Sunday, 21 September 2008



"Niner niner zero
This is Star Comm
We got a problem
On your vector
Request status check

Oh, baby..." *

Another good ride today . The weather doesnt make the ride ,but it definitely helps.
Tagged on an old favourite too,and not without incident.Ah well . It's all mountainbiking.

I picked up Danny with a car full of bikes. One for him , the Fisher HiFi,one for our Matthew ,the Commencal Meta ,and one for me ,the ,er ,20 yr old Diamond Back Axis. The best of the bunch . Ahem.

Who am I kidding?


Met Gareth on the barn rd at 0800. Not seen him for a few weeks ,now that he's 'taken'. Presently Jeff turned up then Andy.
A bit of faffing . Usual thing ,putting wheels on ,tightening skewers etc when suddenly Gareth lets out a yelp.He's left his dancing shoes at home. Nightmare ! At least now he's married he has someone else to blame.
A quick one for him then . He sets off back for home ,not fancying a round trip of an hour just to get his shoes ,but earnestly promises to get out on his roadbike when he gets home. Just a quick '100' to Kendal ,via Shap ,and four Hail Mary's for you me laddo.
We set off then ,already one down. Classic 'up' to the Pike .I would have taken some pix ,but I forgotten my camera/phone. Doh . Only the most photogenic day of the last 2 months.Hmm.

Off the back of the Pike ,usual same old ,(it's becoming a warm-up),except I've not got 5 1/2 " swinging between my legs. The Axis has exactly 6.4mm of suspension travel ,which is the amount the rubber tyre knobs deflect. A bit different than the 'usual' then ,for me at least.No incidents just yet. Stay tuned reader.
Next up . 'Usual half ass attempt at wilders moor and the Humphreys Ditch crossing of doom ,that is EVEN MORE ERODED. I fully expect magma to erupt from within at any moment.
I had a fair crack though ,fully utilising the surgical precision of the Axis' japanese steel only to be thwarted once more by that tricky bloody exit.Almost had a comedy uphill 'over the bars' too.Nice red mark developing on my leg right now. Scars are memories ,you know.
Past the 'Two Lads ' up to the mast . Still off limits because of the digickal enabling works.
I have still not been asked if I want digital.
We divert right across the slabs but carry on a little farther before we turn left to go around the mast. A bit wet ,touching on 'trialsy' in places. Wierd having the bike kind of 'floating ' underneath oneself. Low gear ,keep spinning.
We avoid the 'Tunnel ' DH to Belmont. Jeff's chomping at the bit,but this week we're doing the 'stoop'. stay tuned . Incident imminent.

We pass the back of the 'secondary' masts. I'm feeling a tinge of trepidation ,or something. Horden Stoops start quite innocuously. A stunning panorama ( Gazes west . Ahhh ),Darwen Tower,Peel Monument ,Sunset Strip, Eiffel Tower,some sheeps,they're all there.Don't let the sirens pull you in though.The downhill needs 110%,and I'm on a 20 ( ish ) yr old bike ,with brakes made of toffee.I turn the adjuster a few times and set them to 'peanut brittle' and just point and shoot.The Axis is quick in the steering department. "Handles like a fish " ,someone once said. It's all split second stuff.Rolling along the top at first,a few drops here and there,then it comes on quick.The grass is like ice. Tricky.The big rut opens up threatening to swallow you whole ,never to be seen again,a near 'moment' on a big clump,balance on the limit,not a minute (of a degree) more, and i'm down in one piece.It is SO much more difficult on a rigid bike ,but , I've said this before ,so much more rewarding. Arms pumped. I stop.
Absolute silence. An absence of everything. No weather ,no birds . Just nothing .Just us. Good and freaky.
Andy's only moments behind ,he stops ,the story unfolds.
Danny's right here. The stoop is a new one for him. He's doing OK.50m to go, Weight back ,ya di da , a decent floaty speed , 40m ,last proper tricky bit coming up,30m,too much front brake ( ?),I dunno,fantastic dismount. Camera's in the car .
Matthew's on the Meta. The stoop is an old friend, I think ,but he hasnt visited for about 15 yrs.Same bit,fantastic dismount and a supremely athletic hurdle over Andy's stationary back wheel.Camera's still in the car .
Jeff ( keep your weight back),couple of dabs ,but largely without any problem.
And then ,like a 9mm behind the ear,Danny says " I've done me knee".
All kinds of things race through my head when I hear things like that. I can hear Michael Burke now.
It transpires that that dismount wasnt the first. Higher up he'd had an 'off ' banging afforementioned knee on previously unmentioned rock. Too much back brake }x ( skid+ rear wheel speeds up overtaking front) = ungentlemanly dismount.It's a mathematical type of formula that results in one taking a trip to hospital.On the stoop ,ie middle of nowhere,that would be in a Bell Jet Ranger.
Danny's a tough old bird though and convinces me he's OK . It's a 100m or so to the bottom bridleway/Belmont Rd. We carry on . I get to that scummy 'water' crossing and look back up the hill to see him 'stiff legging it ' behind us . Ace
On the bridleway we 'take 5' and Jeff uses his 'go go gadget' medicine cabinet backpack.After a snort of laudanum Danny's still in considerable discomfort ,but he just doesnt care any more.
What's wrong with you apes. Wanna live forever?
We carry on.It'll be sore tomorrow. No helicopter again this week . Result then.

With the best intentions of cutting it short and caffing it,we hoof along the tarmac back towards Rivington.Our other option is to go across the moors through sams pasture to Lead Mines Clough. It's Danny's shout . I'm easy. Either / or.
Theyre made of rubber these kids . I'd have phoned for the chopper. We go across the moors. It's only an extra 15 mins or so.

I had a right load of fun dropping down to the first boggy gully. No brakes all the way ,just pumping it,push through the ditch,Andy rearranges the walkers'traffic calming measures' and then another short hop to the bridge .More drystone speed bumps.
At the risk of sounding dead good, I'll mention the climb up from the little stone bridge. The Axis is in it's element on climbs like this . You gotta take the bull by the bar ends though .Made it ,dab-less. It's a different experience on the rigid bike.The full sussers almost treat these bits as transition stages between the 'proper' MTBing. Sit back and spin. Turn it on on the downhills. Not very yin -yang.On a rigid bike ,and definitely on the surgical Axis ,you need to be switched on the whole time. It wont forgive you in the way a bouncer will for the odd lapse,but focus on a climb like that ,and with a bit of luck thrown in ,you've more than half a chance. Anyway . I made it . I was pleased.Tough little techy climb.
The next bit across the moors is fairly featureless bridleway,another transition stage,but again ,on the rigid bike you soon use up that 6.4mm of suspension.And the Axis flies. The last time I really enjoyed this track I was on the Axis ( albeit the original gaffer taped one),spinning out 48x11.Funny that. Connected.Masochism.

Gate was locked halfway though.Went past a cow with a penis and horns. The realisation that it is NOT a cow comes a little too late . Luckily he plays it cool,and so do we.
Down through the lead Mines to Alance Bridge ,new rut. Manual . Kerching. Buzzing now.
Yarrow ,Rivi ,Tea rooms.
Caramel /Apple/Rhubarb ,and Betty.Or something. V.Nice. Earl Grey WITH lemon. Civilisation at last.
Home in time for dinner . Foie Gras. Bit over done.And relax.

*( I lost my heart to a.....) Starship Trooper.Sarah Brightman. Bonkers
It's a very tenuous link to a line from a book I inserted above.
I realise I have a problem .
Flashing lights in outer space...

Unforgetable. is that one 'T' or two ? I forget......

Saturday, 13 September 2008



"Zippin' up my boots
goin' back to my roots,
To the place of my birth,
back down to earth."*

Couple of differences this week. Biggest one , I suppose ,is that this Sunday ride was on a Saturday.The other big difference was ,in a classic style ,we left the car at home and hoofed it up.

Just Jeff and I this week.He got round to ours at 8.00 just as I was putting a bit more air in the tyres on the Fisher.

We set off ,jacketed up ,but as in recent weeks ,soon warmed up.Still proper muggy I think. 'Classic' route up to Rivi. Drop down to the canal ,out of Wigan towards Haigh ,but swung towards the Wuchie for some teary eyed reminiscing.( Me ,Jeff complaining about the impassable/impossible/improbable mud). Used to have SO much fun round here as a kid starting out on the mountainbikes.Good challenging climbs ,techy singletrack and killer drops. All out of bounds now. They're all still 'up there' in my mind though. What ever happened to Gaz ? His face looked like a pepperoni pizza when he came off that day. I can laugh now. We had to take him home.

We scoot towards Haigh ,just skirting the plantation ,and climb up to the top of Aspull,bit off road ,bit on ,and then towards Little Scotland ,Anderton , ya di da , Rivington.

We stay low for a while along the upper edge of Rivi Res' with 'views ' of the Pike and mast obscured by low cloud and end up at Liverpool castle were we kill our bananas.I get the camera/phone out for a pic and the maddest thing happens just at that moment . The sun comes out. Not seen the thing for a while . It seemed a bit weird.Nice though.And the cloud has burned off too. An impressive view of the Pike to cut out and pin to the wall of memory.
From here we take a different approach to the climb than normal,climbing up towards our favourite 'bombhole' at the 'ravine' end of the gardens. A proper tough climb . Just about steep enough to be classed as 'do-able',but with perma-wet cobbly stones a definite challenge. I'd like to say I 'cleaned' it . But I didnt . No shame in the odd dab.

Jeff had a problem here with a wayward LH crank arm coming loose. Luckily he had his trusty big allen key to sort it out. It would have been a long walk home without it. Just occasionally when I'm packing my backpack I'll think " Do I really need all this crap ? "

Usually the answer is "No ". But when you do........

With the crank tight we meander on up through the gardens,checking it again as we get to the toilet block.
From here up to the Pike . It'd be rude not to. Still muggy climbing up ,but just as we round one of the corners there's a definite drop of a degree or two and a clearing of the air .Mad . Nice though. Bumped into Matt on his singlespeed ,flying down,on his way to 10,000 miles.**

It's a bit cooler up top,but not cold enough to wrap up . We have a minute and drop off the back . Have I mentioned that I like this little downhill ? It's becoming even 'tastier'.I dont know if the drops up top are bigger,just a bit edgier . Or something. And there's a new rut appearing. Yay. Bloody masochist.
Weighing up our options ,and factoring in the not inconsiderate mileage home ,we decide on a caff run . Ice Cream Run is the easiest from here,just as it's starting to rain too. We must be just outside the confines of the 'weather vacuum'. It all adds to the life affirming experience I suppose.Maybe it was the rain and the wet rocks ,I dunno,but the fisher isnt quite as 'easy' as last weeks Commencal. Is that a good thing ,or not?

Kid Rock's on the radio. Right now. Singing 'sweet home Alabama all summer long'. The Fisher is like that. It's a version of a classic . It isnt at all offensive, and makes you feel quite good.Again , I dunno . It takes me somewhere I like to be at.

Ice Cream Run. Caff.

In another break with what is becoming tradition ,I eschew the Earl Grey for a coffee quite simply bordering on ristretto ,paired with working class toasted white bread and marmalade to assuage hunger.
Hunger assuaged ,the earlier rain has blown over,we spin on the road into Horwich/Blackrod with a slight diversion through some woods to the A6 .Boggy.Nettle-y.
Shortly(more road) we arrive back on the top edge of Haigh plantation at the 'Balcarres Arms 'end,nipping down the side of the church for the long downhill into the woods. A fast well surfaced blast . Recently 'sanitised ' I'd say ,but still a blast all the same.

We just 'go through the motions ' and drop straight through the 'plants' ,avoiding any mad boggy stuff. As responsible ,mature MTBers we'd say the trails are 'unsustainable' when theyre so wet. The truth is though we'd had enough for one day and couldnt be arsed . There is one particularly wet bit I considered for a nanosecond.That run from the canal .( ? ) Maybe next week.

Return loop on the canal fairly uneventful ,apart from the canal lock in Poolstock coming off its 'hinges' and that whole section of the canal draining away. It was fine and full of water when we went past in the morning. The waterways guy said he thought it had been hit by a canal boat . Weekend drivers,eh ?

Scotsmans Flash.Landgate . Soughers Lane .Ya di dee. Dinner's in the dog.
IRO 35 miles .

*Odyssey. Back to my roots.
"Ain't talkin' 'bout no roots in the land,
Talkin' 'bout the roots in the man."

**Matt rides a singlespeed.He intends to ride 10,000 miles off road this year.Just think about that for a minute.


Sunday, 7 September 2008


"Move in, now move out
Hands up, now hands down
Back up, back up
Tell me what you're gonna do now
Breath in, now breath out
Hands up, now hands down
Back up, back up
Tell me what you're gonna do now
Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' rollin'
Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' rollin'
Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' rollin'
Uggh. " *

Good ride again today. The big gang of last week stayed in bed .Or something . Anyway , I picked Jeff up at 7.30 ,a right ungodly hour ,and we headed up for Rivington. Funny weather today. still a bit muggy ,definitely not cold. It was a good job I had decided to protect my jacket with a new squirt of waterproofing which guaranteed it wouldnt rain . Had I not done ,it definitely would have. It's a kind of magic.
We tootled up towards the Pike,Jeff ,being from geordieland set out wearing just a thong ,as it was I stashed my pacamac at the top of the first climb. Definitely muggy.

Usual dance up to the Pike ,but with the rain we had in the last few weeks some of the surface was washed away just to keep you on your toes.
Up top we bumped into Andy who we met about 6 weeks ago.After we'd had a good breather he decided to tag along with us ,although decided against the back drop off the pike. It was fairly washed out to. The usual tasty drops now quite a bit 'tastier' . It's how I like it . It's never the same hill week on week. I know it's 'only ' the pike ,but you dont quite get that at the perfectly buffed trail centres.

We turned left on the bridleway, past the Pike Cottage,pointing out the downhill behind. More of that later.
A bit further on we have the climb across Wilders Moor. New territory for Andy.Even more of a slog than last week ,which was more of a slog than the week before that. It's definitely getting wetter. Had a really good go at Humphreys Ditch . Nearly made it too. Literally spun out the back wheel just coming out the back . Grrr . There's always next week.

A short spin to the mast and we turn onto the slabs to loop around toward Smithills past Gilligants Farm. A good little bit, this. Seemingly inoccuous but not to be taken lightly. Slippy ruts run along the trail ,punctuated with boggy ,er ,bogs. Best taken with a bit of speed ,(" speed is your friend.". G.Woosey ),weight back ,and all that . Virgin territory for Andy again . Loving it. Luckily we all made it down in one piece with absolutely nothing at all even noteworthy worth mentioning at all.
Oh. I went over the bars. It was nothing.Not even a 'thing'.Haha.

Smithills/shooting hut bit

We turn past the farm ,regular bridleway stuff for a bit,taking us in a circuit back to the mast road. Up from here for the 'Dog Kennels'.
More wet stuff here.The bogs are getting boggy -er. Not a bad thing . Depends on your point of view.Another new one for Andy.Pretty standard stuff until you get to the last bit behind Pike Cottage we saw earlier. The drops above this seem a bit taller than usual,more evidence of the heavy rain. Just incase you havent noticed it over the last 6 weeks. What is going on ? it's not even funny anymore. Of course all the bees will be out in February and you'll be able to grow melons in Blackburn. And who doesnt like melons?

We all make it down the 'Dog Kennels ' in one piece. Options now from here. Loads .
We decide on the Ice Cream Run.Then the gardens . Then the Ice cream Run. Er.....Too many choices.
Ice Cream Run.
Good.Rocky (er).Wet (ish) . Dancing walkers ( I was 'choosing' my line). Point and squirt on the Meta.

Ice Cream Run bit.

At the bottom we split up . Andy's heading back to the car. Jeff and I are off to the caff. We've not done miles and miles,but we've earned a brew,I'm sure.
Earl Grey for me ,normal working class tea for Jeff,big slice o' choc fudge cake,each.
Next week then?

*Limp Bizkit. Rollin' . Not even worth a mention. Not even a 'thing'.In up to the front hub. Wallop.And tuck .And roll.Haha.