday to get some of the tiredness out of my legs.