Peak District wildcamping bikepack

An opportunity arose at the weekend to get out. I say ‘opportunity’, but this bikepack in the Dark Peak was complicated by my current state of moving house. Bike bags had been packed, sleeping bags and bivvy bags were neatly stowed in marked cardboard boxes, camp stove fuel and water bladder were stored God-knows-where.

An hour or so crashing around in the workshop later and I cobbled together some kit for the trip. With the weather sultry in Glossopdale, I opted for a tarp – a first-time outing for this simple shelter.

I strapped the bags to my ECR and pushed off at 5pm. While the heat of day hung heavily in the air, the sun had started its descent to the horizon and the evening light gave the Derbyshire hills definition, perspective and texture. The trails were agreeably quiet too.

I picked up the Pennine Bridleway and headed due-Edale over Lantern Pike towards Mount Famine. Feeling a little reckless, I turned the handlebars towards Jacobs Ladder and ended up pushing most of the way – underlining the heft of my bike and my hopeless skills as mountain biker.

Edale was full of weekenders enjoying the evening. The village’s Spoonfest had swelled numbers, but campsites would have always been full in this balmy weather. As a consequence, some enterprising folk had negotiated their own impromptu campgrounds on farmers’ fields further down the valley. The atmosphere was heavy with the fug of barbecues.

I didn’t delay.

I was headed for the banks of Ladybower north of Bamford where I hoped to find a helpful spot to rig the tarp and watch night fall. Pushing along the reservoir track I found a nice ‘beach’ and the branches of low trees provided perfect anchorage for my tarp ridgeline. Despite being my first outing, the tarp was ready in a couple of minutes. I rolled out my bivvy and sorted the bed for the night. A brew soon followed and I watched the light fade and the traffic illuminating the Snake Road – a mere whisper on the far bank.

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Hear the Lion, erm, ding

Regular readers will know I’m partial to the odd ride along a mixed-use trail. Normally, these mini-adventures are undertaken with that fine fellow Tim from Life in the Cycle Lane and, more often than not, are an excuse to indulge his baffling affinity for the Trans Pennine Trail.

Riding these routes has its problems though – largely confined to other trail users. We always try to be considerate on these Troll-fests, normally favouring a polite ‘on your right’ when overtaking walkers. Horse riders are given a respectful wide berth too.

However, increasingly I hear grumbles from walkers as I trundle by along the lines of ‘Where’s your bell?!’ Both Tim and I feel the bell can be more offensive than a verbal warning but, in the interests of ‘scientific’ enquiry, I decided to equip the Bob Jackson with one ahead of this year’s Eroica.

As this was the Bob I was looking for something suitably retro. I’d found a fine example for a tenner amid Eroica’s tempting stalls but then came across Lion Bellworks. Their rather splendid brass bell was another fiver. Maybe it was the quantity of gin I’d consumed or the fact that Lion bells are assembled in Manchester that prompted me to cough up the extra dough. Actually no, the Lion emitted such a becoming ‘ding’ I was immediately hooked.

Lion bellworks brass cycle bellAware of the importance of the sound, Lion have posted an audio file on their web homepage. It’s easily described though. Flicking the elegant hammer against the brass body produces a sound that would summon Andrew Sachs as Manuel in Fawlty Towers.

The Lion is beautifully made and fits securely to a quill stem, a strip of cork on the bracket ensuring the bell remains put and is free from rattles in use.

So, how did folks on the Peak District trails respond? Mostly with a smile, exactly the response I was after. It was a bit much for one daydreaming pedestrian though who spun round with a start and blurted ‘Jesus f@cking Christ!!!’

Hmmm, can’t please everyone I guess.

This is a lovely product and is highly recommended. The only downside is the bell will tarnish so requires regular polishing.

An Eroica thank you

I think it’s fair to say that I’m basking in a warm glow after riding this year’s Eroica Britannia. I’ve tasted the event before  as a day visitor so was familiar with the vintage vibe on site. The ride underpinned my affection for it though.

hero-badgeThe route was similar to last year – no bad thing – save for a lengthy and agreeable diversion into Staffordshire.

It was challenging, too, particularly the section heading to beautiful Ilam and another wonderful food stop. I think this was more to do with poor nutrition on my part during the ride rather than the terrain. My depleted state was soon remedied with – ahem – four cups of soup, numerous sandwiches and, naturally, cake.

There were some wonderful bikes on show again making me want to redouble my efforts to find a genuine vintage ride that fits my ungainly frame. I think I may struggle, but a Hetchins with gorgeous ‘curvy’ stays would be a lovely addition to the fleet!

eroica-finishMy ‘mongrel’ Bob Jackson performed effortlessly as you might expect from a modern/retro bike. It’s pretty clear why the cycling community have largely steered away from toe clips and straps though!

Some folk in the 100-mile class take it very seriously and I doff my cycling cap to them. My approach is perhaps too haphazard and riding a tourer with a triple (wash your mouth out!) a little disrespectful of those grinding their knees to dust on old groupsets with unhelpful ratios.

Perhaps the 55-mile route would make more sense for this trundler?

I hope I’ll be in a position to ride it again next year and encourage one or two other cycling friends to take the heroic plunge. It’s a fitting showcase of the Peak District and its fabulous riding.

 

Voila! Il est Bob

In March’s post about my post-apocalyptic snow ride across the Pennines, I pointed to difficulties in ‘real life’. I’m afraid more ‘life events’ have monopolised my time and energy of late. To say things have been difficult would be an understatement. Nevertheless, life must roll on and, with a deep breath, I can now quickly post about the Bob Jackson I started to build last year.

After many a false start and component challenge, the bike I will ride at this year’s Eroica Britannia looks a bit like this…

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I’ve had to make one or two compromises along the way but I’m pretty happy with the final result. I say ‘final’ but the pedals need to change to meet l’eroica specifications (clips and straps) and it needs some bottle cages. You get the idea though.

And before the purists start squealing, I know this is not really kosher… it’s not a road bike, but sourcing a pre-1987 bike in the right size (ginormous) was nigh on impossible. It apes the old French randonneur and touring bikes and is very much in that spirit, but with (hopefully) more reliable modern replica components. And besides, it’s a fair old stretch for those downtube shifters on a frame of this size. I guess they make it heroic if nothing else!

The chainset is now a triple – a simple Stronglight Impact – after supply problems from Middleburn and Velo Orange. This was not my original plan as I hoped to fit a ‘super-compact’ double. The Stronglight works well though and is aesthetically right.

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The brake levers are positioned a bit high too, I will adjust them ahead of the ride if I get the time.

The build is as follows:

Frame: Bob Jackson World Tour 26.5 inch, Reynolds 631 (yes, it’s a monster)
Bars: Velo Orange ‘Rando’ 46 cm
Levers: Dia Compe Gran Cru drilled
Bar tape: Brooks tan
Stem: 3ttt Status quill 130mm
Headset: Chris King threaded
Mudguards: Velo Orange 45mm hammered finish
Tyres: Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 32mm
Hubs: Dia Compe Gran Compe ENE, 36-hole
Rims: H Plus Son TB 14, Polished
Brakes: Velo Orange Zeste Cantilevers with anti squeal blocks, Dia Compe roller hangers.
Shifters: Dia Compe downtube micro-ratchet shifters
Front mech: Campagnolo Veloce
Chainset: Stronglight Comp triple 175mm, 50,40,30t
Bottom bracket: Stronglight JP 400, alloy
Rear mech: Campagnolo Comp triple
Cassette: Sram 8 spd, 11-28t
Seat post: Velo Orange Gran Cru (layback)
Saddle: Brooks Imperial
Saddlebag: Caradice zip roll

I’m riding the 100-miler on Sunday. It’s a lovely route on roads and paths I know well. I can’t wait!

Coming up for air

So it’s been a while since my fingers have felt the need to dance on the keyboard and populate these pages. My apologies. I believe it’s euphemistically called ‘life events’. Normal service now returns though.

While gingerly fording a swollen river of emotional discord, you find out who your friends are. That fine fellow Tim from Life in the Cycle Lane came to my rescue and suggested we pedal from Chesterfield to Glossop and explore some unfamiliar sections of the Trans Pennine Trail.

Undeterred by the six inches of snow clogging the byways of Glossopdale, we caught a train to the town of the crooked spire, picked up the trail and headed across the backbone of England.

As is the norm on these Surly Trollfest adventures, we encountered sublime and ridiculous conditions, struggled in parts but managed to keep one another motivated. Celebratory beers were downed with that glow of achievement, despite not being able to feel my fingers or toes.

The pictures are from the phone camera so apologies for the quality…

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A Dark Peak Bivvy – Alport Castles

It’d been a while since I’d rolled out the bivvy bag and the need to enjoy (or is that endure?) a night in the big orange sock became too great at the weekend.

The destination? My backyard.

I left home at lunchtime and wandered through Old Glossop past its incongruous aluminium works to the Doctor’s Gate. Walking this old route, I soon joined the manicured section of the Pennine Way where I went against the grain of the national trail, heading south east to Mill Hill and Kinder Scout’s northern edge.

Jumping from boulder to boulder on this my favourite stretch of the plateau, I dropped down to Woodlands Valley via Blackden Brook, which entailed a steep diversion at its head due to some sloppy navigation on my part. Continue reading

Walking the West Highland Way (again)

I’ve just completed the West Highland Way again. Having scurried along it a few years ago in four and a half days and pedalled much of it this year, I was looking for a more sedate experience this time round.

The impetus for this trip had been the somewhat-surprising announcement by my other half that the ‘Way needed to be added to her growing repertoire of walks (the tortuous trudges up Ben Nevis and Snowdon already ticked off).

I was looking forward to experiencing this most popular trail through someone else’s eyes. The ‘Way didn’t disappoint, nor did the weather as we enjoyed some freakishly sunny days.

Another quality of the trail also endures – the camaraderie en route. We met some fantastic folk and enjoyed some superb nights in the various pubs, crowned by a celebratory dinner at the excellent Ben Nevis Inn.

It matters not who you are or where you are from, the trail remains the great leveller .

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