Dark Peak Ride – 17th March

Taking a break at the top end of Howden Reservoir

I was a bit 50/50 about this ride. It was organised by MickB of the MTBBritain forum, he’s local to the Peaks and knows it well, so it’d be good. But the meeting point was Langsett Barn on the A616 right at the top of Peaks, and a 230 mile round trip. I’d put it on the GT forum and had no interest, so was a bit reluctant to shell out £30 on diesel. But on the way home from work on the Thursday I heard several references to Syncronised and the Cheltenham Gold Cup….. so I though why not, put a fiver on it………… And on Friday at 3:25 it promptly won, at 8:1! Diesel paid for…”I’m in”

Looking out the window as I ate my sausage butty the rain was pouring down, although the forecast was OK…. Mmmmm, I’d heard the route down over Cut Gate was pretty exposed and no fun in the rain. Oh well, I was up, the kit and bike were ready to go, MTFU! The rain cleared by Derby, but as I turned off the M1 the clouds leadened and the rain fell, and the closer I got to the meeting point the worse it looked.

I arrived about 45 mins early, and as I sat and waited the sky brightened and the rain stopped. 🙂  By 9:30 we were ready, 6 riders headed off through the woods around Langsett Reservoir. Out of the trees, we started to climb some rocky walled switch backs, then up Hingcliff Common before turning left and dropping down to ‘North America’. Turning right we then climbed up to Mickleden Edge and onto the Cut Gate path. This was a gradual climb with some nice technical sections and some muddy sections. Stick to the tyre tracks and all of the really muddy bits were avoidable. I was starting to notice that my rear brake lever was almost hitting the bars…. but it would come and go, pads looked fine, bit late to do anything now….

We stopped for a break as we crested Howden Edge, it was all down hill from here. And what stunning riding it was, from open mossy sections to the final switchbacks down to Slippery Stones at the top of the Derwent Valley. Mega grins all round! We skirted the West side of the valley, eventually getting on the road towards Fairholmes. We rounded a corner and Nick stopped…… at the bottom of the climb to Ashton Clough. I’ve ridden down it, but this was the first time up… well more pushing than riding to be honest. With the damp ground traction was limited and once you stopped you couldn’t get started again. It was bit of an eye opener to see what we normally ride down!

At the top of Hagg Side we turned left along the ridge and eventually started to decend, faster, and faster. The top 3/4 was fantastic, but the powers that be have sanitised the bottom with loose stone. And this just so happens that this is the bit that twists and turns and gets steeper! It’s strange how the sound of tyres rolling over gravel sounds so different to that of tyres skidding sideways over it! Everyone survived, just a flat for Nick. Once fixed we headed to Fairholmes for an ice cream in the strengthening sunshine.

After a 15 minute break we headed out along the East side of Ladybower, and climbed up ‘Flags’ a rock slab climb up Grindle Clough. I’ve never cleaned it and today was no exception! But 4 out 6 did, good effort! We now climbed a section I never like, dunno if I always ride it with tired legs, but I almost kills me every time! Getting through the gate at the wall that leads to Whinstone Lee Tor is always a relief! At the end of the Tor instead of turning left and heading down the bridleway that eventually drops you out next to the Ladybower Inn, we carried on. I somehow ended up leading, even though I didn’t really know were the trail went and what lay ahead.

What did lay ahead was a skirt around the side of Lead Hill with some real rocky ‘right on the edge so don’t look down’ singletrack, that suddenly turned into steep tight switchbacks, the 29er was a riot even with a rear brake thats mode of operation had been switched to ‘random’. At the bottom we turned right and headed back towards Fairholmes, but at Jubilee Cottages took the turning  onto the bridlway that runs up the East side of the Derwent Valley. We were riding together chatting when we were overtaken by a lone mountain biker, Nick couldn’t help himself and set off in pursuit. They both disappeared into the distance.

Just as we got to the climb up to Howden Reservoir the lone mountain biker was standing next to the trail, Nick was nowhere to be seen. We eventually found him at the next gate, proudly announcing in broad ‘yorkshire’ that he wasn’t going to have someone blast past him, and that he’d ‘showed him’ 🙂

At Slippery Stones we started the long climb back up to Howden Edge, a combination of push, ride, push, rest, ride got us back up to the cairn that we’d had a break at several hour earlier. Now it was down, chasing each other along the snaking path. Trying to stick to the numerous tyre marks that showed the best line to avoid the muddy sections. I was following close behind Nick when he suddenly turned right…. I didn’t…. there was what looked like a small section of mud with the well ridden trail only 15ft away. Oh well, power it, weight back, heels down…… The bike sunk in up to it’s axles, and somehow I didn’t go over the bars but kind of stepped off to the left onto solid ground! The bog was bubbling under the bike, and it took a major effort to get it out. Much to the amusement of everyone as they flew past.

I was now playing ‘catch up’, the only hard tail in the group slowly reeling in the full sussers. I was back on their tails as we stopped for a breather at Haslingshaw Ford. A quick climb up onto the top of Hingcliff Common and we were descending rapidly again, there was definately an air of ‘race to the bottom’ going on. So much so that I didn’t realise we’d got back to the walled switchbacks, trying to scrub off some speed the rear lever hit the bars, nothing, oh bollocks, squeezing the front tighter I could hear the front tyre loosing grip, oh double bollocks! Fuck me, that wall is arriving fast! In a heart beat I weighed up my options, 1-Lay it down…bollocks to that! 2-Just hit the wall and suffer the consequences….no ta! 3-Use the small grassy bit at the base of the wall as a berm….

Thank god for option 3! Somehow I got round. At the bottom there was mega grins as everyone had had their own ‘moment’ and lived to tell the tale! A wind down ride back through the woods ands we were back at the cars. Knackered, but happy! A great days riding, and great company.

Oh, and Syncronised….. thanks I owe you one!

Ride – #45     Bike – Gary Fisher Paragon 29’er

Miles – 32.8     Total 2012 miles – 980.1

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