Wednesday, 28 October 2009


"There was a guy,
(an under water guy who controlled the sea )
got killed by ten million pounds of sludge " *


Turned into a fairly usual type of thing this week . I was kinda needing to be back early anyway , so .
So , anyway.
I'd intended to get over to Turton Heights . That's up over Winter Hill , then on and up and over the next hill , looping back around to come over Winter Hill again . A bigger than average loop .


In the end it did'nt happen . Stu was grumbling from a sore ankle sustained in Spain , ( where it mainly rains on the plain ) , so we cut it short and headed back . We still got in the san marino DH , though , so it was still a decent enough spin .
The other thing . Where we were heading would'nt have been too good . Apart from it being quite very windy , we'd had some rain the day before and the moorland off-piste was very wet . Not that it'd normally stop us ,but under the circumstances .


We didnt take the easy option back over , either . Opting instead for the debasing bog yomp that runs parallel ( ish ) with the road ( sheephouse / Belmont Rd ).
It was wet . Very . I am a debaser.

Not many Pix's this week.
Here comes your map

Sunday, 18 October 2009


"Slide feet up street bend your back,
Shift your arm then you pull it back,
Life's hard you know (oh whey oh) "

Cold today . Damp and cold . First winter ride ? Could be . It was wet and boggy last week , but it wasnt cold like this .
Anyway .
Met Dave and Gareth at the usual ,and headed up the usual , as usual . I'd meant to set off a little different , down then up , but we were halfay up towards the gardens before I remembered.
So then .
We bump into Matt on his magic singlespeed near the Pidgeon Tower and chew the fat for a few minutes with him as a bunch of guys ride past . They're heading around the moor towards the Belmont Rd and so are we , so in a few minutes after barrelling down the rough path , we catch them up . They're heading up over Spitlers , same as us , and so we make a group of it . I dunno , maybe 12 of us as we're lifting our bikes over the first gate and on up the slippy climb .
We soon line out up the hill. It's a slippy tough climb at the best of times in the best of weather , but today it's fairly all slippy , with wet grass , punctuated with boggy bits , interspersed with grease. And some blancmange .
What ensues are a few comedy moments as riders struggle for grip , but this culminates in quite simply the best ' off ' I have ever seen . And I've seen some .
I've been up here more than a few times , but I would'nt say I intimately know every bit . Riding across the moorland there's a sense of drama as you approach a boggy bit . Looking for cues , other tyre marks or footprints , you can gauge if it's going to be rideable , or eat you up . It's a 50:50 thing. Some you win . And then...

I was up front and as I approached a bit I know to be very boggy I hesitated to scope it . In drier weather it can be rideable ,but 9 times out of 10 it's a boggy mess. As I'm just weighing it up , and thinking of erring on the side of caution , one of the lads , the group whippet , comes alongside me , says something or other about having a go , and drops in .

His front wheel literally disappeared up to the fork crown and he was thrown over the top , no stopping it , and he landed with a splaat , face first in the stinkiest evil gloop .He wouldnt hang around in there long enough to let me get my camera out .



So , we carry on . Initially we're riding with the group . It doesnt so much dry out , but on the top there seems to be slightly , only slightly less deep gloop . Catching up after taking the above pix I ride along the line of a demolished drystone wall , that whilst still tricky makes for a lot better progress. As I catch up the lads near the front I'm aware that I'm wet down my left side . My camelbak ( copy ) bladder is leaking from the tube and I'm getting Redbull ( copy ) all over the gaff. So I retrieve my Leatherman ( copy ) and tighten it up to stem the flow . After all this faff , Gareth gets a slippy grip and the group of lads continue on . But we can still see them . Halfway along the top of Spitlers Edge the boggy 'path ' abruptly ends and is replaced with a few miles of stone slabs . Pavers laid end to end , rolling up and down acroos the moors to Great Hill . Some of the slabs are a bit edgy , and the one thing you need to watch out for are snakes. The kind that bite tyres . Up ahead the guys are stopped now and gathered round one of the riders . We catch them up . One of them has flatted , a snakebite on a blunt edge slab , and is in the middle of fixing it . We carry on towards Great Hill . A bit of a grind up to the last bit , but the slabs make it very do-able .

We did'nt see the lads again except in the distance over on the slabs. We had a few minutes on the summit and then headed down over towards Wheelton .
I do keep saying how good the Cannondale Rush is ,corporate whore that I am , but it is . Good . On a ride like this it's very near to the perfect tool for the job . Just over 4" at the back is about spot on . The downhill off Great Hill is a cracker and a good test . Heading this way the slabs only run for a 100 mtr , or so , and then as the path drops away , steep water bars come up quick and hard . The trail sweeps and turns , over the gate of reduced fun ,gotta stop , and then on.
I rode up here last week and mentally made a note of this next section . It's a fairly hard packed gravel surface , but , probably due to heavy rain off the hill ,a channel has been cut in . It snakes lazily from one side to the other , all the way until the path flattens out and it requires a generous amount of English to work the bike . Really good . Fast and techy too.
We ignore the obvious path to our left to White Coppice and head on over the moors . More gravel , a few sandy corners , I shoot off ahead , ' big ringing it ' to get a few more pix as we leave the moors .

And then I've got a puncture .Pinch . Damned snakes . Doh ! I like tyres , me . You should try riding without them . Anyway , the ongoing saga of the Conti ' MTN Kings , goes on . They've been OK today . Ish . On the boggy bits they seemed to be OK . It was that wet and boggy though it's hard to be objective. On the long run of hard slabs from Spitlers to Great Hill , though , it's very nearly a different story . I was'nt playing to the gallery ( as I might usually ) shouting out on one of the slab bridges as the front end was squirming away from me. I cant make my mind up if it's the sidewalls that are flexi ( they are thin ), or the tread blocks that are squirmy ( they are soft ) , OR if it's a bit or lot of both .You can discount flex from the 'dale . There's none . Like I keeeeep on saying , I'd have the verticals . On a bike like the Rush , or any 4 " er , you can get up a fair lick of speed and you want something that's going to do the biz.
We snick into the woods above Wheelton , inflated , past the first walker in ages ,and head on techy singletrack before dropping down the MiniBC rollercoaster to the edge of the woods at the White Coppice end . Another great downhill over too quick on the too good Rush.
Lance and Vino ,in between shaving their legs , briefly mention a swift tarmac exit back to the caff , but after a prod realise how ridiculous this sounds .
We head along the hidden valley towards The Goit , joined by Ian who's up here on a map reading exercise and isnt exactly lost. He follows us along the very techy narrow path . I slip a pedal and bang my shin . Exquisite. It seems a bit techier than the last time I rode it . The low BB on the Rush that's good for stability is a trade off in pedal grabbing situations like this . Ah well .
Ian heads up the 17% road climb , and we go the other way towards the Nab. Over the main Nab path , and down the other side.Past the farm , turn at the Yew Tree , and then up the short climb on tired legs for the final downhill past the Yarrow Res'.
You can virtually smell the bacon.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


"I am king of all I see,
my kingdom for a voice.

Old man don't lay so still, you're not yet young there's time to teach, point to point point observation, children carry reservations
Standing on the shoulders of giants,
leaves me cold
Leaves me cold. *





After last weeks 'jigging it abaht a bit ' style , I fancied more of the same this week. I dug out the OS map ( SD explorer 287 ) and with trusty google earth ( GE )/ mapmyride I picked out a route.

This was midweek . We've had some nice autumnal sunny weather . Mild and nice . All it is has to do is hold for the weekend.......


It wasnt actually too bad leaving home but I could see it was all a bit overcast on the hills . Approaching Horwich I was not greeted with the usual inspirational view of the Pike . It's like this : If you let the weather dictate when and where you ride in this country , you'd never get out at all . Just do it .The route I've set out though doesnt exactly lend itself to the wet stuff . It's going to turn into a boggy yomp across open moorland. Ace.

There's a feature on the map that has jumped out at me for years but I've never actually made the effort to go there . It's a bit off the beaten path , some might say inaccessable . There's isnt a clearly defined path marked on the map , so I zoomed in on GE and developed a picture in my head . Google proper revealed more info . I was scanning rambling websites for best directions / routes , when I found more than I bargained for . It turns out ' Round Loaf ' is a 3500 yr old bronze age burial mound . Furthermore , it aligns perfectly with a 'longcairn burial chamber ' near Leadmines , and the summit of Great Hill . ( Roundloaf being in the middle ) . Worth a visit I'd say , and , as it's all in straight line it'll be a doddle to find. All we have to do is get up to Great Hill and ' eye it up ' .

Today I'm riding the Cannonale Rush . My trusty sidekick and closet wed night roadie friend Stu is riding the Rize . The big green one . Theyre due to be swapped for 2010s any minute , so hopefully they'll get a good send off today. Stu had yet to try the Rize . " It was good " , He said. It is . A 'go anywhere bike ' I once said . I dont know if Cannondale quite realise what that means , but we'll see.

Setting off it is already raining . Rick has turned up with his mate Sham . Andy has also made the effort , and a special mention goes to Dave who's ridden up from home and already is soaked . It's not very cold though and I soon feel a bit sticky. We head up alongside Yarrow Res' , drop down through the trees ,and then at the YewTree turn right towards Healy Nab .

It's a stiff climb up to the Nab . I hit a rock and stop about halfway up , Stu sails past on his Kawasaki making motorbike noises .

Healy Nab woods now has a small MTB play trail thingy . I didnt mind the old downhill with the tricky drop corner at the bottom , but, in for a penny. It's not a bad little trail . Not big enough for a dedicated day out visit , but OK to pass through on a ride like this . It's tight and twisty , and today , fairly slippy . Good laugh though.

We pop out on the road above White Coppice . We're heading over to Wheelton Woods . I stuck this in the route simply because I dont seem to have been for ages . It's a short mile or so on the road , avoiding the sticky stuff . Easy . Then local lad , Dave spots a ' short cut ' he knows . In for a pound . Shortly , short cutting ,through sticky stuff we're being led through a farmyard by two accomodating farm ladies who asked us if we were lost. I knew we were exactly a short mile , or so , from Wheelton Woods .

We take the obvious path up through the woods. It's a tough climb , but has a good surface , even today. Andy romps up on his singlespeed, in the granny gear. We exit the woods for more climbing on the cut-up tarmac to the edge of the moorland, and have a minute . The calm before the storm .

We string out across the moorland path to Great Hill. Its not a bad surface . Today though there's a stiff breeze blowing through damp jackets and the odd eroded bit and deep puddles make for tough riding . I think Sham's having a bit of a moment with it . We regroup at the top of the White Coppice run,( not today ), and I assure him it's not always like this , whilst fully expecting it to get worse . It's a tough climb up to Great Hill and when we drop off it's going to be wet and slow going across the moors. I have that GE picture in my head and remind myself it's less than a kilometre from Great Hill to Roundloaf . If you say " less than a click " it not only sounds closer , but also you sound like you were in 'nam.

The climb up to Great Hill goes as expected . Tough but on the super 'dale I clean it . Which was good . The tyres, that earlier in the year I didnt rate too high, have been good the last few weeks. The Rush has a stretched out , old school feel that I like ( well I would ) , but it might not be for everyone . The BB feels low . At speed this is good but there's a chance of pedal scrapes in ruts and the like. Y' just have to go with it . Cannondale have dropped the Rush for oh-ten and replaced it with a Rize-like RZ120 . I'm sure that will be very good , but I do like the simplicity of the Rush . Ah well . Almost in complete opposition to the simple single pivot frame is the Joe-90 Lefty fork. I'm struggling to find a reason for it other that it's bonkers selling point looks. It's been working as well as a regular fork though . I like it , it's just a bit mad.

So , we regroup on top of Great Hill and have a minute . Time to look for Roundloaf ...... It's

The picture in my mind didnt account for low cloud.

We drop off on slippy stones , winding down to a valley that bisects the moorland. Rick is ploughing on. Dave has an idea where we're heading and says we need to be on the other side of a wet gully . This doesnt exactly contrast with the picture in my head , and the map doesnt look very clear , so we shout Rick to come back , he'll be over Spitlers Edge in a mo , and we turn 90 deg' off the slabs .

What ensued could be described many ways depending on your point of view. It's very wet , coldish , very boggy , and we now cant get line of sight on where we are going .

Or where we have been .

Stu's talking about getting a lift home off the RAF.

This is shaping up to be an epic . At the point of no return I dismount and my foot sinks in up to just below the knee. Mega.

After what was only about 5 mins of this , but it seemed like more , I got the map out . The cloud had lifted , or more likely blown away , from Great Hill . I get the compass out , ( honest ) , take a bearing , and we carry on . Dave is on point and shortly signals ' eyes on ' . Result . Just over the next rise is Roundloaf . We pick up a path . It leads to a grassy lump that has a pile of stones on top.

It's 3500 years old .

Well that was good .

A perfectly punishing ride like this should probably end on some wild roller coaster downhill in the sun. I had every intention of heading for the next bronze age feature at ' Pike Stones ' , near leadmines . Quite apart from time ticking away , we take a path off Round Loaf that doesnt quite head over that way,and is ,surprise surprise, fairly boggy . There's a steep sided wet gully to cross , and whilst it's tantalisingly close it's just not going to happen . Not today. We head back , down the LeadMines roller coaster , no sun though , to the cafe for more calories than is sensible.
Same time next week ?
* REM . King of Birds .' Document ' album . It was the first song on the CD in the car when I got in this morning and thought it was quite fitting .
I'll stick the map up when I get a minute , but right now I'm literally bog-eyed.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


"I played around with love before,
I was silly and you know that I played the fool .
But then you came into my life and you changed that,
Cause I know what I want and where it's at ,
Yeah " *

Excellent spin out today. classic ,pioneering spirit ride of adventure , stylee.

Apart from Jeff picking me up in the car , but , stay tuned.

Set out from the usual Rivi' car park . Bit chilly . Finding it hard work on cold legs , and with a bit of a banging head . Late night last night . No sauce , but , it was Amy's , my daughter's, birthday ( 8 ). Turned into a late one .

So we climb on and up the usual ,back of the barn, and just as we're getting some kind of rythmn , we bump into Andy the plumber. I hope he's corgi registerered. Gassing , see ?

He's heading back , and we're heading off , so we press on . Cold again out of the sun . Hmm. I've a route in mind that I've been meaning to do all summer , but the opportunity has'nt arisen as yet . Variation on a theme , jig it about a bit , keep it fresh .I was going to come on one of the vintage bikes in the quiver , but for a couple of logistical reasons I opt for the Cannondale Rush. Besides , it's up for renewal anytime and should at least be run-in when it goes.

We pop out at the usual ' Pidgeon Tower ' and whereas we'd often head to the Pike , today we head away towards Belmont Lane / Georges lane , around the back of the moor . I tend to come up this the other way . It's a bit of a boneshaker , and very wet . Running water and rock strewn puddles . Bit greasy . Incidentally the view of Hordern Stoops in the bright morning sunshine and the the view to the west ( gazes westward....Clwydian range....)was spectaclear.

I'd pre-empted this rock strewn puddle tomfoolery and fitted a pair of mudguards . Jeff ,( Geordicus mannuss alivus) eschews such refinements . How we laughed as we popped out on the Sheep House lane , me absolutely bone dry with hardly a speck of mud , and him utterly slathered from head to toe like some kind of mud fetish tiswas cage beauty spa facial inmate. Yea . Just like that.

In a further break from convention , we head down towards Belmont on the tarmac for only a minute or so , then dive off to take that sneaky muddy moorland uphill from the post-office ( ? ) . Except today we have the run of the hill and are heading down . Usually we'd climb up this . It can be a bit of a slimy old dog of a climb , but still preferable to the road. I'm thinking that even if it's boggy ( which is likely ) , we'll have Newton on our side , and it wont be too bad .

Er.... OK . It was muddy , but the phrase of the day was ' It's do-able ' . And it was . A few dabs . Some rancid stinky bits , but it was OK . Do - able .

We pop out at the post office in Belmont and turn right , heading for the 'San-marino tunnel'. I no what you're thinking ( did he fire 6 shots , or only 5 ). You're right . We're at the wrong end of the downhill . The uphill bit . It's do-able .

I've been MTBing a fair old while now , who's counting , but I can't ever remember riding up this . I might have very early on , but I cant remember , and I can remember most things .

So we dig in and head up . To truly know the downhill one must first conquer the uphill . It's a basic teaching that underpins all buddhism. We know that hill . Booya. It's a long , virtually relentless spin up . There's a little respite about a third up , on that twisty cutting bit (?), but apart from that it's up up up all the way . It really is all do-able too. Theres no point where it is too steep or too slippy . I dabbed once and so did Jeff .Near the top it gets a little stony and rutted , just as you've properly had enough and you can taste the gate . It's a good test .

Oh , I should mention the Cannondale Rush . Er ,very good . Climbs very well .

We're rewarded for our efforts with a different , equally spectaclearly good view . Nice day today . Bit nippy up top . All downhill from here ....Bwhahaha

At the gate ,facing the mast , we turn left ,across the moors ,initially on that detour bit,but we carry on . I'm on a mission . I'm thinking ,again , that we have the lie of the land in our favour and whilst I guess , nay expect muddiness , it will be all , er , do-able . I'm seeking out Dean Head Reservoir . I've never seen it , and wish too . Do I need any other reason ?

Lie of the land or not , it is proper gungy. Spinning in a low gear though we make decent enough progress. I googlemapped it at a mile from the gate to the turning for the reservoir . It was a long mile .

We turn off to our right . We can already see the reservoir , shimmering like a million mirrorballs , the trail leads down , still a bit boggy and twisty to take us virtually down to the waters edge and a really nice view off in the distance of the daddy mast and it's little baby towers. We stopped for a few minutes , accompanied by a stiff cool breeze , just taking it all in . And some Terry's chocolate orange. It was'nt Terry's , it was Jeff's.
We set off , and whilst I have a vague idea where we're going , it's not crystal.Winging it .I drop down a steep bank to our left that tightens into scalextric singletrack ( scalextrack ? ) for a few hundred metres. Brilliant twisty old school new downhill fun ensues ,with a sharp shocker of a corner to finish ,that I came very close to getting intimate with.
Then it goes a bit wrong . Just a little . My googlemap picture in my head is a bit fuzzy . At a gate the trail seems to continue ,albeit very poorly defined , on towards the Walker Fold area . Minutes later 'wading ' through the impassable deep marram grass I was transported back in time to my minds eye , and a previous bike/life/adventure. These modern bikes are all well and good , but you just cant beat getting a bit off piste.

On the familiar equestrian trails around Walker Fold now , heading back , a bit more 'upness'. Up through the secret hidden valley , across the mast rd , and then up again to the Two Lads . And relax . Nearly there . And another brilliant view , black rainclouds over Billinge , and Blackpool Tower popping up on the horizon .What a day . Chilly stiff wind up here ,though.

The Two Lads descent down to the dog kennels is rapidly becoming a favourite of mine . The last few times I've been down it I 've been on one of the brilliant demo Scotts . As good as they were/are ,with the brakes the wrong way around ( for me ) , I could never quite feel 100% happy letting them rip . No such problem on the Cannondale rush here. I've said that over a certain price all good bikes are good. Yea , the Scotts are fantastic but the Cannondale at roughly half the price is no slouch either . It's a 4" travel bike that feels bigger . Even with the mad lefty 'fork ' up front it is pretty good. I open up the taps and let it rip . It tracks corners so very positively and the back end is so stiff laterally it feels superb dropping off the big drops into the channel . Momentarily I remind myself that I'm going faster than I like , but keep it open anyway . The tyres deserve a mention . I like tyres , me . You should try riding without them . Anyway , today I have the Continental Mountain King in a 2.2 and a 2.4. Previously I had'nt really rated them . I dont think theyre as versatile for our trails as the Verticals,and cost more. Today though , they have been OK , good even . On the slippy muddy sections , of which there were many , they worked well and cleaned off well . They're technically the wrong way round though . Mark ( that pierced pie eyed weirdo out of the shop )rode the bike on the manc2B'pool ride and swapped the tyres for slicks . When he put the proper tyres back on he put the thin one on the front , and the fat one on the back . They worked well enough though , so I'm not complaining . They were so squirmy on the short tarmac sections though, at one point I thought I had a flat .

Jeff dusts himself off after a minor disagreement with the steps to the kennels , and we carry on , carward bound . Under the shadow of the Pike , not today , and on to the Ice Cream Run . I drop the saddle and cane it down ,too fast again . The Rush is brilliant . On a hill like this you'd never need any more . What could top such a brilliant ride ?
Two ' 99s' served at the bottom of the ICR by a lovely young eastern european lady , wearing an impossibly tight pair of jeans that just fitted all the right places . Iz nice .


* Fat back (tyre) band.

I left my camera phone at the car , so no pix , but I'll put the map up .
Here .....I plotted it in a hurry , but you'll get the gist of it. If you click on the graphic you can see the elevation and open it up in googleearth ,and stuff.