Mad dogs and Englishmen (and women)…

… go out for a day-long pedal into the Peak District without checking the forecast.

Sometimes the plan is just set. I was always going out for a ride on Easter Day this year. I wanted a long, but sedate, day on the bike, more for endurance ahead of the Eroica and my coast-to-coast next week. The miles also would pay dividends when I sheepishly get off the plane in Nice in a few weeks helping me believe I can pedal over some real mountains.

The day started well. I puffed over Chunal Moor to Chapel-en-le-Frith and picked up Eroica routes past and headed to Whaley Bridge and that sublime pull out of the Goyt Valley to Derbyshire Bridge – for my money some of the best climbing inches in this lovely district. If you haven’t bowed your head to this route on a bike yet, you simply must.

A very chilly drop down from the Axe Edge Moor led through through Earl Sterrdale before picking up NCN Route 68 and the High Peak Trail. Rail-bed paths followed – the Peak’s very own Strade Bianche.

At Hartington I diverted briefly before picking up the lovely Cardlemere Lane (NCN Route 548) for more excellent traffic-free gravel before picking up the High Peak Trail/Midshires Way again through Gotham (no, not that one) and Friden – scene of this year’s Eroica Festival.

Back at Parsley Hay, I hit the road through Youlgreave and ultimately Bakewell where the Monsal Trail pointed me in the direction of home.

Here, the day delivered the sting in its tail. Rain swept in and I reluctantly left the relative protection of the trail for lonely windswept roads through Wormhill, Peak Dale, and Dove Holes before picking up Route 68 again near Chinley for some knee-grinding climbs back to Glossop. I met a group of women road cyclists also enjoying the conditions. We could only exchange feeble smiles.

I pressed on and the rain intensified. The air had the tang of smoke from woodburners and I gazed – somewhat pathetically – through the windows of cosy cottages  as folk sat down to a family dinner.

Home, at last, and my sodden cycling clothes sagged… my shoes were frigid foot spas. Never has a shower and pizza been quite so sweet.

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Cycle Touring Northern England – Berwick on Tweed to Glossop

Bike touring normally means a welcome escape from technology and being ‘connected’. On this trip, I’d never been far from my mobile phone as it served as my navigation device via OS maps and the excellent Viewranger. Perched on my Jones bars using a handy Rixen and Kaul Klikfix mount, it had successfully negated the need to carry numerous paper map sheets and guide books.

ECR on the Sandstone Way bikepack
Great riding on the Sandstone Way near Ingram

The technology came into its own yet again securing digs in Berwick. A quick search on late rooms and Google Maps was directing me to the Rob Roy Inn and a comfortable room. The ECR had a comfortable lodging for the night, too – the games room.

After last night’s extravagant meal, my dinner that night was far more modest. Two course for eight quid – mushrooms with dips and a very good pie and chips. I demolished it with guilt-free relish. Continue reading

National Cycle Network Route 68: Cycling to the Lake District

Greenfield to Oxenholme Station : 92 miles, up to ten hours (!)

National Cycle Network Route 68 runs fairly close to my home. I’ve had a Sustrans map of the route for a while now but I haven’t had the opportunity to explore… until the weekend that is.

Thorn Audax Mk3 at OxenholmeIt all started with a phone call to a work colleague. He’s a relative newbie to this cycling lark and our telephone talks about shop invariably shift to topics two-wheeled. One afternoon he asked whether it would be feasible to cycle to the Lake District in a day from my house. I said ‘yes’, but in my mind I deferred to those hardy club riders who ‘perambulate’ to the national parks of the north from Manchester without raising an eyebrow or, it seems, a sweat. Continue reading

Weekend warrior

Had a great run out on Saturday.

What was meant to be a short ‘check ride’ after refurbishing my touring bike over the last few weeks turned into a six-hour epic taking in Pennine passes and enjoying miles of traffic-free pedaling on National Cycle Network routes 68 and 62.

High above Holmfirth on NCN Route 68 on my 531st Dawaes Galaxy
I’ve probably said it before, but there’s something wonderfully cathartic spending hours in the saddle. Time with your thoughts… or is it more to do with alpha brain waves?

It’s not important, really.

My happiness was compounded by …a fully-functioning derailleur just installed, brakes that actually work again and, after much fiddling and fettling, a riding position that is genuinely comfortable.

Working on bicycles is almost as rewarding as riding them.