ECR miles

The last couple of weekends I’ve been getting the miles in on the ECR ahead of my trip to Scotland in May. Importantly, these have been largely off road miles and with luggage to a lesser or greater degree.

Last weekend saw me out with those fine folk from Keep Pedalling and a couple of other customers, among them Tim from Life in the Cycle Lane. We bimbled around the byways of the South Pennines on our passé geared machines while our hosts chewed up the trail on single speeds. It was the workout I needed and a salutary reminder that my fitness is not quite where it should be. Read Tim’s account here.

This weekend, I loaded up the ECR ‘properly’ and hit the bridle paths of the Dark Peak heading to Edale. I took in familiar routes such as Mount Famine and Roych Clough and had plenty of opportunity to push my beast of burden – all good training for things north of the border.

Spending the night pitched in Edale, I climbed Winnats Pass on Sunday morning for no other reason than I hadn’t ground up its 1 in 5 before. Staying on the road to Chinley, more climbing led to a lovely unmade road which dropped down into Birch Vale where I had a well-earned breakfast at the excellent Sett Valley Café.

From here, I climbed the Pennine Bridleway across the flanks of Lantern Pike before heading towards Charlesworth and home on the trails.

Taking a breather with the Keep Pedalling gang

Taking a breather with the Keep Pedalling gang

Heading to Hayfield

Heading to Hayfield

On the Snake Path

On the Snake Path

Near Mount Famine

Near Mount Famine

At the top of Winnats Pass

At the top of Winnats Pass

Sett Valley Cafe welcomes cyclists, even muddy ones!

Sett Valley Cafe welcomes cyclists, even muddy ones

Breakfast at the Sett Valley Cafe in Birch Vale

Breakfast at the Sett Valley Cafe in Birch Vale

Great trails home

Great trails home

Time for a well-deserved clean

Time for a well-deserved clean

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Photo post: Edale, Jacob’s Ladder and The Woolpacks

I had the opportunity to head out with our Vango Force 10 at the weekend. The accessibility of Edale proved too tempting to resist and we pitched at Fieldhead. This campsite seems stuck in a time warp – the facilities no more appealing than the first time I poorly pitched my old, heavy backpacking tent on its muddy fields – yet its location remains a major plus.

Saturday saw us climbing Jacob’s Ladder and picking a route through the Woolpacks before clambering down the boulders of Grindsbrook Clough. I promised my other half ‘proper’ Dark Peak and the Dark Peak didn’t disappoint – although a slip on our descent and bruised behind did prompt questions about my ‘classic’ circuit.

Heading out on the Pennine Way

Heading out on the Pennine Way

Continue reading

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This year’s adventure and a change of plan

rannoch moorI had planned to head to France for this year’s bike tour and tackle the Grande Traversée du Massif Central, a 700km mountain bike route from Clermont Ferrard to Montpellier.

I bought the guidebook and had (nearly) sorted my slightly awkward logistics flying outbound and grabbing the Bike Europe Express coach service home. Naturally, I wanted to take the Surly ECR on this trip although this bike’s massive proportions would cause problems on both modes of travel. If you’re interested, Bike Europe Express will take fat bikes – be they half or full fat – classing them as ‘unconventional solos’. However, I think it’s a good idea to call them first if you fancy taking your monster truck. Continue reading

Posted in Cycling, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

The best of weekends in Lakeland

It’s been over a year since I’ve visited the Cumbrian fells. My last trip – for the other half’s 40th birthday – was a wonderful week of friends, campfires, canoes, great food and liberal imbibing.

During that trip I managed to squeeze in a couple of classic Lakeland walks – the Coldedale Round and Blencathra via Sharp Edge – although the card on my camera corrupted so those excursions didn’t make the pages of this blog sadly.

Last week we returned. A number of motivational factors aligned: we needed an escape, we had a new tent to ‘test’ and the forecast looked OK. I booked the Friday off work and we trundled up the M6 amid seemingly endless road works to Keswick. Continue reading

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Birthday wander – Lantern Pike

New mills signNotwithstanding my rather sombre introduction to the year, I recaptured a sense of the restorative effect of one foot ahead of the other on my birthday.

The plan had been to head to the Derwent Valley and kick trails through the snow on its edges. Overnight flurries conspired against us however and the Snake was closed.

A local ramble on Glossopdale was presented as an option only to be rejected by the other half, favouring the familiar territory of Lantern Pike from Hayfield. The snow would offer an alternative take on this agreeable ramble.

This being a Thursday the car park at the countryside centre was empty. Donning hefty footwear, we ambled along the Pennine Bridleway before heading to the slopes and higher ground. The summit maker was soon reached and we celebrated my 41st year with coffee and chocolate cake.

Our descent took us ‘behind’ the Pike and to Birch Vale where we enjoyed tea at the excellent Sett Valley Café, a sure-fire stop for summer bike rides both on and off road. From here, we simply retraced our steps to the car.

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Reflections

This time last year there was an overwhelming sense of a need for change. This wasn’t the superficial, ephemeral tokenism of New Year resolutions but driven by a dissatisfaction with the course life was taking.

The early manifestations of change were functional and pragmatic. I emptied the contents of my loft onto eBay and reinvested the resultant funds into experiences or tools that would facilitate these experiences – namely bikes(!)

Lightened both spiritually and materially after clearing this consumer flotsam, I managed to sell my house and thus remove a set of irons that had shackled me to a financial commitment disproportionate to any benefits home ownership delivered. That’s not to say I don’t wish to buy another home – I do – but not one that becomes such an inflexible burden.

Moving house is a stressful business of course. However, in common with many, 2014 presented other challenges and these are yet to fully play out. The latter half of the year has been particularly difficult, accounting for the sporadic activity on these pages focusing on the simple escape of riding and building bikes or (not) hitting the hills. Continue reading

Posted in Cycling, Walking | 16 Comments

Should you buy a custom bike frame? Some thoughts

I’ve had a quite a few emails from readers since I posted about my Woodrup Sportivo asking about the process of specifying a custom frame.

Now I have few hundred miles under my belt on this lovely machine, I feel it’s time to offer some thoughts on going custom which may be of help if you are considering a similar project.

Why do you want a custom frame?

Woodrup SportivoThis is an important question and one that requires some thought. In my case, my height, back trouble and aesthetic considerations were key factors in opting for a custom frame.

Your requirements may be different… Continue reading

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Woodrup 853 Sportivo: done

Woodrup SportivoHere are some pics and build specs on my Woodrup. Assuming I can sell some more stuff, I hope to add an upgraded wheel set at some point but the hoops off the Thorn will do for now.

Frame: Woordup Sportivo 853 oversize tubing, custom.
Wheels: DRC rims on XT. Gatorskin 28mm tyes.
Mudguards: SKS
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra 57mm drop.
Pedals: Shimano Ultegra
Drivetrain: Sram Rival 20 spd, 50/34 crankset and WiFli rear mech. 11-32 rear cluster. 10spd Sram PC1051 chain. Chris King BB.
Bars: Pro Lt
Stem: Cinelli
Headset: Chris King
Seat post: Deda RSX 02
Saddle: Brooks B17
Accessories: King Cages, stainless steel. Carradice Zipped Roll.

Posted in Cycling, Gear | Tagged | 5 Comments

Mountain Warehouse Extreme Brisk Mountain Jacket – a few miles down the trail

Mountain Warehouse Extreme Brisk JacketI’ve been wearing the Mountain Warehouse Extreme Brisk Mountain Jacket for a few months now in a range of conditions and it high time I offer some thoughts.

In common with the Adrenaline cycle jacket, which I posted about a while back, this jacket is manufactured from IsoDry, although a better performing version of the fabric according to the swing ticket.

The Brisk uses 10,000mm IsoDry, which has a claimed moisture vapour transfer (MVT) rate of 5,000g/24hrs/m2. Stats aside, the fabric of this jacket is considerable softer than that used for the Adrenaline and the jacket feels more comfortable as a result on the hill. Continue reading

Posted in Gear, Walking | Tagged | 3 Comments

Woodrup Sportivo 853

After nearly three years thinking about purchasing a custom frame I have, at last, taken the plunge. I took delivery of a Sportivo this week from Woodrup Cycles in Leeds, built with care and enthusiasm by Kevin Sayles.

woodrup-sportivo-8While three years may seem like a long time, I’m glad I deliberated. Trips to Bespoked Bristol planted the idea of a custom frame while also highlighting the challenges of building in steel a frame that would be big enough and satisfy my eye aesthetically.

This latter point was very important. I spoke to many builders who could deliver a frame that would fit but didn’t necessarily understand the ‘look’ I was after. I reviewed examples of large frames and, frankly, some looked like gates. I became despondent and rejected the whole project. This was not helped by personal financial ‘challenges’.

Then I visited Kevin at his workshop in Leeds armed with my Thorn Audax and we had a lengthy and fruitful chat about fit and form. Kevin is a real cycling enthusiast and has been building for more than 40 years. He used to work for Thorn and was pretty certain he’d set my Audax up.

While I had pretty fixed idea as to what I wanted, he suggested the 853 oversized tubeset which resulted in him having to fabricate a seat cluster lug (the frame had to have lugs!). The geometry was tweaked to accommodate my penchant for Brooks saddles and their relatively short rails. Other features included stainless strips for cable rub and a ‘proper’ head badge. A Chris King headset and bottom bracket completed the order.

I am delighted with the result. Not gate like to my eye, although remember I am 6’6″ with a 37.5″ cycle inseam. Can’t wait to get it built :-)

 

Posted in Cycling, Gear | Tagged , , | 8 Comments