Since I was obliged to go to the Lake District on a work jolly, I decided to bring ducky and the big wheeled beast to keep me company. Sunset was around 10pm, and that coupled with the fact that work equipment failed a few times, meant that I managed to get five respectable rides in 😉
Ride 1: Eskdale, Short black graded ride from guide book
After a 5 hours driving and some hours at the work site, I surprised my project manager by declining dining out and preferring to give myself a beasting in the hills. Rain was predicted for the next day, so dinner would have to wait until then 😉 After booking in to B&B and reading maps, I selected the short “black” grade Eskdale ride from the mountain bike guide book Paul Sheridan lent me. Some tricky driving was required to get to the start point. I managed a late ride start at 7pm. The sun was still out so no worries and I headed off. Riding along the Esk was a very pleasant start, although there were plenty of streams, bridges and gates to negotiate. A beautiful valley. I then passed some gossiping Morris dancers, and then started a proper climb up a fell (hill). It got a bit intense because the ground was a bit boggy and the track was ill defined. I did OK according to a Strava leaderboard ?, but it was after 9pm when I reached the highest point so I thought I better get back before it got too dark. A nice descent to and around the Tarn (little lake) getting a wet backside, and then a longish rocky track down into Boot. Some of the rocks were a bit too big for my liking though. Then a quick dash along the road back to the car in time for the midges. That was a nice evening ride and a good start to the… work trip.
Rides 2 and 4: Grizedale, the North Face red trail
The next day was a rainy one, so I made do with a short pre-dinner jog about the Muncaster Castle grounds getting my only shoes soaked… However the day after that was pretty good. Since the ground was wet, it seemed to me that the best bet was heading to a manmade trail, and I selected “The North Face” at Grizedale. I arrived well after the cycle centre closing time after 8pm, but was very pleased with the tracks. A nice longish technical climb to start, and fun swoopy bits linked up by fire trail. I enjoyed the boardwalk and boulder track features, getting myself on the leader board for that. A really great red graded trail, only marred by all the puddles and wet rocks, but better than climbing a boggy hill!
At the end of the ride I met three guys outside the bike centre bike shop with a mountain tricycle and I had a go on it! It was built because one of the guys had a mashed up leg, and it had a metal scaffold outside (see photo). The tricycle will keep him cycling, and he plans to cycle
across the country and up Ben Nevis. Next I had a longish drive back on winding country roads, but the views were really nice. Views of hills, valleys, farms and of course lakes.
I revisited Grizedale a few days later, originally planning to do a “black killer grade ride” around Conniston Waters, from the ride guide book. The weather was warm and sunny, the trails were bone dry, however it was going to be very tight since I hadn’t been able to get away from work early enough really, so in the end I decided to do a couple of laps of The North Face again, and I’m glad I did. It was running much better in the dry, and needless to say I beat my PR’s.
I may as well tell you how the ride ended… I had a good rest looking out over the valley. It was really very beautiful, and I gazed contemplatively for perhaps 20mins. Then heading back, some sheep were on the track. I was in a dilemma, because 200m ahead was the road. If I went slow, they would simply run in front of me to the road. In the end I zoomed past them faster than they could run, so problem solved I thought.
I got to the car and started packing up. Another car was there, and two ladies with two little dogs were having a picnic. All was good until the sheep came along… Then suddenly one of the tiny midget dogs started chasing the sheep around. Not so good. The younger lady got up and slowly jogged after the dog, thinking it was funny. I wasn’t so amused as the road was nearby. The sheep, the little dog and then the woman disappeared to the road. Then the older lady was really concerned. I said I’d help. I got on my bike and dashed after them. I encountered the younger lady almost crying saying that the dog ran down the hill with the sheep. Already there were cars stopped on the road. I dashed down the hill and managed to catch the little doggy. He/It weighed nothing, like a ball of fluff. I brought him back and gave it to the ladies. Then playing the part of a shepherd, I dashed past the dumb sheep, and did a skidding turn, and then shouted with duck honking, herding them back up onto a grassy verge. So, all was as resolved as I could manage, and the ladies were grateful. They quickly locked their two dogs into their car and we went back to our business: they having the picnic, and me messing about with my bike and kit. I then drove back quite slowly to enjoy the views, and saw some blasted sheep I had missed. Oh well, tough. I did as much as I felt was reasonable. At the bottom of the hill I encountered teenagers on their mobiles. They had clipped their car on a wall. I have to tell you that people drive like lunatic rally drivers round here. 🙁
Ride 3: Whinlatter, North and South red trails and blue Querkus trail
The equipment broke early on this particular day, unfortunately, so I headed off for Whinlatter forest, looking to do the North and South Altura red routes and blue Quercus cycle route. When I was setting up the bike however, I noticed I couldn’t change my front dérailleur. The shifter seemed bust and I couldn’t seem to fix it. After a while of this I opted to put in on the middle ring and hope for the best. I was a bit concerned as the guide book warned that there’d be a lot of climbing.
I started with the North red trail. It’s actually pretty good. Very technical. The ground was slightly wet, so the roots and rocks where treacherous in places, but it was all good fun. Great views again. The end had Berms down the side of a mountain, so it was a little nerve wracking and I kept the speed down. A wrong move, and you might end up a few tens of meters further down suddenly or in a tree! Loved the trail though. Then I did the blue trail which was fast with berms, a few fun boulder tracks and some board walks, and then the Southern red trail. This was OK going up hill actually, but the down hill was pretty fun, not too crazy, but just enough to make it interesting. I wasn’t sure whether to do more as I thought it was getting late, about 5:30pm, but then I encountered two riders heading up the South trail, so I hooked up with them. When we got to the top they put on their downhill padding and we chatted some more, then I wished them well and bombed down. Then I did the North red again, followed by half of the blue, and I was really tired then having done over 50km and 1.4km ascent on these great tracks. I was pleased to find the trail centre bike wash and made good use of it until the midges started bothering me. I dined on two sandwiches and juice at a fuel station. What a heavenly day! Next day I used some spare time at “work” to fix my gears. The beast was ready for action again!
Ride 5: Black Comb, Short black grade ride, a leg burner!
Man, that was the biggest climb I ever did, and Strava agrees at 547m continuous climbing, very steep, off-road and technical. This one really did make me want to cry, several times. I thought I’d done the main climb, turned a corner, and then there was still a monumental amount of hill left, and this happened several times. I couldn’t really look at the GPS much because it was so technical and I was so exhausted. I managed fourth fastest on the climb though, and that’s not bad considering I was already a bit tired at start of ride, and I had quite a bit of kit with me and too much water. Better safe than sorry, as it’s just me and the sheep and the great views up there.
Overall I managed to fit in 134km off-road riding, with 3.3km ascent, which is great considering they were after work evening rides. Unfortunately I missed quite a few quaint Lake District pub and restaurant dinners, making do instead with banana flavoured soreen loaf, sandwiches and bananas, but you can’t have everything! Once again I was extremely pleased and am smitten with my Orange 5 29er, with tyres upgraded to Maxxis Ardent. A reliable beast for proper wilderness off-road adventures, and good for fun riding at trail centres too. I only had a bit of gear shifter trouble which I fixed the next day. I carried spare AA batteries for my rugged Garmin 62st, but I managed all the rides on one charge! The batteries had a capacity of 2700mAh each, which helps. Thanks to Terry King and Paul Sheridan for ride recommendations and for the loan of the “Lake District Mountain Biking Essential Trails” book. I can thoroughly recommend the Lake District as a great work and recreational venue ;-). It’s only 4 hours drive up the motorway and I’ll be returning there soon with the family methinks 🙂