The over-enthusiastic cyclist

If it involves pedalling then I'm probably into it…

Tag Archives: Pennine Bridleway

New Pennine Bridleway tour!

Long time readers will know that I’m a big fan of the Pennine Bridleway. A long distance mountain bike route along the lumpy spine of England is one of the best ideas ever and such is my love of the PBW that I’ve launched my own tour of the route! It’s the first tour under the Peak Pedalling banner, which is the professional arm to these ramblings… Even though it’s the first Peak Pedalling tour, I’m drawing on five years of MTB and road tour guiding experience to make sure everyone has a good time.

So here’s your chance to conquer the Pennines! We’ll look after all the logistics so all you have to do is to enjoy pedalling your favourite mountain bike for four days. The first tour’s happening in September 2017, with numbers are limited to a cosy eight. There’s more dates planned for 2018, including a five day option.

More details at the Peak Pedalling website

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The path less ridden

No matter where you live, you can get bored with the local trails and roads – even in the cycling paradise of Macclesfield. In order to get to anywhere fresh and interesting you have to pedal the same old routes that you use every time, with the return leg of your loop covering equally familiar ground.

Obviously one solution would be to relocate every year or two, but even if you hate moving house less than me you’d have to agree that it’s a little drastic. You might have the option of driving somewhere new to ride a loop, but there’s still a lengthy drive home when all you want to do is make use of your shower and kettle, and if you’re riding off-road then you’ve also got the messy business of getting a muddy rider and bike into your lovely clean car. Much as I like a good loop, I’ve recently had a yearning for a decent point-to-point ride. They somehow have the feel of a proper journey and if you plan it so the destination is home, then what better motivation to keep slogging on than getting to your own home comforts?

So this morning I took advantage of a lift into Manchester with my mountain bike, from where I could spend £5 and 25 minutes on a train journey to Littleborough. This unassuming town just north of Rochdale might have many amazing attractions, but for me it’s proximity to the Pennine Bridleway and the potential for a 50 mile slog down the Pennines back to Mac made it the perfect destination.

I’ve got a lot of love for the Pennine Bridleway. A fully signposted, long distance route suitable for mountain bikers is a quiet triumph of English outdoors access in my books. As well as providing some properly rugged and surprisingly remote riding, many stretches of the route are never too far from a train station – plenty of escape options if I’d over-estimated my fitness. My plan for today was to follow it South towards Hayfield, from where I could assess my energy levels and decide on how far to venture into the Peak District.
EDIT: I now run a cycle company that offers the chance to ride the whole Pennine Bridleway as a four day tour. Have a look!

After 32 miles, 5000ft of climbing and 4 hours of leaving Littleborough, I parted company with the Pennine Bridleway. Not that we’d fallen out (far from it) but it was veering too far South East into the Peak and away from home for me to commit to following any further. I still managed to make the remaining miles hard work for myself by tackling the Goyt Valley and a couple of stiff road climbs, but at least I was heading for home. The final damage at the end of the day was 51 miles, 7800ft of climbing and nearly 6.5 hours of pedalling time. A proper ride by anyone’s standards.

But it was only as I got close to home that the punchline hit me: my local trails that I’d gone to such trouble to avoid became welcome sights and rather comforting. The unexciting local paths which routinely take me out and back on my regular loops were now massively appreciated by my aching bones and I’d never been so relieved to be on them.
I’d nearly made it, all the way back home!

Checking out the latest Pennine Bridleway sections

EDIT: I now run a cycle company that offers the chance to ride the whole Pennine Bridleway as a four day tour. Have a look!

No work, a good weather forecast and a rest day on the Tour de France – the obvious thing to do was to grab the mountain bike and head out on an adventure! From the list of rides to do this summer, a test ride of the recently opened northern section of the Pennine Bridleway seemed to fit the bill nicely. I’m a big fan of these long distance route type things and the Pennine Bridleway’s a incredible route. Though originally inspired and initiated by the horsey brigade, UK rights of way laws also make this a prime mountain bike route. I know the southern section that runs through the Peak District to the South Pennines where it meets the 47 mile Mary Towneley Loop, which I know particularly well. And until fairly recently, that was it. Last year though, the next instalment opened, from the top of the MTL right up through the South Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales into Cumbria. If they get people out on their bikes and help bring a bit of money into rural areas then it’s a win/win situation.

I like the idea of a mountain bike route that goes from A to B, but it also makes for a complicated day ride. You could get crafty with a riding partner and leave one of your cars down trail and then use it to get back to the other car at the start…. or you could use the train! One advantage of living in Manchester is that it has train routes heading out in all directions. I’m moving out of town a little way next week, so it made sense to utilise these stations to tackle this point to point route.

The railway strategy today was to get a train to Mytholmroyd in the South Pennines and then ride 12 miles of trails to get to the start of the new PBW section, then slog north on the trail 22 miles to near Gisburn, at which point I’d veer off and ride 8 miles of country lanes to the station at Clitheroe. I was tempted to carry on to Long Preston on the edge of the Dales, but the train journey times and price doubled so I’ll have to continue this particular adventure another day. Here’s the ride data on Strava if you want to pinch the route.

The South Pennines are often overlooked as an area of countryside, which is a real shame. Admittedly, it’s not a designated National Park and there are a few creepy farms to occasionally pass through, but to this rider at least, its dramatic rolling moorlands make it well worth a visit. Even the guide book I’d read was dismissive of the area, stating that it was the Yorkshire Dales section that would appeal to people, which is doing the area a massive disservice. One thing to be wary of on such a PBW mission, is that the route manages to sidestep every village and shop where you might have planned to stock up on water. I did an hour without water in rare British summer heat and eventually had to get the map out to plan a diversion to a local pub to rehydrate. The symbol on the OS map is a pint of beer, but I was was just happy for them to fill my camelbak with water.

So anyway, what’s the route like then? Really, really good! As ever, it’s a mix of existing bridleways, reassigned (and re-gated…) paths, along with some totally new bridleways. I’m pleased to report that the new bridleways have been tastefully and sensibly constructed – a rock/gravel base planted with grass seed that should drain well and is already settling in to a trail that looks as old as the some of the other bridleways.

I know some people might dismiss this type of route, claiming that it’s not technical enough, but I’d disagree. The climbs are all rideable and the descents are usually fast and fun enough that a lapse in concentration would mean trouble. Admittedly, it’s not the technical challenge of the Nan Bield  pass, but it you carve yourself a decent chunk off, then you’ll know about it by the end of the day. I’m already studying the train timetables for an assault on the next section…

Brand new bridleway!

Cows enjoying the brand new bridleway

On the way to the PBW

On the way to the PBW from Mytholmroyd

The start of the new section

The start of the new section