Thursday, 22 January 2015

Snowy Lunch Walk

Nice big snowflakes dont land all that often. So before they all melted, today we went for a lunchtime walk from the office up onto Top O Slate. Lovely pootle.

 Took this one because it reminded me of a Joy Division album cover.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Shhh dont tell the husband

I ventured out on the bike in the snow and ice yesterday. It hadn't dawned on S when he left for work that the only way I could get to the midwife appointment was by foot, pedal or two busses.
Since we'd had a hard frost overnight, I imagined that the snow and ice would most likely be crisp and after the Monday morning rush-hour the main roads would be ok. My deduction was spot-on and I enjoyed a slow ride through the woods and park with my fat, lower pressured tyres making a satisfying amount of crunching sounds as they rolled over the ice and snow. Any glassy looking bits, I walked around and over the whole of my 11 mile trip, I hardly lost any traction on any uphills.

The ride took a long time, mostly because almost every dog walker I passed fancied a bit of a natter (having mondays off work is brilliant for this; people out & about during the week seem to have more time to say hello and it makes the world feel like a friendlier place as it seemed when I was growing up). I popped into the garden centre in the park to pick up part of my mum's birthday pressie (I dont recommend carrying ceramic pots in back packs, but my fatter tyre bike has no pannier rack) and made a detour to get butties and a couple of Manchester tarts for lunch with my mum.

It feels like yonks since I last embarked on an epic monday ride, but these little blasts through the trees still bring a lot of calm and restore my sanity after I'm either stuck in buildings or braving the town centre (both of which make me very grumpy).

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Due Date Approaches

The view from my settee
Other than a mere 7 miles on Monday through the park & woods to mum's, and 27 miles on tuesday to a work meeting and home, the bike has not seen any action this week. The weather has been wintry and although I usually love a nice snowy ride, I'm taking the sensible option of not taking to the streets and bridleways.
My bump has dropped, so I'm into the last stages of pregnancy. Soon my body will be my own again.
To anyone venturing out, enjoy this lovely weather, I'm incredibly envious of you all ;-)

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Windy Days

Unless I'm commuting (which includes a 7 mile stretch into a full on headwind), I LOVE cycling in the wind. And this weekend has been very blustery indeed.
So I took myself off to join the ctc's extra-short ride yesterday morning. Alas, nobody else turned up and the leader wasn't too well, so I ended up having a solo ride exploring some different lanes around Pendle and popped in to see some relatives for a catch up (and brews & biscuits).
An easy 19 miles with a mere 1450ft of climbing (under par for my usual rides, but I chose some lower level routes to avoid the worst buffeting on national speed limit roads). 

The wind certainly helped push me up one or two hills that took no effort & I even had to holler 'watch out' to two lasses crossing a road who hadn't seen me approaching as I flew up a road with some strong gust assistance (they crossed from behind some parked vehicles at a diagonal angle & did apologise). And I certainly had to pedal hard on most downhills - so very little freewheeling.

I'd felt my blood pressure was more normal this last week, so thoroughly enjoyed the time pedaling since I've been taking it easy recently.
And with my bump increasing in size, and only a few weeks left before I'm due, the cycling felt just as easy as normal; definitely easier than walking and less disconcerting than when driving (when any big movements feel incredibly weird - there's much less moving around going on when I'm pedaling).  

Saturday, 3 January 2015

The stuff dreams are made of

Happiest up a hill - super old picture
I'm sure many ladies dream about being a mum. I can confidently say that it has never been a dream of mine, but then neither was settling down, living in one place with a 9-5 job. I inherited the genetic predisposition of the Ormrods to have a wanderlust and need to be outdoors, on some hill or other in whatever weather.  But life did what it does & my wanderlust got curbed a long time ago; all dreams of traveling the world with a rucksack gave way to sticking around my home town to keep an eye on my somewhat nutty mother.

Then buying a bicycle about the time that petrol hit the pound per litre mark was the best thing I ever did. Initially for commuting, then local leisure rides, then longer commutes as my office moved, I joined the RSF to cycle further afield and get a bit more confidence riding in unexplored territory, then touring began followed by an introduction to audax rides. Cycling had quickly become my favourite thing to do and afew days off the saddle leaves me pretty grumpy.

The prospect of life with a little one in tow is taking some getting used to. I'm hoping that the gene for adventure & travel will be included in the mix (Stephen's a complete home-bird who is perfectly happy to spend all his life in one place and he doesnt have the need to get out and about). All those family cycling blogs are now on my reading list, giving me some excitement about two-wheeled family adventures.

Now my dreams are made of the ultimate bike for the next few years. Living in the hills, most cargo bikes build around Dutch designs are probably as useful to me as a chocolate fireguard. And the pennies are certainly being carefully watched since imminent restructures at work are on the horizon.

In an ideal world, I'd be plumping for a Surly Big Dummy, but hey those things are mad money when you get them fully geared up. So I'm thinking about an Xtracycle & an On-one 45650B frame which accommodates 27.5 wheels; bigger than mtb wheels, smaller than 700s - better for my lengthy commute and any touring plus sturdy reliable steel & they come in a size that should be small enough to suit me, add some low gears, dynamo lighting and disc brakes... it should still be fine for light off-road riding (you can get away with fatter tyres on the 27.5s where 700s + Xtracycle are limited to skinnier tyres) which is my preferred type of travel.  A gal can dream.

This guy did just that with his on-one & it looks a great seat-up.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


Finally a touch of winteriness in the air. Short lived, but beautiful.

7.5 months pregnant and I am now taking it easy - not just because of the icy conditions and risk of falling off the bike, but my blood pressure has just dropped a lot and its already naturally low. That's not to say I've done no bike miles - I still did my Christmas shopping by bike (good call since there was car parking mania in town when I rolled up and locked my bike in the supermarket carpark) and today I popped my dependable comfy upright, wide-geared hybrid in the car to have a short lunchtime ride.  I'm hoping the blood pressure picks up; not being able to cycle is making me feel like a caged animal, but I'm not going completely stircrazy yet, I've managed some walks to keep me sane.

And the obligatory n+1 bike rule meaning that the thought of a midtail / cargo bike for the little lad's arrival seems a great idea at the moment. But plumbing, roof & outside wall work is keeping me in check about making any splurges, even if I plan on saving money through investing in pocket nappies instead of disposables...

Other than being less mobile than usual and getting some quality kicks in the ribs, the hardest thing about being pregnant is not being able to pencil in cycling tours for the year ahead. The dark days of winter are when I like planning adventures to look forward to.  I am hoping to go on my cycling club's May family friendly camping trip though and I'm looking into various ways to maintain some kind of outdoor time with a newborn about.

I was very lucky to have an easy first two trimesters and I have done some fantastic rides that I hope to recap and share in the next week.

And for those who are interested in how I've found cycling through pregnancy so far: 
Keeping cycling up until 30 weeks was really easy for me. Yes I was much slower than usual and started getting overtaken by other cyclists, but that wasn't too terrible. I was still managing to get miles and feet in and enjoying knowing that I was keeping in really good health for the imminent day(s) of labour to come.
I certainly felt most comfortable on my upright bike, although I was still using drops until about 5 months, after which point it just got a bit uncomfortable. Off road riding has been fine other than some discomfort from bouncing appendages early on, but using a comfort bra actually helped solve that problem. I'd never needed anything akin to a sports bra before, but now I think I'd happily live in the things, they're just so much more practical.

Cycling has been much much easier than walking - carrying extra weight on a bike is a normal part of cycle touring / shopping by bike, so having extra weight attached to me was not noticeable when pedalling, but when walking up stairs and hills, I really have been able to feel it. Any pains in my back and hips were eased by cycling and keeping moving, where sitting or walking seemed to make things worse.

Now well into the third trimester, I can feel my reduced lung capacity so cycling is even slower to ensure I dont need any deeper breaths; dropping to a super low gear and slowly pedalling is fine for getting up all the hills I need to. I just have to take care mounting & dismounting so I dont pop my hips out of place. 
The snow & icy conditions have deterred me from getting out this week. The light frost afew weeks ago was not a problem and I enjoyed a crispy night-ride to my aquanatal class all off-road in with the light of the moon. Perfect and really special.

My bump has really expanded in the last few weeks, but that's not been a problem on the bike. It's more of a problem when negotiating the kitchen when I forget how big I am now and crash into work tops.

For anyone thinking about how you keep cycling in pregnancy, well it's easy - keep going, listen to your body, take some sweets & a drink incase you suddenly need something to keep going, even on short rides. Some days you wont feel like riding at all, but for me those days were few & far between.

Monday, 17 November 2014

My First Wild Camp Trip

Way back in June, on the day I discovered I was pregnant, I set off to do my first ever wild camp. That had nothing to do with discovering the news, it was purely coincidental. I'd been planning the trip for a few weeks beforehand.

Stephen was not phased about his pregnant wife setting off solo for an adventure. Possibly partly because he was in denial about the news and didn't believe me about the accuracy rates of modern day pregnancy tests.

With lovely weather, I loaded my trusty Raleigh up with panniers & sleeping bag and headed off towards West Yorkshire initially. My destination was determined by an outdoors shop at Holmfirth where I'd be purchasing a Gelert solo tent to start out with. No point forking out a fortune on something to find it wasn't to my taste. I'd be spending less on the tent, roll-mat & inflatable pillow than I would on a b&b.

Most directions from home start with an uphill and this route was up the best of the lot. Up followed by chevrons and a climb that is challenging at the best of times, but with a loaded bike, short wheel base, hot weather and hot flushes from early pregnancy, this would be the slowest ascent with the most stops I'd managed. And I perfected leaning as far forward as possible to prevent my front wheel lifting off the tarmac. I may very well invest in front wheel panniers for future camping trips.

This is always one of my favourite roads to ride. I had a quick 'hello' to my Dad as I passed where we scattered his ashes and let him know my news. Before long I was about to freewheel down through Heptonstall where I would then pick up the Rochdale Canal and the adjacent tarmac cycle tracks that roller coster the valley bottom to Sowerby Bridge.

I'd arrived at my lunch stop and enjoyed a breather, a check in with Stephen who was in work whilst I was enjoying a monday of freedom and I consulted the map for which route to pick. I ended up plumping for following Route 68 as much as possible. The cyclist version of the Pennine Way that runs North South along the backbone of England.
I found the steepest hill I think I have ever come across in my life (and there are afew here in Calderdale) and I was heading for Norland and the wonderful views. I managed to make it up the hill without getting out of the saddle, but it was very hard. The roads now were all completely fresh to my eyes and I enjoyed them immensely. Towards Scammonden Water, I caught up with a couple of roadies out for the day and had some company for the next few miles. We chatted about the imminent arrival of Le Tour and one of the gentlemen asked about my hefty workhorse of a bike on these hills - I explained that a lighter machine would be less sturdy with a load and that I was not in a rush to get anywhere. They peeled off north and I continued on my southerly route towards the wonderfully named Netherthong & Upperthong into Holmfirth and towards the outdoors shop with plenty of time before it closed for the day.

I rejigged by panniers before the next leg that would send me towards the Peak District area via pretty, albeit ominously named Hade Edge, that actually was a bit of a plateau and some leisurely riding. I'd begun to think about camping spot options by now, but looking at the early time I decided to pedal on. The map showed plenty of reservoirs coming up around the Trans Pennine Trail and I'd thought this area may make a good spot, but as I traversed the hills I wasn't convinced by the views and exposure.

I spent some time pedalling up & down the flat TPT looking for a good spot, but nothing inspired me. So I stopped at a picnic site and enjoyed my butties and a drink. Lightening some of my load and planning the best direction to head in. I opted to follow the TPT westwards knowing that it would join up with the Pennine Bridleway which would be a good way to ride home the next day.

The next section was a lovely surprise. Afew months earlier, we'd driven to the RSF Autumn meet at Sherwood with club member and avid cycling nutter (like me), Ian who explained we were driving parallel to the TPT & I remember thinking how wonderful this area was. Very wonderful indeed, but not without hills. I climbed from the disused railway towards the Woodhead Pass. I felt wonderfully isolated here despite of the main road below me, there was little in the way of civilisation around here and I'd not seen another sole for ages.
I clocked a hill that looked like a good camping spot, but there were afew too many cows roaming, so I carried on a little way and spied an ideal crop of bracken with a brilliant view. The pitching site was instantly obvious to me. I began removing the flourescent guide ropes from the tent and was amazed by the ease of pitching this little coffin style tent compared to the 5-man tent that I usually lug somewhere in the car (my husband wouldn't camp any other way). I was set up for the evening so had a little wander to check out the lack of visibility of my camp and happy with my invisibility I enjoyed my semi-warm flask of soup for supper and sat in the tent avoiding the throng of midges that had come out to play.

The cows and sheep weren't too close, but I could hear them roaming about. The road was silent after the commuter traffic ebbed away. I had a moment of worry as a farm quad drove along the track higher up the hill. Was I going to be found and moved on? It carried on and vanished into the distance, not to return.
Pjs on, bed set up, I was plenty warm enough even when sticking my head out to look up at the clear sky of stars. I enjoyed a full night of undisturbed sleep with just minor dreams about being found in my tent, but nothing that woke me up. Once again camping on my own (last time had been on a campsite) I was surprised by how secure I'd felt.

I enjoyed the early morning view as I got dressed and my camp was dismantled in no time. This being my first wildcamp I'd not invested in any small stoves, so I would have a few miles to ride for breakfast. This would take my along the Longenden Trail into Hadfield. I pushed down the steep, stony descent before picking up the easy, flat off road trail and enjoyed the morning sunshine and fresh wind in my face that helped with the slight nausea I was suffering from.

I found a breakfast cafe in minutes followed by a bakery where I stocked up on goodies to keep me going. Then I headed for the Pennine Bridleway, the kind of terrain that I am used to riding on. However with a fully loaded bike, it is far from easy riding on the lumpy, hilly tracks. My bike was much more difficult to control, momentum uphill was non-existant and momentum downhill was terrifying. But I enjoyed the brilliant views and still managed to make better headway than the guy with an unloaded full-susp mountain bike who I spied behind me.

 As I started the descent towards Stalybridge with the view of Manchester in the distance, I made a decision to head for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to make headway on the flat into the next valley rather than continue on the hilly bridleway.
I enjoyed some more cyclist company here as I passed Mossley and Uppermill. Here the gentlemen headed for a pub lunch & I carried on to Dobcross and Delph where I was meeting a fellow club member, Mick who would be riding with me for a stretch. Following lunch, his insider knowledge of roads came in great use. He took me on some quiet main roads that I'd have avoided if on my own (sometimes maps cannot give you any inclination of what a main road will be like), which made for some brilliant headway before returning to the bridleways around Piethorn that took me back into familiar territory around Hollingworth Lake.

Here Mick headed back towards home and I picked up the trusty favourite Rochdale Canal to Todmorden. Rather than take to the steep hills, I left the dark valley along the main road, its picturesque, but very busy with traffic, but the gradual climb had me powering along nicely and I was home in time to make Stephen's tea before he got home from work!

95 miles with 11,800ft of climbing under my belt it was a wonderful two days of exploring with a bit more knowledge about what to expect from future cycle wild camps.