Surly Troll shakedown ride – Pennine Bridleway

The long weekend gave me an opportunity to take my newly-completed Surly Troll our for a shakedown ride.

It seemed appropriate to go for a rattle along the Pennine Bridleway. This runs near to my home and features a variety of terrain. While there’d be plenty of mud and snow following last week’s near blizzard conditions, rock-strewn tracks, filling-rattling cobbles and rotor-deep puddles would be the order of the day.

A shakedown ride it would definitely be… an opportunity to shake off one or two components along the way, too.

The day started along canal towpath but I was soon climbing above Walkerwood Reservoir. My initial plan had been to hit the Woodhead Valley first before heading back to the bridleway for a lumpy route to Greenfield.

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Dove Stones – keeping the festive tradition alive

In recent years the festive season has been marked thus: a ‘stolen day’ on Christmas Day when the other half and I get the chance to spend some time together, juggling various family commitments, making a festive pie and other ‘delights’ from leftovers, riding my bike as much as possible and getting into the hills (all the rest permitting).

The latter usually comprises some grand plan in the Peak or Lakes with an overnight camp. However, the weather and other commitments invariably get in the way and I settle for a trip around Dove Stones reservoir. Every year I grumble to myself that this is second best, every year it seems to offer something new. Continue reading

Cycling back roads

Thorn Audax on the lanes above GreenfieldCycling is a superb tonic. It allows you to pedal away from stress: the rhythm of the cranks and the rumble of tyre on tarmac provide a simple mantra for the mind while the sense of freedom can lighten the heaviest heart.

Motorised traffic can easily nullify this euphoria, though. As a road cyclist, cars, lorries and motorcycles are common currency but I do try to avoid them as much as possible and that’s where the back roads help me maintain that delicious cycling equilibrium.

In the south Pennines, there are back roads aplenty and they have one chief advantage over the minor roads I pedalled when living in Chelmsford, Essex. Continue reading

Manchester’s moors: planes, police sirens and pylons… but grand all the same

Saturday night should have been another in the bivvy bag. It seems silly to travel to the Lakes every time I wild camp as there are some perfectly good hills on my doorstep.

So, inspired by the idea of a mini-adventure, I stepped out at 5pm with the sun still shining. I walked a familiar route through housing and to open ground. The bruised foothills near my home soon gave way to a lovely secluded valley which led onto the moor. Continue reading

The importance of being early

The alarm clock warbled and I stealthily left the bedroom, trying to avoid disturbing the other half.

My clothes were laid out in the office, camera packed and ready. I carefully closed the front door, avoided slamming the car door and made good my escape.

I was only dropping down to my usual haunt… Dove Stones. The light had been fantastic yesterday and I didn’t want to miss out. I’d hopefully have the hills to myself for a precious couple of hours before the cry of the curlew was drowned out by quarrelling kids. Continue reading

Out a snappin’

Got my Nikon D90 over the weekend. It’s a present from someone very special and I know I’m going to gain a great deal of satisfaction using it [Many thanks again 🙂 ]

Like a boy with a new toy, I had to take it for a spin yesterday in far from ideal conditions – very bright, contrasty, with loads of haze.

So here are some early efforts. All are taken using the standard 18-105mm Nikkor kit lens. Work in progress…
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A dirty day getting high

…not literally getting high, of course, although some of you may feel I’m in need of a little lift after last week’s litter rant.

View above Ashway Gap, Dove Stones Reservoir

Saturday was gloomy and the conditions were affecting my mood. I couldn’t face another day pottering around the house, doing odd jobs and punctuating my day with the grunts and groans of yet more physio exercise.

Bugger it: I needed to get out and stretch my creaking limbs. Continue reading

The theraputic blast

Two or three times a week I really do appreciate how lucky I am to work from home much of the time.

It’s not the blissful ‘commute’ across the landing each morning to fire up the laptop, or the convenience of being around when the boiler needs fixing.

No, it’s the ability to finish work, change into the lyrcas, grab a steed from the garage and pedal a few clicks over some Saddleworth hills.

It’s a cleansing process, an hour or so of shaking off the hefty baggage of work and injecting some much-needed separation between labour and leisure.

Commuters will claim they have this division twice a day… something I understand as I commuted across London daily for five years.

These post-work rides feel different, though. There isn’t the traffic for a start or, more importantly, the urgency to get home. If time, inclination and the other half allow, I can be out for hours.

I try and make the most of the long summer evenings up here as the lunchtime sprints of the winter months don’t feel the same, somehow.

Going back to work after a ride taints it somewhat.

Windy, loaded miles

Managed to get out over the weekend and get some miles in on the Club Tour with a full camping load.

The bike handled it all very well. 50kmh descents with no wobble and, although I could have packed the panniers a little better, everything felt assured.

The only slight glitch is chain line. I am going to purchase a shorter bottom bracket to remedy this.

Fun in the sun

Mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun and I paid due heed to NoelCoward’s song on Saturday.

Ogden BrookI needed to test my recovering back so I loaded up my GoLite Pinnacle with tent, sleeping bag and the usual backpacking paraphernalia and headed off.

I thought I would try to squeeze in at the Crowden campsite, although didn’t hold much hope. The pack weighed 20lbs-plus (hardly lightweight) and it felt good to be able to move fluidly under this load.

I took my poles to help my posture and I was glad of the decision.

I walked past Walkerwood reservoir on my usual beat and headed to kinder countryside. A trout reservoir this may be, but I watched a large common carp bask in the clear waters.

Ogden Brook bubbled excitedly en route to Arnfield and Tintwistle, and foxgloves lined the banks.

I skirted the reservoirs of Longdendale via the Trans Pennine Trail and then the Pennine Way. The waters had receded, exposing a parched moonscape in the valley bottom.

I reached Crowden and it was a mini refuge camp… with cheek-by-jowl tents separated by pub brollies and tatty awnings shading smoking barbecues. The owners were not benefiting from the shade, though: tattooed skin sizzled in the sunshine.

I sat under a tree, had lunch and considered my options. I would press on along the Pennine Way and cut across to Chew Reservoir and then Dove Stones before working my way home.

It was frustrating not to camp out, but the site would have been purgatory even if I’d managed to squeeze on.

I climbed along the ‘Way to Laddow Rocks. The familiar ground allowed me to concentrate on my posture and technique. Up high it felt good to be on the moor again… and alone.

Here, a bit of drama… I ran out of water. I considered my options. Good water is hard to find on the tops so I would to press on.

It was a bit touch and go by the time I reached Dove Stones and the lovely woman who runs the ‘green monster’ – an old Ford refreshment van – was there. Two bottles of water vanished quickly.

I trudged home long the canal, feet sore and back a bit stiff but no real hardship.

The real marker would be how I felt the following morning… surprisingly sprightly.
Consequently, I went for a ride!