A month of cycling events - Peaks, Lakes, mid-Wales
There's nothing quite like an organised cycling event. You can prepare for it, get excited about it, spend money on gear you don't need and justify it, think about saving precious seconds by getting your nutrition right and shaving weight off your bike and program the route into your GPS and spend time in the office dreaming about 5pm on Friday when the time comes...
Really though, it's about getting out on your bike, testing yourself and seeing parts of our beautiful country that you might not have been to before. Following someone else's route in an area you don't know is a great way of riding an areas highlights. I did 2 events on local trails in the Peaks, then events in areas I don't know well; the Lakes and mid-Wales. Distances started at 30 miles and got larger each time, ending in an epic 24 hour ride:
Sept 21st – Hope Valley Mountain Bike Challenge
This is a really great event, which I did for the second time this year. It takes in a lot of the great climbs and descents around Hope Valley, Ladybower Reservoir and Hayfield. It’s a tough ride with some long climbs and technical descents. Despite a fair bit of rain, it was a brilliant day, made better by the excellent cakes provided at the checkpoints on the way round. You can either do 14 or 28 miles:
At the start line
Sept 28th – BHF Peak District Mountain Bike Challenge
This was a really good day out, on similar terrain to the HVMC but it’s slightly longer. My ride was interrupted by a couple of punctures and a chain snap but other than that it was a great ride. It’s a little bit less technical than the HVMC, with a bit more on road and forest tracks, although descents like “potato alley” made me pleased I’d brought my full susser.
An Orange sandwich!
Oct 6th – Lake District Monster Miles
I did this inaugural 100 km cyclo-cross event with my Dad. I used my round the world bike (Sandy) and he had his Genesis Croix de Fer. We had a brilliant day. For some reason, I decided to switch the brakes the night before and did some last minute maintenance, which resulted in a severe hydraulic fluid leak! I didn’t have any to replace it with, so I rebled the brake system with olive oil from a jar of sweet peppers we had brought for dinner! The event was very well organised, with checkpoints providing cakes, sweets, high five energy drinks and gels. The route was about 50/50 on/off road, so it was worth having rigid forks and slick tyres for the road sections. There were no massively technical parts, so it’s a good introduction to an off-road long distance cycling event if you have a good level of fitness but haven’t done much mountain biking. We did get thoroughly wet, but that just made the steak roll at the end taste better! I also learnt that sweet pepper olive oil is a fantastic emergency brake fluid…
Oct 12th-13th – Bear Bones 200
Wow… 200 km of brutal, unsupported, mainly off-road cycling, significant sections of bike hiking and carrying bivvy gear… and a 24 hour time limit. What an event, possibly the hardest single day of cycling I’ve ever done. It would have been a hell of a lot easier if my GPS hadn’t run out after 14 hours and if my rear rack hadn’t snapped – note to self, never use anything other than a tubus rack (why did I switch it?!). At 10 am, 70 riders set off with the aim to conquer Stuart’s to complete what must be one of the most remote and 200 km of cycling in Britain. On the route we passed 1 café and 2 pubs (which were next to each other) so all supplies had to be carried. The daylight hours went well, I was making good time and was feeling great. After the first 9 hours or so, it was pitch black so on came the lights and I carried on, pleased with my pre-programmed GHS directions that flashed up at every junction. When it ran out, I switched on my backup GPS only to find that the route hadn’t loaded on properly. I had to map read in the dark through a maze of forest tracks and ended up doing about an extra 6 miles due to mistakes I made at various junctions. At 2 am I got into my sleeping bad for an hour rest, then continued to finish the ride in 23 hours and 30 minutes, achieving the coveted black badge, for riders who make it round in less than 24 hours. This is a serious event, you have to be fit, good at navigation and very mentally strong! If you want a huge challenge, this is for you, and it’s only £25. 133.8 miles, 16,728 ft of climbing, 9,760 calories… amazing weekend… next year I’m going for sub-20 hours.
Before and after.. the blurring on the after photo is how I was seeing things at that stage so it's actually pretty accurate.