The over-enthusiastic cyclist

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

Tag Archives: route

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!

Trails in the Dales

For a Lancashire lad now residing in Cheshire, I seem to have spent a lot of time in Yorkshire lately. With ‘Way of the Roses’ crossings, working on events based on Tour de France stages and then back to watch the actual tour, I feel like I’ve been there every other weekend of the year. The mountain biker in me couldn’t ignore all the public bridleway signs that crossed the roads and checking the map revealed a vast network of bike friendly off-road routes across the Yorkshire Dales national park.

Despite being the Dales being closer to Greater Manchester than the Lake District, this was only the second time I’d taken a mountain bike up there. Without a car, I used to catch the train to ride in new areas, but with our governments shortsighted refusal to spend even a fraction of the proposed HS2 budget on reopening a 12 mile trans-pennine route, the Dales weren’t practical to get to. Now armed with a car, it was time to check out what they had to offer.

If you want a mountain bike guidebook to an unknown area, then the UK bibles are by Vertbrate Graphics. Their ‘Dark Peak” edition was my companion many years ago when the Peak District was an unknown territory and though I bought their ‘South Dales’ edition at the same time, I’d only used it once. I must have become much fitter/dafter/more enthusiastic over the years as this time when I pulled the book off the shelf I thumbed straight to the back to find the longest routes. I settled for the penultimate route of 30 miles that started from Settle, taking in Malham Tarn and Arncliffe.

I had it in mind that the riding would be less brutal than the Peak District and less ‘epic’ than a similar Lakes route. Wrong. Maybe it was the heat that was uncharacteristically heading towards 30ºC or the fatigue from the previous days road-riding stupidity, but I was glad I didn’t pick the final 50 mile route from the book. The long ancient drovers routes lined on each side by classic limestone walls were easier under wheel, though the mix of grass and limestone would be slippery as hell in the wet. Some might say that the riding isn’t technical enough, but whether it was the heat or the idyllic setting, it was just fine for me. I was also conscious that with a Lands End to John OGroats job starting in a couple of days, I shouldn’t risk a crash. I found myself switching the Garmin’s screen away from the usual information to get concerned about, such as average speed, heart rate, elevation etc so I could enjoy the stunning views and take it all in.

And that’s what made the day really. Having not been there previously I had no previous times to beat, Strava had no prior data to punish me with. It was just going out and pedalling up hills to see what was on the other side – just like when I started mountain biking! I’m not saying the route was a easy (and the long slog up from Arncliffe had me totally cooked) but the countryside and weather made this a four hour holiday for me.

If you’ve followed the tour from Yorkshire into the Alps and Pyrenees you might expect a return to the Dales to be disappointing, but they have their own unique beauty. They’re drawn from a slightly lighter colour palette from the Lakes or Peak District and the trails also had their own geological quirks to keep you on your toes. The frequent hollows and dips were new to me and involved a quick fire game of  ‘pump or pull’. And that’s got to be a good thing, as the wider variety of terrain you can ride, the better.

So another enthusiastic thumbs-up for Yorkshire, but also for the simple pleasure of getting out and riding a bike somewhere new.

The locals were friendly

Same bike, different county

The locals were friendly

The locals were friendly at Malham Tarn

 

Mount Teidi in Tenerife – if it’s good enough for Team Sky…

With a holiday in Tenerife booked, it would be a very strange cyclist who didn’t take/hire a bike. After the ‘shit hire bike and defective inner tubes’ episode in Portugal last year, I splashed out on a ‘Polaris Bike Pod Eva’ to protect my precious Boardman Pro Carbon – which it thankfully did.

So here’s some info for anyone planning a training camp (or ‘holiday’ as we refer to it to our partners). We stayed near Costa del Silencio on the South coast, just to the west of South airport, but most of this info should apply to anywhere round the south coast.

Routes up to Mount Teidi:

  • The first section (from where I was staying) was to climb up to San Miguel at 2000ft. The TF-65 is great once you get over the TF-1 (the only road you really need to avoid!). It’s fairly steady 7% ish, though I still got rapidly overtaken by a BMC pro rider who didn’t even have the courtesy to look like he was trying.
  • From San Miguel there’s a few options up to Vilaflor. My fave was to cut across East to Granadilla then embark on the gloriously twisty TF-21. There was one point where I was almost convinced the road had managed to tie itself in a knot, though it was probably just fatigue messing with my head.
    The TF-563 is also very nice – quieter and narrower but with super smooth tarmac. It gets a bit steep towards Vilaflor, but for me this road excels as the best downhill ever! The TF-565 option was also ok, but a bit rough as a downhill.
  • Fill your bottles at the garage on the left in Vilaflor (don’t continue if you’re running low!) as it’s way cheaper than the cafes, before taking the one and only road up to the top. This road’s a cracker – fairly steady gradient but a good 9 miles of slog. At about 6000ft my arms and legs would go tingly and I felt like I could only half fill my lungs, though altitude may affect you more or less.
  • The road peaks at about 7300ft before heading down into the crater. There’s a good layby on the left that I used as a feed point. If you want more, descend down into the crater and enjoy the wacko scenery, crap tarmac and possible cross winds. The hotel has a cafe, or you can carry on past to do more climbing. I did this on the first day, then settled for just ascending to the rim (!) and back via different routes.

Weather

  • For early April, it was 24 celsius at the bottom but a bit cooler at the top. I wore bib shorts/short sleeved shirt and though I could never be arsed taking any extra clothes up, it did get a bit chilly descending, especially if the clouds had come up. I was back at the hotel within 50 minutes though, so no major trauma! One odd thing I noticed was that my belly was stone cold on reaching the top, which was pretty weird.
  • There was one day that was ferociously windy, so I had a rest day. It would have been scary on a light bike in 25mph+ winds!
  • I was nagged into putting sun cream on my arms and neck and was glad I had no choice in the matter.

Pro Cyclists

  • If you follow pro cycling you’ll love this place. I got overtaken (either up or down) by riders from Lotto Bellisol, BMC, Cannondale and Team Sky, including ‘the Kenyan born Chris Froome’. I managed to hold Froomey’s wheel for about 200m, by which point I’d set a new max HR and elected to give it up. I saw six Blanco riders getting out of their van and marvelled at Team Astana launching themselves down the mountain in full aero tuck formation. 

In conclusion? I absolutely loved it; I did four rides totalling about 220 miles and 30,000ft of climbing and I’m already dreaming of getting back in the autumn!

Here’s my rides:

http://app.strava.com/activities/47433988
http://app.strava.com/activities/47433989
http://app.strava.com/activities/47433990
http://app.strava.com/activities/47433993

IMG_0509