A mixed day on the Pennine Bridleway
Last year I planned to ride the new northern section of the Pennine Bridleway up to Kirkby Stephen, but never got around to it. Optimistically I was allowing two days for the 180 miles from bottom to top. I had a few days free this February, but delayed the start as it was warming up and the snow was melting fast.
4am departure from home, 4:45 start on the PBW. Hovering above freezing the going was very mixed, with added headwind. At times the trail was frozen solid and fast, others soft, slimy and energy sapping. And then there was the ice. Sometimes passable with care, other times unridable. I was being sensible, this was not a time for taking risks.
Having ridden the route before I had no navigation issues, but knew the pace was slow – ten and a half hours for the first 74 miles to Summit. By the time I hit ‘Top of Leach’ climb I’d just about run out of brake pads. At the top it was cold, windy, icy, and light was fading. Not the time to stop and fiddle with replacing pads. I decided to wait until I hit the next valley. On the decent my rear was on the metal, then it failed. Tricky continuing with only the front. This soon pumped up but at least it was still working and got me down.
Upon inspection the front was now sticking with one piston particularly sticky, especially with pads replaced. The rear had one piston well out that would not retract, and no resistance at the lever. My diagnosis – knackered.
Decision time. I’d covered 88 miles in 13 hours. Even I wasn’t prepared to attempt another 100 with one sticky front brake. Had it been summer……. Then I remembered Barnoldswick was close by. The home of Hope Technology. I had Hope mono minis with 160/140 rotors. Their very reliability had been their downfall. I’d had them years, loads of miles on several bikes, and only ever had absolute minimal maintenance. In hindsight…… I considered riding to the factory and in the morning ask Hope if they would sort them – I was sure they would – they are well known for excellent customer service. But, this would put me way behind my two day schedule, I’d never make Kirkby S.
Decision made. Head home on the road. I’ll see Kirkby another time.
Three and a half hours later at 10:15pm I stopped. I was within a few hours of home, but having carried my bivvy kit all the way I felt I ought to use it! I rode the final thirty miles the next morning.
Not quite the trip I’d planned, but one long day’s training none the less.
At 5.30 sharp I met my buddies in a car park near me, we loaded up the car in 15 mins and hit the road. At that time of day the traffic was awful, so we inched along, drinking tea, listening to old skool garage and feeling cosy and warm. It was quite a shock when we got to Peaslake at 7 and had to motivate ourselves to brace the cold and do some exercise. I quite often feel like that when I drive to places.
Still, it was cool once we got going. The boys argued about which trails to ride, and I just tagged along, after a few minutes it was so dark and everything looked the same anyway, I was just happy to be out and pedalling. For those in the know we did that sweepy, flowy trail from the top of the view point (that sort of goes thought a gulley and the path swaps from one side to the other, turning around trees and over off-camber roots), Telegraphs, something else near the YHA and Barry know’s Best. I loved it. If ever I had to stop and wait for someone it was sweet-as seeing their lights flicker between the trees, and sections get fully lit up as they got closer. I loved seeing our steamy breath in the light of the bike lights. I’m making a film soon, and really wondering if we can capture that, or whether it will get lost on screen and is something that you just have to truly be there to experience…..
We finished with a beer (or wine in my case) in the pub, drove to Dorking for fish and chips and got dropped at home at bang on bed time
Cedric Lassonde at the Exterra World Champs.
Well the xterra world champs in Maui was a huge disappointment as I took a wrong turn on the bike and lost a good 5 min to get back on the course. This meant game over and I didn’t finish the race after that as mentally I was out. Up to that point I had gone from 44th out of the water to 19th after 5 miles of riding, and had just overtaken 3 guys I have never caught on a bike before, including Marcel Zamora, 5 x ironman France winner. I think I got too excited and lost some focus just as I was telling myself that this was my day…so a huge disappointment this is, I will be haunted by this wrong turn until I go back there and perform to my ability.
Beside being a World champ, the race had some extra hype this year due to the presence of a certain Lance Armstrong in his 2nd triathlon since he retired from cycling, and also Jan Frodeno, olympic champion holder! Lance did an impressive swim and quickly took the lead on the bike, but he suffered from a bad crash just before T2 and faded on the run to finally finish 23rd. But his presence meant the xterra planet got some huge exposure this time around.
Back in the UK is not so glamorous right now, I should be resting but I think I will need a couple races to finish the year on a good note before backing off totally for a few weeks. So still training and aiming to win the Ballbuster and Iceman duathlons in the weeks to come.
Anna from Team Mule Bar Girls and her Whyte E 120 adventures.
Last week my boyfriend and his family and their large group of friends went on holiday “up North”. I was very kindly invited along and although I couldn’t go for the whole week, I jumped at the chance to spend a few days riding in a new place.
On the way up we stopped by Manchester so that I could race the infamous RedBull Minidrome (a tiny velo drome, 27 meters around, that is assembled for a one-evening event). It was a great evening, I finished top-lady, met some new people and it nicely broke up the journey.
We had done some google-searching in preparation before we left and noted 3 places to ride in 3 days. First up was Hamsterly Forest. It was in a stunning setting, with the car park at the bottom of a valley, and thick, green forest to either side. Not sure what to expect we picked the Black trail to follow, which didn’t tell us how far it was. That was mildly annoying, as we spent the whole ride not knowing if we were nearly back or still miles away, but to their credit the route was amazingly well sign-posted and we trotted around quite happily. The Black route is not particularly technical, but it made for nice riding, a few rooty descents and slippy, rocky climbs kept us entertained.
The highlight was stumbling upon a crowd of people watching a Downhill race, we stopped for a bit to take a look and suddenly the crowd were saying “Danny’s up next…” and sure enough, Danny Hart went thundering past in his rainbow jersey at a local race! Was pretty damn cool! We decided to check out the downhill and freeride park the next day, but for now we continued on our route. It took us 2.5 hours, I think that it is probably doable in just over an hour if you go fast!! But like I said, we watched a bit of the race, we stopped for drinks and re-did fun sections. It was cool to be out in the fresh air and exploring, we certainly were not interested in training hard.
I can’t say we were tired when we packed up the car to go home, but we were definitely happy!
This weekend was the first round of the Open 5 adventure race series and my first race back following my injury over the summer. I’ve always been one for chucking myself in at the deep end so 5 hours of mtb and running, around the less than flat fells north of Staveley in the Lake District seemed to be just what the doctors ordered (if not the physio…) I really enjoy the format of these races. 5 hours of navigating between check points set out as either mtb or running stations, collecting various points for each checkpoint visited. My aim as always was the collect all the mtb points and then do as much running as I could handle.
The course was great on the bike. I’d recommend the bridleways around Applethwaite Common to anyone who enjoys their trails rocky. The course also took in Sleddale Forest, which is more boggy but held up ok for the race – although I think I’ll give it a miss until next summer.
So I cleared the bike course and managed to get in some running. Overall it was a fun way to get back into racing. I’m thinking of taking on the Coed Y Brenin Duathlon next, towards the end of the month, followed by round 2 of the Open 5.
Polaris Challenge 2011
2011 was the 20th anniversary of the Polaris Challenge. Numbers have dwindled a little from its heyday of three events a year and up to a thousand competitors; but the event is still as hard as ever to win.
Saturday was a tough seven hours around the High Peak. Made tougher by rain and wind. Trails were wet and brake pads constantly grinding – many of us finished down to the metal on the rear. With tyres pumped up to 50+psi (for the road sections) the off-road was very skitty. I had an over the bars incident on Cut Gate, but fortunately escaped with just bruises and scrapes. A fast finish on the road kept me within the time limit, but results showed second overall, fifteen points adrift of Andy Douglas.
Sunday’s weather was a complete contrast. Hot and sunny. With five hours to fill my route took me through a mixture of the White and Dark Peak. I was happy with my planning and route choice and rode at a good consistent pace. It turned out to be enough for the highest score of the day. Fifteen points more than Andy – resulting in a tie at the top. The rules say it goes down to the shortest riding time next. That was me. Andy had ridden a big loop but come in late losing some of his hard earned points – had he been ten seconds quicker he would have lost one less point, and therefore won the event! In the 20thyear, the closest ever winning margin. Exactly 10 years since my first of many Polaris victories. Every one of these victories riding a full suspension Whyte.
Here is the latest from Anna at Team Mule Bar Girls and her spring training camp in France with her e120.
This Easter I spent in France, checking up on my elderly grandparents. There was nothing to do once that was done, no internet, no cities, no people. So I just rode my bike.
Ride one was with my parents and brother, it was like the olden days, a happy family outing. Only now it’s my parents calling out “wait for meeee.” We followed some way markers through little villages and into the woods, it was really hot and everything was lush green and over grown. Stinging nettles swept our ankles and little flies followed us in constant clouds, I didn’t want to open my mouth. We took it easy, the 10 hour drive the day before had left us all a little worn out, but happy to be stretching our legs. The views were stunning, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a ride and simply enjoyed being there, not trying to train, not looking for the gnarliest line, just looking around and pedalling. We stopped a few times to take pictures and, of course, for me to dish out some Mule Bars.
We got back after 3 hours or so, we hadn’t seen a car on the road sections, and the silence made us sleepy. Out came the deck chairs and the books and magazines, and nothing else was said or done until dinner time.
Still in France and still with nothing to do but ride my bike, I went with my brother to this big hill in a place called Geuret. There were several signed routes, but there was only one that we were interested in- the quickest way to the top! It meant a severe and technical climb, at a pace not much faster than the walkers who had set off in front of us. Out the saddle the whole way, constantly shifting my weight, pulling up and quick accelerations to get up and over the loose rocks. Occasionally we’d stop because we’d seen an adder or a salamander, but other than that there was no other option but to keep going and ignore the stinging sweat rolling into my eyes.
But it was worth it. The pot of gold at the top was the start line to a French National DownHill run. It was so good it was everything I could dream of in a run; fast, pedally rooty sections, single track, small rock drops, medium sized rock drops, shingle, man-made burms and a few jumps. The big lines were sealed off, not that I’d have done them anyway, on any bike, the big lines were really, really big! My Whyte bike was perfect, it got me up the climb and then handled all the abuse I cold throw at it. Seriously, it was one of the best places I have ever ridden.
At the bottom we simply rode back up. We were out all day and did 5 runs, with the climb as technical as the decent my arms were done in. I couldn’t have done it on any other bike, my “big” bike would not have got me up, but my lightweight, e-120 with it’s plushness and wide bars was plenty good enough to get me back down at speed.
Welsh Coast to Coast – Training and Testing
Having entered the Colorado trail Race in August it was time to put my winter training and some equipment to the test. Colorado will be 500 miles of self-supported single track mountain bike racing.
The testing ground I chose was Wales, with all its similarities to the Colorado Rockies! Dave Buchanan has set up a Coast to Coast route spanning from Caernarfon to Cardiff – over 200 miles. An ideal choice. To turn it into a multi-day ride I opted to ride from home.
First leg I had to get to Caernarfon. 226 road kilometres in a little over 11 hours. Fish and Chips, then a nice bivvy spot by the sea.
Next day the ride proper. I knew where it started and finished, but nothing in between. Dave had e-mailed me a GPX file of the route which I had uploaded to my Satmap Active 10. Time to activate. I set off at 11:30 am. I was relying totally on this GPS for navigation – I deliberately didn’t carry a backup map. This is hard for someone from an orienteering background, but key to proving the reliability and functionality of the Active 10.
Initial riding was fairly easy and quick, then became tougher. Descending ‘the beginning of the end’ (Coed-y-Brenin) my rear rack broke. I had to stuff this extra gear in, and attached it to, my rucksack – fortunately this rack was not destined for Colorado, I’m still awaiting a special saddle pack from Revelate Designs.
The weather was unseasonably hot and dry, especially for Wales. I told you Wales was similar to Colorado. As darkness fell it gave me chance to compare the outputs from the selection of Exposure lights I was carrying. This passed the time as I swapped lights, changed settings and calculated battery life. It’s a hard decision to make – several possible combinations will light the trail for hours and keep the weight down.
Finally daylight reappeared. Tiredness was creeping up on me. After 19 hours on the move I made some navigational mistakes. I misread the orientation of the GPS map and ended up deviating from the route. Once I realised the GPS makes it easy to get back on track – even in the dark it would still have been relatively straightforward to relocate – a big advantage when tired.
With no more significant mistakes I finally reached the Celtic Ring in Cardiff Bay. 25 hours 53 minutes. 348km and 7403m climbing. The end of the Coast to Coast. My Whyte E120 passed with flying colours – but then I knew it would. The only fault a broken front spoke from a heavy metal gate swinging into it. The Active 10 proved its navigational worth, especially when tired. Exposure lights efficient as always. And lastly all those cold winter rides proved their worth.
I rode 30km out of Cardiff and found somewhere quiet to bivvy and get some well-earned rest and sleep.
Next day the last leg. The ride home, 248km on road. The pace was unsurprising slow, it took almost 15 hours!
Mission accomplished, testing complete – results very positive……
My Whyte was my bike of choice over the winter, he got me through ice and snow and salt, but as a result he has been very, very ill. I have finally got him better and we went out together on Sunday to Dorking. It was an epic ride, i joined my brothers and a mate who know the Dorking hills really well. We parked up at Dorking West and had a little play in the jumps and four-cross track there, we shouted “freeriiiiide” lots and took pictures. Since committing to Downhill racing this season I’ve been focusing on improving my jumping, Whytie is perfect for taking on an XC ride, but allowing me to push and progress with small ish jumps. I’ve started to get the hang of it, I’m not doing anything huge but am learning to hit things fast and when I get it right it feels smooth and nice, like spreading butter on hot toast. I’m hooked on the feeling.
But wanting to enjoy the country side and get fit we moved on and climbed up Ranmore hill, i was glad to be warmed up and not to have gone straight into it from the car. We found an awesome rooty off-camber descent back down it, and proceeded onto Holmbury and picked up our mid-way point after a trail called Barry Knows best and got a cup of tea in Peaslake. we then did a few loops of Pitch Hill, by then I was getting tired and the boys did one more loop whilst I free wheeled back into Peaslake to wait for them. I wanted to save my legs, we were still miles from the car and had been out for over 3 hours, I didn’t want to blow.
I had a Mulebar gel and was ready to go again when the boys rejoined me. It was a lot of climbing from there, we kept it at a good pace though and played around a bit, pushing each other around and doing some sprints, keeping it fun. It was getting dusky by the time we got to the Tower, so we didn’t stop. We launched off some bomb holes to the left of the main path and followed some amazing trails. I was a bit lost by then, and I have a feeling the boys were a bit too. The sun was setting an amazing firey red through the trees and we still weren’t back yet. By the time we got to the road it was dark, we had to ride on the pavement because we had no lights. We collapsed back at the car at eight thirty. We’d been out for over 6 hours!
It was a perfect ride, good fun, good company, a variety of riding and i finished exhausted but happy. So glad to be back out and riding like that again. Next ride Wednesday. Love it!
This weekend I took part in the 4th round of the Open5 adventure race series in Bakewell in the Peak District. I’ve now done a couple of these races which involve a combination of mtb and trail running, navigating between check points to gather as many points over a 5 hour period. The last one of these I did was the first time I’d run off road and today would be the second time (why train for running when you can ride…) so my expectations were realistic but the sun was out and I was looking forward to a good day in the hills. There was a requirement by the race organisers to have a bell on the bike hence the picture of my e-120 with map board and horn attached. The race itself went well, I collected all of the mtb checkpoints and had about half the time left for running. At the end of the run I’d collected nearly all the running checkpoints. I reckon if I could have covered another 3-4km I could have finished the course. Next weekend I’m planning to head to the Lakes for the Grizedale Duathlon, which is a shorter race but will be another good chance to gain some early season race fitness.
Trans Pennine Trial (yes, trial)
Half-term – a chance to get a few hours in on the bike. I’d read about the Trans Pennine Trail – 200 miles, flat and mainly off road, but nothing difficult. An ideal two day winter tour with the ride to Southport making three days. I found a GPX and downloaded it.
Saturday morning brought sleet and snow. It wasn’t long before I was soaked and had freezing feet. At least the weather improved after a few hours, with an added tailwind. I had a short overnight camp in the sand dunes so that I could make an early start. 2:30am! Pace was much slower than expected. Many gates preventing motorbikes required unhitching the trailer, others required an elaborate wedging, dragging, and lifting technique. Route finding was fiddly, surfaces slower than expected, and punctures from broken glass. Did I mention the headwind? Despite this I was through Liverpool by first light, so missed the sights.
At least the gates got better, the trailer could be dragged over the double sleeper type, and with careful positioning and angling, it was sometimes possible to get through the narrowing metal type without getting off. Through Southern Manchester the myriad of route options again slowed me down (I should have looked at a map before I set off). The surfaces continued to be rather varied, overall much softer and wetter than expected.
Finally I entered familiar territory and started the Woodhead climb into the snow. At the top the strongly hinged gate with double right-angled sleepers was too much – sense of humour failure as the bike got jammed and the trailer mudguard mashed.
Into Penistone the trail was at its worst. Like a wet Thetford but with black mud. Brake pads continually rubbing despite not using them. I thought I was wet and muddy before, after this section everything was covered. I wasn’t enjoying this ride! Then at Wath my fourth puncture – more glass. Filthy, freezing feet, only two more patches left; I didn’t fancy camping only to repeat the next day. So, 14 hours and 115 miles in I decided I’d had enough. Sort of. It was 40 road miles home. I arrived 4½ hours later. Hot shower, comfortable bed. Sometimes it’s worth taking the easy option!