Sunday, 26 April 2015

More Long Days

I'd wanted to do a long MTB ride for some time, I'd done a 100Km ride last September but nothing particularly long since then. With Cath over in the Lakes last Saturday for a girls' ride I'd got the day free to myself.

The driver for this is that I've entered the Yorkshire Dales 300 ITT (Individual Time Trial), a 300Km ride through the Yorkshire Dales - the name might be a giveaway. An ITT is basically a long bike ride on your own but you are allowed to use whatever facilities you come across providing that anyone else doing the event or route can do so. This means that you can't pop home if you live near the route for example because no-one else would be able to do so. With one or two new bits of kit I also wanted to test them out to see how they affected the bike's handling.

I'd done the first part of the route as far as Conistone earlier in the year but I'd been both unfit and the ground conditions were slightly soft so it had felt hard work. Having had a week of dry weather that side of things should be better, it depended on me. My plan was to ride the route as far as Askrigg in Wensleydale then head home taking in parts of the latter parts of the route but with options to cut things short if necessary.

Despite a slight headwind I got to Kettlewell in good time so a visit to Zarina's for some refreshments was in order and then on to one bridleway I'd never been on: up to Moor Top then back down to Starbotton. This was basically a push up and partly a push down. Some good views though.

Once at the summit of Kidstones, time to turn off the tarmac again and head over Gilbert Lane and Stake Moss. I've done this once in the reverse direction but never south to north and had memories of big rocky steps on the climb but the estate or national park had filled these in so it was just a case of pressing on. It was here that I met the only other mountain bikers of the entire day.

This part of the Dales is a large plateau, sufficiently large that you don't really see the surrounding valleys so the effect is of the uplands beyond merging in to one. It really feels different up there, there's a similar effect further west at the top of Fleet Moss which is where I'd be heading after the descent in to and climb out of Wensleydale. 

Another cafe stop in Askrigg and time to leave the outward route and head back. There's just the little matter of the climb up the old Roman road, again I've done this once in the other direction. In the event it was just a long steady climb to join the highest road in the Dales interrupted by a chat with a farmer rebuilding a dry stone wall and a couple of trails bikes.

The change in direction has had another effect - the wind is now on my back and I've gone from only just keeping warm to being in short sleeves to avoid overheating. The clearing skies and sunshine also help.

The descent down in to Ribblesdale is a blast and I hardly see anyone until just before Horton. Another cafe stop! Then I'm ready for the last leg: a couple of big climbs, one off-road, one on tarmac and I'm above Malham with a route choice. Either head east with the wind in my face to Weets Top and then down towards Airton or short-cut via the road. 

Aware that time is now slipping by I go for the easier road option. At Airton I ring Cath for a rescue from Gargrave and by the time I've negotiated a couple more sections of bridleway we arrive at the meeting point at the same time. I've been going for ten hours including stops and have done 133Km. I'm tired.

This Saturday I'd got an invitation to join Garstang CC's annual jaunt up Great Dun Fell (and one or two other hills), 100 miles of the best, well biggest, climbs the Pennines and Dales can give the cyclist.

Come this morning and the weather isn't looking too good but despite having said that I'd retire to my man-cave in the event of atmospheric moisture I headed over to the starting point in Sedbergh, delayed slightly by an accident near Settle where the car had managed to put two rather large holes in the roadside wall. I arrive in Sedbergh to see two cold figures huddling in a shop doorway. Time to get parked up and on our way.

The route headed out up the Tebay Gorge via a series of minor roads before we headed over Orton Scar and down towards Appleby. A bit of detouring around the town and we were ready for the climb.

The first part looked easy enough but we were going reasonably slowly then out of the saddle for the first steep part. By the time we get to the first gate (open) and cattle grid we are just about in the clouds. Steady away and we reach the false flat. "From here on a clear day you can see the next bit head straight up the hillside" is the helpful comment but with 30 metre visibility you just get on with what's in front of you.

There's nothing too hard but there's little respite. The second barrier requires dismounting but it's easier now until the last 100 metres rears up again. No time to hang around at the top as it's snowing!

With the strong side winds and driving sleet and rain I take it steady on the descent. By the time we get to the bottom we are soaked through and chilled to the bone.

From here to the cafe stop in Kirkby Stephen is rolling terrain, hopefully we can get warmed up but it proved a forlorn hope. An executive decision in the cafe and we decide to head straight back to Sedbergh. Of course as we near the end of the ride the sun starts to poke through the clouds however Lamp Moss which was to be our next climb is at snow level so it was probably best that we didn't go that way.

By the time we got back to the cars we'd still done 112Km, Michael who'd organised the ride decided to put in some more miles to get a hundred miles in - keen! Weather wise it was one of the grimmest days I've had on a bike.