Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Start of the Illuminations, End of summer

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Blackpool Illuminations.
For anyone outside of the north of England, the Illuminations are an institution here. A right of passage for children as the night's draw in and autumn takes hold.
My cousins & I had a visit or two sat in the back of a 2cv with the top rolled back for maximum viewing.

In my childhood and probably still for most, the lights are viewed from the back of a car crawling along for 6 grueling (for the driver) miles.  For the last few years, afew days before the official switch on, the front has been closed to cars to let people see the lights by bike. You go faster than in a car, get a better view and there was a pretty nice atmosphere. Ok there were some teenagers riding far too fast and irresponsibly, but that's to be expected when nigh on 10,000 people are cycling!

I'd been off my bike with the lurgy for just over a week, so we extended the ride by setting off from Lytham, making a nice 22 mile evening seaside ride. Plus we didnt want to get to the lights when it was still daylight.

Lytham Windmill. All sails fixed after the gales the other year

If you cant get your bike to Blackpool, they now have Hourbike bike hire scheme similar to the scheme in London.  The bikes are a lovely bright yellow & are stationed at intervals along the promenade (just for adults tho). We saw quite a few people riding them and they look in really good condition at the moment. A great idea if people want to get to Blackpool by train / bus and then explore the prom.
I hadnt heard about the Hourbike scheme until yesterday - they also have them in Southport & Dumfries.

the lights stretching to Central Pier and beyond

As usual there are aliens, animals, jewels as well as Sponge Bob Square Pants, Darleks and The Tardis, tableau showcasing nursery rhymes, a tram dedicated to the Queen's Jubilee.  

The Big One at the Pleasure Beach. Once the tallest roller coaster in the world, not sure if it still is.

Seeing the newly refurbished prom and the new trams was lovely.
Blackpool is the only place in the country that still uses a first generation tram system. It opened in 1885 and has been used all the way through until present day.  It's one of the few tram systems in the world that uses double decker trams.
Sadly for the illuminations, they dont seem to have any of the old decorated lit up trams running anymore. That's a big loss for me - my favourite part of the lights as a child was seeing the big tram that was lit up like a boat sailing up and down the Golden Mile.
But I guess the transport system was long out of date and well overdue upgrading.

windswept with North Pier behind. Sadly the bike's glow-sticks didnt glow with the camera flash lighting things up.

The Brightest Illumination of them all. A lovely evening to ride along the seaside

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The week in rides

It's been a busy week, both on & off the bike. I cant believe it's almost monday morning again.

This week I lead my first Rough Stuff Family Friendly ride. It's usually just Brian's & his family on these (they're on holiday), but I thought I'd try a new route and give leading a go. I expected nobody would turn up. I had one rider - Geoff came over for the sedate 13 miles between Towneley Park & Gawthorpe via the canal, by the River Calder & back on the Padiham Greenway.  Geoff's great company on a ride & with only one other in tow, I didnt really feel like I was being a ride leader. At least there weren't too many mishaps...

Geoff's picture of Gawthorpe Hall
Towneley Park

The other major event this week was the official opening of the Preston Guild Wheel - there was a charity bike ride to mark the opening of the 21 mile circular greenway.  I put my name down to marshall.  I managed a lovely 25 mile ride there in the sunshine, met up with some Rough Stuffers for a brew & a gab, only to end up riding the last ten minutes to my marshal point in some mean rain.  Cycling in rain is alright when you're prepared. But standing around pointing for 3 & a bit hours with no shelter is a bit bobbins.  Happily most riders seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the route despite the weather. Two young boys had done 4 miles on scooters and said they were doing the whole loop; I wonder if their parents knew.
I didnt quite make the full ride home. Suffered a puncture almost half way, which wasnt far from my other half's house, so ended up cutting my planned 50 miles down to 38, but given the weather, I didnt mind too much.

Photo highlight of the week was...
sending S through a water splash that was much much deeper than we'd bargained for. Oops.
I also managed some rides to visit friends in various bits of the county too for brews and food.

Phew. Couldnt have packed much more into this week. I need a day of rest, cant tomorrow be sunday markII ?!

Hope you managed to pack some great variety of rides into your week too :-)

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Working those road bike leg muscles

My vintage Cliff Pratt velo
I took my 60s ten speed mixte out for a quick blast in the sunshine today.  It was a thigh burning 26 miles with 2100 ft of ascent. But not my usual thigh burn on the tops of my legs that I get on my upright hybrid. When I ride my drops, it's the side of my thighs that feels it and since I ride this bike less often, getting up steep hills is challenging!  But the breath taking views are always worth it.

Calderdale is a beautiful part of the region, but certainly has the steepest hills that I've come across in my life. I avoided the two worst ones that I know of and did a more 'sedate' loop up to Blackshaw Head and back past Widdop Reservoir, thus not dropping all the way to the bottom of the valley to eliminate some extra climbing.

Hardcastle Crags in the valley below

Widdop Reservoir

See that road snaking up to the clouds? That was a fantastic descent.  It felt to take less than a minute to get to the bottom of the hill.  Having a steel bike with some heavy gears probably contributed to that somewhat.

the view from the other side of Thursden Valley
I was in this part of my region afew weeks ago doing an off road ride (see previous ). The feel of the countryside seemed completely different somehow from the saddle of my roadie.

My mum sometimes asks me which bike I prefer. I dont think there's an answer - the two rides are not comparable and I still have a way to go to really get my head round what gears to use on the hills on my road bike; it somehow isnt as instinctive as the hybrid. I feel to loose a lot more pace as I gear down but still feel to be putting in an incredible amount of effort, perhaps that's the weight of the gears - the steeper the hill, the more I need to pull. She's fun, but we still have a way to go getting to know each other.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Seaside Cycling

The coast may not be up in the hills, but Southport is the start of the Trans Pennine Trail so I guess it counts as Pennine Peddling  after all.


The Sefton Coast is my favourite local coastal area to go to & it is a great place to go riding and walking. Sure it's flat, but riding on the beach for a few miles feels quite like riding up hill pushing against all that sand... it's no wonder whenever I go, I never see anybody else with their bike on the beach.  And we dont recommend trying to ride over the dunes at all.... S had a very slow soft landing trying :-)

We set off from Southport on the cycle route then a fun  few miles on the beach down to Formby. There are markers at the side of the dunes showing where the paths are behind them. The paths are lovely and snake through pine trees. Plenty of wildlife - if you're very lucky you may spot a red squirrel, otherwise plenty of butterflies. 

After some fun swooping over the roots of trees, the cycle path follows the railway back to Ainsdale, this is to become Sustrans Route 801.

A fun, easy going 19 miles in the sunshine. Ideal after the previous day's 29 miles of thigh burning bridleways!!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Ride Recon

After moving offices the other month, I've discovered some amazing views that I feel I should share with some of my fellow Rough Stuff riders.  So after some map deliberation, yesterday we set off to do an initial trail run of the route I'd mapped out.

I've never lead a group ride before, and I've realised that there are lots of things to take into consideration when inflicting your own riding plans on others. Usually it's just S & myself so if things are far too hard it doesn't matter so much.  I will be giving the ride some thinking over - some bits I wasn't happy with seem impossible to avoid to get to the really juicy bits.  I guess that's par for the course when planning a group ride tho. But S was very positive about the ride on the whole, so perhaps I shouldn't over think the problem bits.  I also still need to really think about the cafe stops. This is actually quite head scratchy. Especially when it's areas that are new to me too.

Clearly good bike riding territory!! Are you worried yet?
A whole geographical black spot has been filled in, in my head after the ride. Exploring new areas in my region is always exciting.
And we also found a fun bmx area in the middle of nowhere :-)

Winter Hill & Hoddleston Res in the distance

The firing range. Peel Tower up and Manchester below
The ride had a balanced amount of on & off road, and the off road bits were really good fun!

River Irwell. Giving my bike a breather

NCN6 in Rossendale

Musbury Tor

Helmshore Textiles Museum.  Well worth a visit too. Old & modern history of textiles in the North West

there was lots of colourful nature on this ride too

We did beat these rain clouds back home!!