Sunday, 30 November 2008

Snow and Ice

With Grace away for the weekend and nobody around to play with i decided on a solo mission to the Lakes...

Helvellyn was the mountain of choice as the route i had ridden before so no navigational issues and i knew the descent down sticks pass was worth the 'hike and bike, to the top.. plus the chance to ride in snow is always fun and since we rarely see snow at low level these days the summit of Helvellyn at this time of year almost always has inches of the stuff.. its a given.

With an early start from home the first scare of the day was not on the bike but in the car.. turning from an A road into a minor road in the lakes i wasn't ready for ice and was taken by surprise as i turned the wheel left and the car was still going straight.. luckily i got traction back to steer away from oncoming stone wall.. low gear and driving with due care was the order of the day.

Getting ready in the car park it was cold.. i hate the cold... i have bad circulation so drop a degree or so and i can't feel my hands leading to much pain when they warm up.. to try and combat this i have invested in some thick ski like gloves.. i can't really change gear or brake properly but its a price worth paying to try and keep them warm.

The ride starts up a valley flanked either side by steep slopes... the first hour of the ride is fairly rideable, the hiking starts as you make towards grisedale tarn... alot of careful stepping up seriously icy rocks... didn't want to ruin my weekend before it had started so i took my time. When i got to the tarn it was spectacular... looked like glass surrounded with snowy hillside... amazing..

From the tarn you make towards dollywagon pike.. this is a bike on the back and slog up the step like stones that have been laid.. getting passed this section it was rideable as you pass the pike... a nice pole was used for a good photo moment..

From here you drop down a few rises climbing the other side with the summit almost in site..

at this point riding was in snow with the descending plenty fun sliding about in the snow... shoes and pedals had packed solid with snow so clipping in was difficult.

A brief lunch was had at the shelter near the summit of Helvellyn then off again.. the descending from the top to bottom of first rise is steep and twisting so saddle was lowered and one leg used to hang out there and steady on the turns.. leaving the front brake well alone and steering with the rear wheel... so much fun.

After another rise or so the start of the sticks pass descent began.. this descent is technical and in places way beyond my ability.. i may learn to descend one day but can't see it happening soon... i was hanging a foot for most of the descent in the snow.. there was a brief reprise as the trail levels to quite flat before the final tech section which i rolled into with confidence.. then realised i was on sheet ice..panicked.. and ejected over the bars running out and leaving the bike behind... first battle scar tot he Genesis Altitude.. scratch to the fox forks:(

After this section its fast switchbacks then full on speed all the way down to glenridding.

I made the ascent and descent in such good time i decided to lap Ullswater to finish... its a road ride to Pooley bridge then an off road climb.. with a few more ups and downs you get to the lakeside final 3-4 miles which are amazing singletrack.. very technical with great views when you dared take your eyes off the trail.

This finishes at Patterdale and back to the car and get changed.

I had decided to just camp as i was on my own it seemed the easiest option... campsite was only a few miles down the road and was reached just as it was getting dark... showers were plenty powerful enough and hot which was welcome.. food in pub was more than acceptable.

The nights camping can be summarised as being an acceptable temperature to eventually being really cold.. sleeping in all my clothes with blanket round my head made sleeping possible:)

Sunday, After such a big day saturday i wanted an easy ride so decided to go lap North Face trail at Grizedale forest... was a little concerned about the wooden board walk sections and the ice.. my concern was realised when i had to stop on a cambered icy bit of board walk.. i had a foot down then realised i had no grip on , my feet either, i tentatively reached down to hold the wood and steady myself and as i took hold my feet went from under me and i decided to call it a day at one lap... the rest of the trail was great.. other sections of wood were rideable... the rest of the trail was fast and flowy and the crisp air and great scenery made for a great short ride out...

Drive back to manchester and back to the reality of having to work tomorrow:(

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

WOR Events - Pedal Power Enduro

After missing out on an entry to the first round of the Thetford Winter Series, a series that has always been my winter highlight, i was looking for something else... enter a brand new race series based in Wales so not far from my new base of Manchester... Pedal Power Enduro 3hr.

WOR Events are experienced race organisers, all be it in the field of Off Road Motor Biking, so a well organised race was expected it was just the course that was gonna be the unknown.

The race categories weren't like a normal enduro.. more a mix of xc elite/expert cats and then the lower cats organised by age.. i optimistically entered the expert category.. with no elite entrants this became the top category.

The weather on race day was bleak at best... as me and Grace left Manchester the rain was hammering down and Wales isn't famed for its dry weather so it was only gonna get wetter or wetter and colder.. welcome to british winter racing.

As we got to the race venue... a forestry access road.. we were greeted by a well informed marshall, level of organisation was already obviously good... park up and sign on.

The weather was showers of cold rain.. temperature wasn't too bad so went for arm warmers and Endura gilet over a long sleeve to give me options if i got too hot during race ( what was i thinking but gave myself marks for optimism).
Rode a quick warm up the access road and after another chat with a marshall who described the course as 3 major tight wooded sections with alot of hard pack fire road i opted to raise my seat a little.

Upto the start line... we were strangely arranged diagonally in a line towards start.. hard to explain but we were told this was common fair in motorbike racing in case someone stalls the others can still get round.. unsure what the mtb equivalent of stalling is but we found it funny on the line... the expert class got to line up first on the start and although i didn't know any of the other guys in the class from previous races good race line banter was had.. i offered up that we ride out the 3 laps (11mile laps) that we expected to complete at a steady pace and race the last 10m which was received well but as it turned out no one went for it.

The start siren went and i found myself out the front sprinting up the fire road... i am useless at gauging a start so i gave it do or die effort... unfortunately we hit the first tech section before the field could properly string out.. the wooded sections were techie to say the least... really steep in places.. off camber.. muddy.. with roots cutting diagonally across the trails and you were always trying to traverse the slope. I dropped a few places in here as i struggled to get to grips with this stuff.

It was during this section we came across the first major obstacle.. a big moss covered boulder with a big drop on the back side... 3 of us got to it at once and all anchored on confused at how to tackle it... easy... ride round it:)

The first major climb my lack of training kicked in and the faster guys pulled away from me... order of the day was just to maintain a pace i could sustain for the 3 hours and get to grips with the technical downhill sections.

As the race progressed i spent most of my time alone... there was a steady long road climb at the mid point of the course and i would have loved lock out for my forks as i tried to get low and power up..

There was one climb in the race from which you could see who was chasing you down and i noticed a guy gaining on me lap 1 and 2 and by the mid point of the 3rd he had caught me and was leading the over 50's race.. normally i would have been disappointed to be caught but hey i was riding a fresh bike and with no base miles i was happy to still be upright.

The weather really got a bit chipper towards the end of the 3rd lap... just as i had used every spare calorie turning the pedals the temperature dropped and the horizontal sleet kicked in.. i was so cold.. luckily only a road downhill and fireroad climb remained as i couldn't feel my hands or feet.

As it turned out they changed the race to 3 laps rather than 3 hours although only the winner would have got out for a 4th... 33 miles completed.. think i finished top ten overall but enjoyed the good kicking i got and looking forward to coming back for more.

A really well organised race and a great course... congrats to WOR Events for this excellent race.

All pictures i have used in this race report were supplied by CETRA gallery and studio @

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Big Days Riding

Its the off season.. well as close to an off season as mountain bikers get, with the new popularity of winter enduros the racing season is now year round.

This doesn't leave much time for getting back to riding for ridings sake.. no agenda.. no intervals.. certainly no heart rate monitor.. just bikes, friends and big days out.

I have been keeping a low profile, swimming, turbo training, spin classes.. nothing too focussed just keeping the legs working before the real work starts.

With work now taking over a large part of my life i jump at the chance to warrant booking some time off to get away.. i am definately on the 'work to live' side of the fence and certainly never ' living to work' unless someone stumps up to pay me to ride my bike for whatever reason i don't care:)

The chance to take some time of came in the form of an invite from a fellow endurance racer, Richard Rothwell, to do some big days in the Lakes...

I won't pretend to know the routes we took as as Rich has spent a large amount of time in the Lakes he was the guide and i was the passenger... but the climbs were big, downhills were sizeable and bike handling skills were needed in plenty.

Day one started just outside of Ambleside...

(new bike but thats another story for the future)

The plan was to stay low and skirt the valley sides picking off all the choice sections and stringing them into a great days riding... we hit so many good spots with Rich wanting to show how good the riding is there without the need to head up a mountain.... weather was close to perfect.. just the right temperature and dry:)

I hav lost track of how many climbs and descents we took in that day... highlights being the badly timed 2 up timetrial we had to do to catch the ferry to get across windermere to take in the last descent which just so happened to be in the dark with no lights and Rich clling out which side of trail to be on and when the the stuff was coming up.. madness.

Day two..

This was all about height gain... starting in Coniston and heading up and over Walna scar.. the goign was ride and push but the descent on the other side was all rideable.. the top section has recently been resurfaced so was full on 30 plus mph descending then into the loose rocky section with some serious arm pump building up!!

Th pic shows the downhill cutting down the hillside...

Before we could get going furher we had to cross my worst nightmare.. wet stepping stones!!! My shoes are so worn they have zero traction.. i managed to get across without a soaking ( this time)..

The next section was a drag and a pull through boggy marsh.. followed by another choice downhill which dropped us at bottom of Wrynose pass.. luck was on my side and we wer turning left and away and not right and up.. i like the odd climb but 30% ers are another level.. We rode the road down the valley the turned to Boot and joined a bridleway onto another marshy climb.. when we crested this final climb we were 4 hours in.. nothing left now but to turn around and ride back:)

The return trip rode alot easier than the ride out and it was definately the prefered direction to be riding it.. highlights on the return trip were definately me and Rich getting bogged down literally in a bog.. the going went soft so we tried to gas it out only for Rich to end up to his waist and me to my knee in lovely cold water:)

As we got back tot he stepping stones it was dark so we lighted up.. i decided that as it wasn't that cold and i was wet anyway i wasn't gonna chance a fall so walked through the river:)

This just left Walna Scar to ride/push up in the dark... it definately seemed longer and tiredness set in... a lone wlker coming down that complained about our bright lights was lucky to get away unscathed as wind was now howling.. i was down to one overshoes as the other had fallen foul to the rocky walks.. and i was hungry but wanting to push it out till the top then wrap up for the descent..

On the descent Rich gave me a sound lesson in technical descending.. in the dark i was reduced to walking some sections but he destroyed them.. this is skill money can't buy and seems to belong to people that have spent large amounts of time riding the Lakes which is really the only place you can find these crazy long rock infested downs. End of the ride.. we got back and went for a well earned curry and beer.. off season race diet:)

Day three..

The last day of riding.. with back to back 8 hour days under our velts we decided to throw out a short one.. a route around Skiddaw was chosen.
This was a welcome change.. most the climbing was middle ring and the views were amazing..

The final descent was un typical of the lakes and more like the Peak district leafy steep flowy descending i can get involved with.. manual rolling.. jumps.. super fast.. it had it all.

All in an amazing few days riding.. big thanks to Richard Rothwell.. top rider and top lakeland guide:)

Hopefully i will update later with a more detailed route description.. or people could just ontact Rich directly for a first class lakeland kicking!!