Easter in the Yorkshire Dales

If a pattern is emerging in 2015, then it’s to squeeze in as much as possible in the time I have away from the office.

While my four camping trips may pale in comparison to the bevy of lightweight backpackers and cycle tourists who pepper the blogosphere with their exploits, for me the tally is an impressive one.

The fourth trip to add to these pages was an Easter amble to the rather lovely Yorkshire Dales – Swaledale in fact. We took the Vango Forge Ten to Usha Gap campsite near Muker and revelled in the scenery and simply wonderful weather.

We managed two walks – a gentle 15km circuit to Keld and back via Swinner Gill and a more demanding 26 km tramp over Great Shunner Fell to Hawes and back. The latter was a bit of an intentional test as my other half has ambitions to complete the West Highland Way later this year and I felt the need to give her a flavour of a typical day. I’m pleased to say her enthusiasm remains undiminished.

Our third outing in the Vango Force Ten prompted an addition. A Vango Adventure Tarp has now been added to the rig, which provides an excellent, weather resistant open porch. The two work effortlessly together, the only drawback being the shadow cast by the tarp affecting how the canvas fades in the sun. As a result, our Force 10 now sports a ‘tie-dye’ darkened patch on one flank. Not a problem, but something to bear in mind if you too wish to dabble with the Old Skool.

Vango Force Ten with an Adenture Tarp

Vango Force Ten with an Adenture Tarp

Climbing out of Swaledale

Climbing out of Swaledale

Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung

Fuel stop

Fuel stop

Lovely landscapes up here

Lovely landscapes up here

The Pennine Way to Great Shunner Fell

The Pennine Way to Great Shunner Fell

Beacon on Great Shunner Fell looking to Swaledale

Beacon on Great Shunner Fell looking to Swaledale

Still a good ways to go

Still a good ways to go

Time to go home

Time to go home

Usha Gap campsite - a highly recommended place to stay this way

Usha Gap campsite – a highly recommended place to stay this way

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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. Continue reading

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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

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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