Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Today was the traditional Rough Stuff Fellowship festive walk and we couldnt have asked for a better day at Rivington in the West Pennine Moors.  How many days in a row has it rained for? And how many more to come?? Today was beautiful, even some blue in the sky.

There was much discussion of tandem exploits from Ken & Dot - sounds like the raleighs that the Tandem Club run are great fun.  So even more cycling trip plans for 2013 - at this rate I wont be able to fit them all in.  Do I ever need those school holidays back!!! March will have rides every day of Easter for the RSF AGM.  April has a couple of days up near Coniston and in the middle of Wales. May's RSF family friendly camping trip is up near Penrith (which sadly clashes with the tandem club's Loire Valley trip). All that before Spring is out. Hopefully next year wont be quite as wet as 2012 so we might get some more use out of the tent.
Following the walk, we rejoined those who had chosen to cycle and enjoyed food and brass band music.

What with all the cycling penned in for the new year, I'd best make the most of a restful christmas and new year.

Very best wishes to you all and thanks to all the fellow cyclists that have made this last year so memorable and enjoyable.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Brilliant week of excellent winter rides

December is always such a sociable month. Meets with friends, colleagues & cycling groups. Usually by the time January comes about, I'm ready for a rest.
This December is no exception - in fact as life goes on, I end up with more & more December events.  The fact that I no longer get school holidays is just bobbins - I could have all of December off work & fill it up.

This week has been a brilliant cycling week inspite of the bitter cold weather we've had. And I now realise just how un-aerodynamic reindeer are!

The Long Causeway
My cousin was home from Wales last weekend, so I convinced her to come for a leisurely saturday ride to Hebden Bridge. She has an old heavy 90s mountain bike with low gear ratios which made the road ride over the Pennines challenging.

The views were spectacular after the snow earlier in the week - the hills salt & peppered with left over white stuff.  It was beautiful and after that initial warming climb, you can really enjoy the views before you start the cold descent to the valley bottom.
Stoodley Pike

 The sky was dramatic! Stunning. And it was delightful having some solo girly company on the ride. We lunched & then caught the train back as Roz had no lights on her bike.

click for full size. Amazing skies

I took Tuesday & Thursday off work to enjoy some Rough Stuff trips.
After a ride at 8am in minus 5 degrees to the meet point, my hands felt like a sledgehammer had trashed them.
sunrise over Alcincoates Park, Colne


I contemplated going home - but after I'd warmed up and got chatting with the guys, I donned an extra pair under my ski gloves and we headed along  the frozen canal towards Yorkshire. Ducks and swans skated about and it was picture perfect. The muddy fields were frozen solid in most places which made for a very bumpy and unforgiving ride between the canal and the disused railway.

The last few miles were on the busy A59 before enjoying the road into Carleton, which happily was closed to motor traffic whilst diggers had made an impassable hole. It meant we could cycle 3/4 abreast, chat, not worry about cars and look out at the beautiful hills in this pretty spot.
We joined with the Yorkshire Rough Stuff faction for their festive lunch. I met some new faces & caught up with riders I'd not seen in many months. The lunch passed far too fast before we had to set off back.
Because it was just so cold, I took very few photos, but two pairs of gloves did just about save me from agony.
Pendle Hill & Blacko Tower at sunset

Thursdays forecast predicted slightly warmer weather, so after surviving the ride on Tues, I set off with a big smile for a ride in the Ribble Valley.  Clitheroe was bathed in winter morning sunshine as we set off. Over the River Ribble and into Waddington for our first brew stop. It is chocolate box picturesque here.
Pendle Hill from the base of Bradford Fell

We started to climb up and by the time we reached Bradford Fell there was nothing, but thick freezing fog. It was like being on an alien landscape - the muddy ground was solid and interspersed with frozen, glacier-like puddles, which made any actual cycling nigh on impossible.
Frozen puddles

Freezing fog
At least walking was warmer than riding. It was bitter up on those tops - much colder than I'd expected. I felt like I was on an Arctic expedition.
Brian's group shot

another of Brian's photos

We pushed our bikes for miles, I thought the lunchstop would never arrive. It eventually did at about 2o'clock. Hot soup, hot tea. It thawed my hands, but not my feet.

We cycled the last few miles on the road back into Clitheroe riding into a beautiful misty sunset... but trying to beat the sunset, we didnt stop to take any photos.

Thursday night was a really good bike maintenance course through work. Really useful - I now know I can change a back wheel puncture no problemo. Easy tips on changing your brakes and other useful tips from the people at Go Velo.  If you get the chance to go on the course, I recommend it. They also do cycling classes for all levels too.
a winter's night in Pendle Witch country

Saturday was a day off the bike, but in one of our lovely Cycling Cities, Lancaster. I've only ever really peddled through Lancaster before so exploring the centre and the castle was really interesting. Next time I'm in the area on my bike, I'll take an extra hour or two to pop into the centre again. Very picturesque and with some interesting shops; my favourite being a tea & coffee merchants that felt like stepping back into Victorian times. 

Lancaster Castle

Sunday was the highlight of the week. We took the tandem over to Liverpool to ride to Alder Hey Children's Hospital to deliver Christmas presents to the children who are in over the holidays. A couple of hundred cyclists in santa outfits, with the odd other costume cycled through the city to car toots and waves and cheers. It was lovely and for the first time this year I got that festive feeling.

Brrr hunched up from the cold
There was a sergeant major keeping us all in check in his parade boots. I didn't know a human being could shout so loudly!!
There were four tandems in all and we chatted to a lovely couple who regaled us with their tandeming exploits over the years.

After warming up at the hospital with brews and choccies, we all made our own way back. Even though there was just Stephen (santa) & myself (a red nosed reindeer) cycling, we still got lots of waves and children looking in awe. It was lovely.
My antlers were far from aerodynamic - any slight gust of wind pushed against them. Thankfully my skills at plaiting my hair around them kept them in place.
We pushed the bike back through the centre to have a quick look. It's 13 years since I last visited Liverpool & a lot has changed since then. Looking forward to the new year for a proper trip back there to explore the fine historical city, admire the old & new architecture and hopefully utilise the cycling Liverpool map that Dug donated to us.

What a fantastic cycling week it's been!

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Brrrr it's getting cold. Having nasty Raynauld's has diminished my cycling miles for the last few weeks.  I'm trying ginko biloba out - apparently that helps extremity circulation - fingers crossed. Going to invest in some scuba neoprene socks too I think.
But I have managed some miles and have some lovely festive rides with the Rough Stuffers & a Christmas charity ride to keep me peddling up to Christmas.

We took the tandem out to Rivington to see how it coped on those big hills. We peddled up every one no problem at all. Very impressed indeed. Normally I'm off roading round that area, so it was nice to go a different route and find a lovely viewing area before the roller coaster descent.

After some snow this week, my cousin & I peddled out over the Pennines into Yorkshire for some lunch. Dramatic skies made for beautiful views. Thankfully the roads were all clear of ice so it was a carefree ride.
It was certainly colder over the border. After a wander round Hebden Bridge and a quick shop to try some beers brewed locally at Cragg Vale's Little Valley Brewery, we got the train home. I'll be sampling my IPA & Stephen will be trying the mild tomorrow.

Also started walking a bit more now it's cold - generates less breeze! ;-)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

November - keeping riding into winter

It's getting darker, tho not necessarily much colder. Riding this week has actually been warmer than the rides on the Rough Stuff camping weekend back in June!!! And this week has been a great week for rides.

I'd been largely off the bike in the first week of November - the first weekend we drove all the way down south to collect our third hand tandem. We'd planned on trying the bike there, but after some consideration of unfamiliar roads, unfamiliar bike & adverse weather, we decided to play it safe and save the test ride for familiar territory.

Lacey Green Windmill
Typically the day we were driving home was beautiful & I know we will be back to The Chilterns for a proper explore soon.  We stayed in a lovely garden annexe flat that we hope to visit again soon. Perfect place for a couple to base themselves at in that part of the country.

guard dogs in Oxford

apt seasonal decorations in Oxford

The tandem test ride round the park was a success, so we decided to do a proper first ride out to Brockholes. On separate bikes it usually takes about an hour; we shaved over 15 mins of this without breaking a sweat.
Kids looked befuddled by the tandem. Not one of them knew what it was called though! A sign of the times? We had a picnic at Brockholes nature reserve, I think that's probably my first winter picnic ever in my life.
We tried a new route home and fast discovered that our tandem isnt good for hilly muddy off roading! Shame that OS maps dont show if a bridleway / farm track is paved or not. But we did at least find a great fun route to Preston for our rough stuff bikes!

I booked a day off work in the week to join up with the troupe from the cycle club staying at Mankinholes Youth Hostel.
Calderdale has steep hills, so I was expecting it to be a very tough day, however John had a bad leg after a cycling / dog incident so we took a more sedate route than was originally described. It was brilliant. All the steep hills were ones we descended and I discovered there is a road to Mankinholes that isnt vertical!

puddle peddling

Heptonstall in the distance

Rochdale Canal at Hebden Bridge

above Todmorden

Stoodley Pike

A couple of cycle commutes to finish off the week. I'd hoped to get to over 100 miles this week, but circumstances meant I only did 83. But I enjoyed every single one of those miles, even the busy commute home in the dark and especially the few hundred feet of dark muddy single track foot path connecting the housing estates where I cant see what my wheels are riding over ;-)

Accrington in the morning mistiness.
NCN6 Woodnook Greenway

Monday, 22 October 2012

Brilliant Birthday Ride

Enter a new decade as you mean to go on! Leading a 28 mile off road ride in beautiful sunshine.
I celebrated with friends with a meal on the Friday night, so I had all of saturday to recover any roughness, to be fully sober for sunday's ride.
I attached my balloon to my bike and set off to the meeting point. Cheers of Happy Birthday followed in my wake. Lovely.

I'd warned the Rough Stuffers that this ride would have some hills. Some real beauties. We set off straight up hill out of the park for a warm up, followed by a further 7 miles of ascent over the moors on the Gorple Rd packhorse trail. Beautiful views stretched as far as the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks in the clear skies. A rarity where we live, usually this vista is just loads of clouds, or else just rain.

We had a breather at the top by Gorple Stones overlooking Gorple Reservoir in anticipation of the rough descent towards Widdop Res. The braver of us zoomed ahead, I had a bit of a chat with John on the way down, so we took things a bit more steadily. Lovely to hear of tales of someone elses Dad bringing them over to Widdop in their youth. This place is very special to me and is where my Dad's ashes were scattered.

Spot the birthday balloon!

Some undulating hills brought us to the tops of the National Trusts Hardcastle Crags. Beautiful autumn colours below. We didnt visit the site today and probably a good call too since when we rode past the car park, it was so busy people were being turned away. I will save the usual slice of Yorkshire curd tart that I eat there, for another time. 
We descended to Hebden Bridge to the only mishap of the day. Stephen's handlebar caught my balloon and one loud bang later, it was no more. 

We lunched in the newly reopened park life cafe. Veggie hotdogs for your birthday lunch are spot on! I also completed my 5th brew of the Coffeeneuring challenge!! Sitting in the shade was quite cool and for the next few shaded miles along the canal, I picked up the pace for some warmth. The canal was still full to bursting following the recent flooding and we cycled through some gushing overflows on the towpath. 

After an easy couple of canal miles to digest lunch, the real challenge began. A long steep climb from the bottom of the valley at Todmorden up, up, up onto the moors, passing Dobroyd Castle below and some spectacular views. We took it easy and if there was any cussing of my name, I didnt hear it. 
620 feet of ascent in 2 miles. Slightly easier than the route I took last time on a parallel road up the hill.

Click for full size. It's a really lovely view :-)
A boggy bridleway and a swooping downhill later and we were on the last leg of the journey back to base.
One of the rider's, Frank must have really had a great ride - 'You should have a birthday every week'. That really was a brilliant compliment.  An unexpected birthday card from Irene who couldnt make the day,  delivered by her husband, John was really touching and I hope she's better soon.

The first big ride I've done seemed a great success. Really looking forward to my next one.  A fantastic birthday!

More pictures and the RSF ride report

Monday, 15 October 2012

Old favourites & new tracks

After a long week in work I was relishing cycling to meet up with the family friendly sector of my cycling club, I woke up bright and early and donned a winter cardigan and my gloves.

I cycled a hilly 6 miles to the meet point. The roads were quiet and the autumn mists were beginning to clear.
Jubilee Tower, Darwen

A friendly troup in a car waved as they passed me - Brian and his family were going to beat me to the start point!
I enjoyed my coffeeneuring challenge brew stop and caught up on news since my holidays.

One of our younger riders was now off the tagalong and on his own bike so our route would be determined by how his stamina was holding up.

A good turn out of 14 riders braved the chilly autumn morning to ride along the muddy riverside track. And some people even braved cycling through the ford a couple of times - I chickened out, but as I was taking this photo, one young lady cycled through & I got splashed! Brrrr!!

White Coppice

I admired this old Peugeot's handlebars - not seen any like this before, so I had to take a picture :-)

We looped back to the tea room for more brews and cakes before I parted for my solo return ride along a disused railway and some farm tracks that Brian had suggested I try to get onto the canal further along. It was a lovely new area to discover, albeit muddy and cow patty in places, my boots were a right state when I got home.
Brilliant fun.

Abbey Village Reservoir