Friday, June 10, 2016

Not the Tour Divide, but the French Divide.

Today sees the start of the Tour Divide race. Our original plan was to be there, but for mostly school type reasons we couldn't make that. The plan B was to ride it on our own this summer, but due to other commitments, we were looking quite tight for time. So the decision was made to postpone our big trip until next year.

It's easy to have a bit of a downer when things don't go according to plan. We have been training, and are pretty fit. So we were looking hard for something big to do instead.

Our original plan was to go up to Scotland and to finish up the Highland Trail 550. Then I came across something new.

The French Divide.

"Just like the Great Divide, but in France. Connecting the northern french-belgian border and the southern french-spanish border. A bike trip mixing cyclo-cross and mountain biking roads following a part of the route of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle and without any assistance."

2100 Kilometres, with 27000 metres of climbing. 70% of gravel, with 30% on road.

Advertised highlights include the Belgian Kemmelberg, from the spring classic Gant Wevelgem. The Arenburg and other Paris Roubaix cobbles and the Tourmalet which is a favourite on the Tour de France.

Other highlights will include pastries from the Boulangerie most mornings, and the occasional bottle of Vin Rouge, and unlike the Tour Divide, there will be no bears to worry about.

More info on the route can be found on their French Divide site, or on their facebook page.


Monday, May 16, 2016

South Lakeland #Jennride

Rich Munro came up with an excellent idea. Get some people together who were friends of Jenn, and go for a big bike ride in the Lakes.

We assembled in Staveley on Saturday morning along with around 100 others. The route was 100 miles, and it was clear by the luggage carried, or not that there those who were not going to stop, and those that were making a weekend of it. We were with the latter group.

Above,Tom and two of our fellow Team JMC members Phil and Jacqui Simcock.

On couldn't have asked for better weather, though we could have done without the pinch flat going down the Garburn Pass. Off course I shouldn't have been riding so fast.

Unusually for a long ride, we weren't in any rush. It was great riding along and chatting with others, and we stopped more than once for a cafe stop.

At this old quarry along with some others we tried to see how far in we could ride without getting wet feet. The answer not very far.

Just below those hills in the distance would be our next stop.

At the Old Dungeon Ghyll along with a number of the other Barebones forum members we had a drink and our supper. Then rode on as far as Hawkshead for a nightcap before heading up into Grizedale Forest for the night.

The forecast was for a cold night. We were toasty warm in our Alpkit Ordos tent though.

Once again, another cracking day.

We weren't smiling a few minutes later when we got another puncture, shortly followed by another. Thankfully as we were about to put in our last tube, Tony turned up with a puncture repair kit. We were good to go again, but all the time wasted with punctures meant that we'd be in for a long day if we completed the rest of the route. So we did the right thing. We sat in a cafe for a couple of hours chatting with some fellow riders, then caught the ferry  across Lake Windemere before riding the last few miles back to Staveley.

Great to catch up with old friends, and to make some new ones too.

Same again next year please Rich!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dirty Reiver 200

200 Kilometres of gravel roads in Kielder forest is the challenge that the Dirty Reiver offers. I had an entry, Tom didn't though as he wasn't old enough to enter. He wanted to ride the route (which was all open to the public) anyway as preparation for the Tour Divide, so he tagged along with me.

Tom had borrowed a Sonder Camino Ti Force from Alpkit to ride. Here he is on its inaugural sortie a few days before.

We awoke on the morning of the ride to be greeted by snow falling. We wrapped up warm. After a short briefing, there was a roll out to the timed start. The weather had thankfully improved and soon the sky was blue.

As you can see from the pictures, the surfaces we rode on were mostly gravelled roads. Though there was a small amount of tarmac and also some short technical sections.

It was on one of the more technical descents ( a bit like Pen y Ghent lane) that one of Tom's teeth fell out.

Thankfully it was one of his baby teeth and not one that he'd need a dentist to replace.

Above Tom and a couple of riders we saw loads of, as they kept on getting punctures.

We rode in the company of other riders most of the day.

Big skies, oh and what is that in the distance?

That'll be a blizzard then. For 15 minutes the snow fell. We'd wrapped up warm, and other than not being able to see, it didn't bother us.

As quickly as the snow arrived, it went.

It did threaten to return again, and briefly it did at the final checkpoint.

From there only 50 Kms to go, though there were still plenty of hills to climb.

We were doing alright for time, so on the last section, we stopped a few times to take in the views.

We finished in the dark some 14 hours after we started. It was a tough day out. Though I am glad to say that miles we have been doing lately meant we weren't too sore after.

I'd recommend the event. It's a great route, and the organisation was excellent.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A couple of days in the Lakes with the Tandem.

We'd been wanting to do a big ride on the Easter weekend, and thought we might have a go at the Lakeland 200 route which I'd ridden before. The weather forecast wasn't looking good after the first day, but hey, the weather forecast isn't always right!

We drove up on Thursday night, met some friends in Kendal for a drink, then slept in the car ready for a 3 am start.

Here is Tom putting the bike together ready for the off.

A couple of hours later we stopped for some breakfast.

This part of the route is fairly easy and we enjoyed watching the sun making it's first appearance of the day.

By 7:30 the sun was out, and there were blue skies. Time for more food.

The next section towards Coniston, takes much longer than the signposts suggests, as you rarely follow the signs.

At Grisedale we stopped for hot food and drinks.

Then before tackling Walna Scar road, cake and ice cream in Coniston.

The first steep road section from the Rising Sun towards the Old Man was desperate on the tandem with all our stuff. No walking for us though.

Once on the bridleway proper we savoured the views.

After the descent towards Duddon, the route hangs a left to a section towards Stephenson ground, which was as is usual a bogfest. No dry feet for us on this trip. After doing a loop round Caw, we dropped into Seathwaite.

NB if you forget to tell your stoker you are stopping to let them know to unclip, then this will happen.

A bar of chocolate fuels the climb that skirts Harter Fell which takes us over to Eskdale.

Time for a puncture to be fixed as the daylight dwindles. By the time we get to Boot to start the last climb of the day the sun is long gone. We fired up the Exposure Toro light which on Mode 2 on low gives plenty of light for all but the fastest riding, and runs for ~18 hours.

A steep rocky climb either side of which is lined with prickly gorse bushes takes us onto Eskdale Fell. As the gradient slackens choosing the right one of many trods becomes a chore. Without wasting too much time we do find the descent track down to Wastwater. Oh, and if you've ever wondered if a stoker can have a bit of a snooze on the bach of a tandem, it is possible.

We left Staveley at 3:30 am and nearly 18 hours later we arrived at the Wasdale Head Inn. 64 miles and 9000' done.

By 10:30 we had the tent up and were in bed ready for sleep.

As forecast the weather changed overnight. The rain and wind arrived.

We were about half way in distance round the Lakeland 200 route in distance, though not effort or time, there was some serious ground to cover in the big hills next. Whilst Tom was eating his "precious" sandwich for breakfast we discussed our options.

The wind against the side of the tent told me that heading up the Black Sail pass now was not a good idea. We plotted instead a route back on the road.

As we rode along Wastwater the wind kept on trying to blow us off the road. The tandem was like a sail.

Wet and just the right side of cold.

At Dalegarth Station back in the Eskdale valley we had breakfast and warmed our soaking outer layers on the radiator.

Minipips as you can see is now raring to ride up the 30% Hardknott pass.

Up the Hardknott without putting a toe down on a laden tandem is one of the toughest short things we've done. Team work and absolute determination nailed it though.

The rest of the ride back to Staveley was fairly uneventful other than the incessant rain.

It was great to get back to Wilfs just in time for a pot of tea before heading back home to see the girls.

99 miles and 12,400 for the two days. Tired but not so much that we didn't do 30 miles the day after.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

24 Hours of Strathpuffer Mud.

We were back again for the Strathpuffer 24 hour mountain bike race. This year, Tom's second, instead of freezing temperatures and snow, we had a thaw, and that meant there would be mud.

 We were both riding Alpkit's new Sonder Bikes. I was on their carbon fat bike, the Vir Fortis, and Tom was riding their 650B+ Transmitter.

Other than enjoy ourselves our goal was to improve on the 10 laps that Tom achieved last year. Tom was noticably stronger this year, and by 1 AM the 10 laps were done. We decided then to grab some sleep. 3 hours later, refreshed we were back out there notching up a few more laps.

With 13 laps done we checked to see if there was time for a 14th, but we wouldn't have made it back by the 11am cut off. Tom was obviously tired but still had plenty of enthusiasm and miles in hs legs.

81 miles done. Tom came 58th of 104 soloists. He won a prize for being the youngest soloist, and I got a bottle of beer for being his Dad.


Dom Bush of Land and Sky Media was there doing some filming of us for a forthcoming Alpkit Mountain Journal Short Film, and took these great pictures below straight after the race.

Thanks to Alpkit, Exposure Lights,. Team JMC, my Wife and Daughter, Pete Gretton, Zoe and Ed Proctor for their assistance before during, and over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rapha Festive 500 2015

Tom and I have completed the #Festive 500 twice before, and this year we had planned something a bit different. We wanted to do the ride over 3 days, and have Christmas Day with the rest of our family.

Things however turned out very differently to our plans.

Day 1.

Our plan was to ride just over 100 miles out to the East coast with the wind at our backs. We left the house at 5am. We stopped for breakfast just before 9am and had already completed 45 miles.

As we prepared to leave the cafe it started to rain, and soon it was torrential.

Thankfully the rain only lasted a couple of hours, as forecast the storm outran us.

Tom's Rapha Hard Shell kept him nice and dry, so as usual he was smiling.

Flat roads, and a following wind meant that we had a relatively easy day, and on reaching the seafront at Hornsea, we had clocked up 176 kilometres.

The girls picked us up there, and that was it until Boxing Day.

Day 2.

The plan for days 2 and 3 were to ride from home in the Peak District, South to London to meet family down there. Our route was that of the Rapha Manchester to London ride. Day 2 was longish around 200km, and unlike day one we were heading in exactly the same direction as the wind was coming from.
As on the first day we stopped for a cooked breakfast.

Rain, wind, and plenty of big puddles.

In the afternoon the rain passed, the wind though was our constant companion. Tom as ever though is smiling.

With 196 kilometres ridden it was time for a pizza takeaway for supper, quickly followed by much needed sleep.

Day 3.

There was 128km left to do, which considering the previous 2 rides was a shorter easy day. The alarm went off at 6am, we were both tired, so we turned the alarm off and went back to sleep for an extra couple of hours.

We left around 9am, and, yes it was raining again.

The roads were quiet though.

It might have been a wet winter here, but it has been warm.

Other than stopping to take photos and chat about things, a fairly uneventful day.

At about 4:15pm, with 15km left to do, though our day changed.

I was riding a few metres ahead of Tom and I heard a faint thud followed by Tom shouting. 2 cars raced past me which I narrowly avoided being hit by.

I turned round, and Tom and his bike were by the side of the road. He was shouting, that was good. I checked him over. His helmet had cracked, and he was sore where his body had hit the ground. From the rear wheel, it appeared that the bike had taken most of the car's impact.

A police car was there within seconds. Apparently one of the cars that had passed by had phoned the police earlier to say that the driver of the other car was swerving from side to side of the road. The good samaritan later told me that he'd chased the other driver down, and confiscated his keys until the police came to deal with him.

The police had called an ambulance which took a while to arrive. During our wait, it became clear that Tom might be very sore, but his helmet and his Sky hat had saved his head, and it looked like he should be OK. As you can imagine, a huge relief.

Tom was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to complete the Festive 500 after coming so close. I told him to wait and see what the paramedics had to say, but I was already coming up with a plan should they give him the all clear.

The paramedics said it looked like he'd not broken anything advising a trip for an X-ray if his foot continued to hurt.

That was enough of an all clear to put out a request for a small bike on twitter.

Day 4

Helen had offered a bike and helmet that Tom could borrow. Herself and her husband Mark then kindly guided us on a ride round London to see some of the sights.

The kindness of people we didn't until then know, made our day.

It was such a lovely ride that we went past the 500Km.

So, our 3rd Festive 500 finished. More importantly, as Tom said just after the crash "It's great to be alive"