2019 and all that

Holy Blog Resurrection Batman!


I remember when this was all about bikes. Well from now on it will be about all sorts of random stuff. Lego, Airfix, being a dad, Karate… and bikes.

More to follow.


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Farewell to the Warhorse

I bought my Specialized FSR XC Pro in May 2005. At that time after a house, a car and an engagement ring it was the most expensive thing that I had ever purchased.

In the intervening 10 years me and the FSR have had some great times. We’ve done races, scouted routes for organising Hit the North, pootled with the kids (that weren’t around when I first got the bike), had big days out and recently have been thrashing about in the dark every Monday night. 

Together we’ve been through 3 forks, 2 saddles, 6 wheels, half a dozen bottom brackets, at least 4 rear mechs, 3 sets of back end bearings and numerous transmissions. In true “Trigger’s Broom” style there isn’t a lot of the original bike left.

We’ve ridden in the dark, at dawn, in sunlight and snow, solo and with masses for thousands of miles, with many close shaves and the occasional big crash. The frame is scratched, the bolt heads are rusty, the paint is dulled, the seat post is seized and there is a bend in one of the stays, but the old girl keeps on bouncing back. Well… it did until recently. It would appear that like an Alsatian of a similar age the back end has finally gone. After yet another trip to Cooksons for repairs I finally decided that the sensible course of action would be to cut my losses and get new bike.

They made me a very tempting offer on a spanky new Trek Fuel EX8 29er that had been loitering in the shop for a couple of months, but by the time I had sorted out the deposit somebody else had whipped in and bought it. Bugger. However, now the funds were in place I went off on a proper hunt and managed to get a Cannondale Trigger 4 29er for the best part of half price.

Where the FSR was long and low and matt black understated, the Trigger is big and wide and “Gulf” blue/orange shouty. The first ride was an absolute hoot, 6 Strava PBs and a dozen 2nds. And I wasn’t even trying to chuck it about as the front tyre looks a bit too “Californian” for muddy trails around Manchester.

So the FSR is in bits in a box ready to be cannibalised for spares to keep my Inbred and the wife’s Hardrock running for the next few years and me and Trigger are going to head off for a lot of mucking about.

I’ve changed bikes before, but the strange thing is that I’m actually sad to see the FSR go. The Trigger is better in every way, but at the moment it is just a bike. The FSR was a knackered, obsolete and a worn out money pit, but it was my bike.

The Cannondale has a tough act to follow, but we’ve got the next ten years or so to grow older together.



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Brown Drinks

I’m all for the regeneration of my home town. Let’s not kid ourselves, Prestwich isn’t a village, no matter how many signs they put up to say it is. Villages don’t have M&S, a big TESCO, a carpet warehouse, a second hand car lot and quite so many bookies, take aways and charity shops. It is brilliant that independent shops, restaurants and cafes seem to be making a go of it but the whole culture of using words such as Artisan, Community, Cooperative etc really puts me off. One man’s Artisan (unless they are restoring 18 century French furniture) is another man’s Wanker. If you are good at making and selling chocolates, buns, soup, light fittings, umbrellas, or whatever, then you don’t need to dress it up and appear quite so ghastly and pretentious.

If the market outside the Longfield advertised itself as Prestwich Produce Market I would go and probably spend a few quid. As soon as it gets labelled Artisan, Community or Farmer’s I mutter the W word under my breath as I drive past.

What has this got to do with push bikes then? Well, a couple of months ago a friend and fellow Prestwich cyclist, similarly irked by the on-going “urban poncification”, sent me a link about an event being held at the pub. “Green Drinks” – an opportunity for people with environmental leanings to get together and have a chat about it over a beer. No bad thing. However, there was a long list of how to go about organising it and guidelines for how to host the evening including what should and shouldn’t be on the agenda. Really. For generations people have been going to the pub and talking and drinking without the need for a website telling you how to do it. A good idea ponced to death.

As a knee jerk reaction (and to see how many Green Drinkers had actually turned up*) we decided to host the antithesis. The Monday night pub ride. A meeting point and a time were posted on the STW forum and that was it. We didn’t even mention that you needed to bring a bike, but people managed to work that bit out for themselves. Thinking back we should have called it “Brown Drinks”, but the deliberate lack of detail may have attracted someone with unusual… err… tastes.

Since then we’ve met every week and the numbers are growing as word is spreading. The usual routine is to spend 90 minutes messing about on the trails in and around Philips then spend an hour in the pub talking rubbish. When you consider that there can sometimes be 10 or more people out including a cycling journalist, a bike designer and a prominent endurance racer the conversation strangely doesn’t dwell on two wheeled subjects. In fact, I feel a bit left out because I’ve never been in a band, owned a sheep or made an energy drink from liquidised apple pies. We’ve done away fixtures in Todmorden and Ramsbottom and have got Darwen and Rivington lined up for the near future too.

So, if you fancy an organic community bike ride with the North West artisan dandy horse cooperative keep an eye out for details on the Singletrack forum and Twitter.

8:15, at the pub.

Bring a bike, but you don’t need to be told that.


Bull Hill

*There were 5 or 6 Green Drinkers. They appeared to be having a nice enough time without the need for copious on-line instructions, but the topic of conversation did seem to be computers by the time we all got there, and I’m not sure if that was allowed.

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Hit the North 4


“We’ll have to get the helicopter…”

My mind stops [PAUSE] my mind starts again. A ####ing helicopter?

There is a man down with a shoulder injury about 200m from where I am stood and somebody is suggesting bringing in a helicopter to get him out. The only place that it can land is in the main field that is full of tents and kids on bikes.  Luckily the head medic has a more realistic understanding of the situation and says that the casualty will probably be able to walk out after somebody has given him a quick once over, and he is right. Panic over.

This is Hit the North. Probably the daftest bike race in the country. What started off almost by accident in its current format has morphed into a monster. We’ve got 370 on the start list including some of the best people on 2 wheels in the country (Nick Craig, Dave Powell, Ant White, Ady Lawrence, Ian Taylor, Jenn Hopkins, Pete Hughes, Binners, Tony the electrician and Louis Canoe), we’ve got Guy Martin, we’ve got The Mayor complete with expensive looking shoes and a limo – more of which later, we’ve got a bagpiper and we’ve got several thousand Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.

The run up to this one has been less than smooth. There has been a lot of faffing over paperwork and last minute changes. Myself and Jason are getting a little cheesed off and it hasn’t been fun to be honest. But Friday has arrived, the sun is shining, we have our signs, tape and staple guns and we have work to do. Once I’m out on the course with Jason, and David and Laura Bradshaw from Sport Sunday who have volunteered to help, things seem much rosier. This year’s course is the best yet and it incorporates about 1000m of the new trail network including some very entertaining jumps and berms. We are also hosting the official opening ceremony complete with Mayor, council officials and a very big car. I have been reassured that the car won’t get stuck at the start because we only have a window of about 5 minutes to shift it before the pack will be on it. Chris Boardman once made the news when his team car ran over him, I don’t want this to happen to happen today.

9 hours later we are done. The course is spot on, the van is loaded and I’ve probably become the first person to eat his lunch in Morrisson’s café with an axe in his bag.

Race day dawns. I’ve been awake since 2:30 and I’m running on adrenaline and espresso. Jason has had a bad night too. The event has got to the stage where we can’t afford to look stupid. People have paid a lot of money to come today and we’ve got some big names in the field too. Getting it wrong would look amateur, this is our eighth event and people have expectations. A balls up would blow our reputation and let a lot of people down who have invested their trust in us. Hence the worry about cars and helicopters getting in the way.

We open the park at 6:00 and witness a stunning sunrise over the misty valley with the lights of Manchester twinkling in the distance. Then the HTN magic cuts in. People just turn up and help! We actually ran out of marshal vests this year so there must have been more than 20 people who volunteered to get stuck in for nothing more than a Wham Bar and a handful of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls. Jason has rethought the sign-in procedure and it works, so as the start time approaches things are running smoothly. The bagpiper pipes (we liked him, he can come again), the Youth Race goes off, the briefing is done and the pack are sent down to the start. This has been rethought too, so we get 300odd people down and in place with very little fuss. The Mayor sounds the siren and they are off… well the bikes are… the car is stuck. I’d been off moving cones so didn’t see what had happened, but I have since been informed that my four letter outburst could be heard from a good 25 metres away. A bit of shoving later and Jet the driver (that is his name, honest – he’s a lovely guy too) has the Jag speeding up the hill like a bank robber being chased by Ray Winstone. About a minute later the head of the pack comes screaming through and the race settles into a rhythm.

Once the thing is running it is the quietest time for me. Simon “Mr Sparkle” Fox looks after the marshals and Jason is riding the course checking that things are OK. I get to grab a brew and mess about with my kids for 15 minutes. I take the opportunity to chat to a couple of people then wander off to the “bumps n jumps” to watch a bit of the racing. At about 11:30 we have the helicopter non incident and I have to stifle a giggle when I hear the medic’s quad bike referred to as “Quebec One”. I decide to “Foxtrot Oscar”. They are doing their job and the casualty is safe. I’ll leave them to it.

The race finishes at about 12:20. Nick Craig wins and everybody else is joint second. After a bit of faffing we do the prizes and set about the task of tidying up. Then the HTN magic happens again. A not so small army of volunteers set about tearing down a couple of hundred signs and 1500m of tape. By 2:45 you wouldn’t know that we had been there.

So, there you have it. Hit the North 4 done and dusted.

I drive out of the park with a grin on my face and aching legs after two days of running about in hiking boots. Normal life is resumed and I have to go to Tesco and take my kids to their swimming lessons before tea. Then it is off to the pub to celebrate and talk rubbish for a couple of hours.

Thanks to Mr Sparkle and all the marshals, the litter pickers, the sponsors, the Council Rangers, British Cycling for looking after the kids, Samba Nigel and his band, Ed the Bagpiper, the caterers, the medics, STW for putting up with our forum abuse, the photographers and everybody who keeps coming back for more.

We’re already thinking about next year.

Some changes will be made but the Field of Despair will still be included.


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Winter Training

For some reason I have started winter training even though I don’t do races*.

My logic is as follows.
1)      My FSR full susser is getting on a bit and I can’t afford to replace it. Keeping it cleaned, lubed and dry in the shed should prolong the old girl’s life.

2)      I have a single speed and a CX bike that I rarely use. They spend most of their life cleaned, lubed and in the shed whilst the FSR is taking a beating and shortening the old girl’s life.

3)      If I can improve my fitness and skill on the SS and CX between now and spring I will be a Cycling God. Apparently.

4)       I want to do the Tod CX race again (* OK, I do one race a year)  and I’d like to spend less time lying in the mud, so some skills work might not be a bad idea.

I have to report that 7 weeks into my regime it would appear to be working. Riding the SS has improved my strength and smoothed out my technique. I think. The local loop is definitely getting easier and quicker on it. The CX on the other hand has proved less successful. I’ve had two fairly big stacks on the last two rides, both on mud and leaf mulch covered cobbles, and the missus has banned me from riding it as she doesn’t want to spend the Christmas holidays wiping my bum because I’ve got a couple of broken wrist. I’m glad she has banned me because I was thinking of leaving it until the leaves have gone myself and this way it isn’t me who has given in. In both stacks the bike has landed “shifters first” resulting in a bit of trail side realignment and I can’t afford a new set of 105s. I’ll give it another go before Tod so I don’t make a complete tit of myself. Again.
PS. If you are reading this and you were one of the walkers who rather bloody-mindedly decided that they were going to walk round all of the MTB trails in Waterdale I do not apologise for calling you idiots because you are.

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Getting on with it

I seem only to write cycling blog posts when I’ve done something different (for me) or done nothing at all. The last few months however have been remarkably incident free. I’ve not been anywhere exotic – like Ramsbottom or that Yorkshire, had a strop and given up for a month or two, bought anything shiny or fallen off. Life on the bike has been steady with a regular Saturday morning MTB jaunt with the missus and a week day evening ride with the lads.

Life off the bike however has been a bit fraught.

1)    I lost my job.

We got called into a meeting on February 17th after several weeks of speculation about the future of Voith in Manchester and were told by a 7ft tall Austrian robot that production was moving to China, thank you and goodbye. 56 of us lost our jobs. Cheers.

I did the headless chicken thing for a couple of days – become a white van man/mini cab driver/teacher/plasterer… then removed my head from my arse and set about the business of finding something new. I actually quite liked the idea of being a Physics teacher until I saw how much the pay was.

Roll on three months, 50+ applications and a couple of interviews and I had two job offers. One was from a set of cheeky bastards who offered me £5k less than the job was advertised for and the other from somebody serious. I now work for somebody serious – Edwards Vacuum. I’ve had to take a bit of a dip in wages but the job is good and I haven’t lost my house or had to buy a white van/taxi/plasterer’s radio.

2)    I got a haematoma

After the stress of losing my job and getting another the whole family needed a break. I’m the first to admit that I haven’t been the easiest person to get on with recently, so two weeks in Cornwall with a chunk of redundancy money and no employment worries seemed ideal. We had a cottage booked in the middle of Looe and even the weather was behaving itself.

The day after we got there I was sat reading the Sunday paper when my four year old came crashing through it and landed knees first on my lap. “That hurt” I thought to myself. By Monday I was getting some stabbing pains under my ribs and walking was causing a bit of discomfort. This carried on until Wednesday, when I collapsed in the petrol station at Morrison’s in Bodmin.

Three hours, one ambulance ride and five goolie proddings later (one administered a very hot surf-chick doctor – “Try to relax Mr McHugh”) and I was in the Surgical Receiving Unit at the RoyalCornwallHospital in Truro with a haematoma on my left nut. So there I was, propped up in bed with a busted nut and a pair of massive green pyjamas, 50 miles and £45 away from my car that was still in Bodmin and 70 miles and a further £35 away from my family who were by this time back in Looe.

There were three of us in our bay that night. Me, Terrence the Truck Driver (hernia) and Anthony the Very Old Man (very old). Sadly Anthony passed away in the middle of the night despite a flurry of frantic activity from the medical staff.

Anthony was replaced in the morning by Peter the Charming Old Bloke (fell backwards off a 5ft wall whilst gardening and landed on his ass). He even came equipped with some digital photos of his bruised ass that he showed me. Thanks Peter. He never adequately explained what he was doing on top of the wall or why he wanted to show everybody pictures of his ass. Hopefully he will take that secret with him to the grave, but not just yet.

I got out the day after with a bag of pain killers and instructions to take it easy. After that the rest of the holiday was brilliant.

3)    I got another haematoma

Not as exciting as the first one. No hot doctors putting their hands down my pants, squashed knackers, ambulance rides or photos of an old man’s arse. I just slipped in the garden and landed shin first on the edge of a stone step. My lower leg swelled to the size and colour of a terracotta plant pot and I ended up in hospital again with an infection, more drugs and more instructions to take it easy.

On this trip to A&E I had the pleasure of sharing some time with an enormous stack of tattooed meat called Lewis Collins (!?) who was in because he and his mates thought that teasing a Pit Bull was a good idea. Judging by the bite marks in his legs it wasn’t.

After 5 days of not taking it easy we were on holiday again, this time to the Yorkshire coast. Filey, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay were all lovely. My memories of Scarborough though will be forever tainted by the huge amount of litter and stench of donkey piss on the beach. No wonder one of the Bronte Sisters died there. She probably caught something whilst making sand castles.

…and finally, on a cycling note, my kids have made huge progress. Emily has “got” the Islabike Rothan and Ollie is riding his Ridgeback MX14 without stabilisers and any apparent sense of direction. The Islabike has been brilliant. The weather has restricted Ollie’s cycling time this summer but I estimate that we had him up and running on “pedally bike” with less than an hour spent with the training wheels fitted. I’m a very proud dad.

Right then, time to charge the lights and have another uneventful ride.

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Blog update : February – May 2012

Lost job.

Got another.

Normal service has been resumed.

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Hit the North 3

Blimey. What a day!

We’ve been planning this one for ages. This one was going to be the best. Jason had a better feel for the number as I had taken a step back last year. He said “We’ll get 300” and we did, plus a few more. This one was our step up to the big time. We knew that the course and format worked and that we had a good following amongst the riders, so this was the year that we took it up a notch and put on a big show.

The hard work of the previous five events and the exposure that we had gained meant that attracting sponsors was relatively easy. Every request was met with “Yep, we’ll donate this and this and this”. We also had a policy of being quite choosey and only asking people that we liked or approaching manufacturers who’s products we used personally. This proved a costly exercise as I liked one of the Endura jackets so much that I went and got one myself.

The day itself was a bit of a blur and I have relatively little recollection of the race. It is an odd sensation. Because of the amount of planning and the people that come to help things just seem to happen. This is no fluke, we’ve been doing this for years now with more or less the same bunch. Rachael does the catering, Simon Fox is about in some capacity (Head Marshal this time), Simon Davenport is on the gate, Andrew Moore is in the middle, Super Brian is at the bottom car park. The medics turn up and do their stuff. The brass band arrive with all their gear and get on with it and so on and so on. We are good because we know how to do it. It is like driving on cruise control, before you know it you’ve got to the end.

The only spanner in the works this year was the snow. Getting out of the car park was a faff but we did our thing, we got our heads together and we sorted it. The sight of Jason leading his troops over the hill with a wheel barrow and a dozen traffic cones full of grit to come and rescue all of the stricken BMWs will stay with me for a long time.

So there we go. We organised a brilliant event again and I have next to no recollection of it.

However, there were plenty of other people there taking photos and writing blogs. For a better understanding of how the day went you should click one of the following links or Google it. I will.








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Flounce and Bounce

For someone who talks/types more about bikes than actually rides them 2011 hasn’t been a bad year. I started keeping a mileage log in March and in the 9 months up to Christmas I’d racked up 1,326.1 miles (the 0.1 is everything). Not massive, but not bad either. Also I’d cycle commuted to work on 58 occasions and saved myself about £150 in diesel and 1,044 car miles. Can you tell I like to keep stats?

Then, on December 10th, I fell off. As I sat there in the ice with a sore coccyx, broken glasses and absolutely no idea what had happened I thought to myself “Bollocks to this”. I got the bike home and locked it in the shed, then went to have a look at the new hole that I had put in my ass. Then, a week later instead of going out for my usual Saturday morning ride I went swimming and on the next ride opportunity I went for a walk. I just couldn’t get the “Bollocks to this” thought out of my head.

Christmas came and went and the chains on the bikes started to turn orange.

Then yesterday arrived and with it The Todmorden Cyclocross race. I was still all half arsed as to whether to bother. My wife wasn’t happy that I was off on my own as it was the last day of the holiday and I got a text from Jason (Terrahawk) saying he was going to give it a miss because one of his kids was ill. But I thought… pfff… why not? I dug the CX out of the shed, changed the tyres and lubed it then trundled off to Tod for a bit of a slither in the woods. I’ve only ever done 3 cyclocross races and have found them to be strange but perversely enjoyable affairs.

I got to the sign in and found that Jason had had a change of heart too as he was stood a couple of places in front of me in the queue. We had a chat about this and that then performed what has become a pre Tod CX ritual. Pin numbers on the wrong arm, faff about in the car park 400m from the start line, quick piss behind the shipping containers in the park and arrive at the start line with about 8 seconds to spare.

The race was carnage. I went over the bars 3 times and destroyed my brakes within 4 laps. The course was a mixture of unridable cobbles and unrideable swamp linked by a couple of rideable bits. However, the amount of crap stuck to the rear mech meant that it I couldn’t change gear and the amount of mud on my gloves meant that I couldn’t hold onto the bars firmly. I managed to finish 91st out of 120 odd and it was bleeding freezing. But, I loved every stupid second of it. I’d bounced back. Literally.

2012. Bring it on!


Cycling highlights of 2011

  • HTN 2011 (but all the credit goes to Jason, I just turned up on the day and wore a high-visibility vest for a couple of hours)
  • Starting an in house cycle to work scheme and getting over 10% of the workforce to sign up with us racking up over 3,500 commuter miles between us in the first 6 months.
  • Getting a road bike.
  • Dawn road rides in spring.
  • T Shirt “Turbine Rides” in the Autumn.
  • Getting back involved with the planning of HTN 2012 after taking a year off.
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Sun Screen

I had a plan. It was brilliant.

A couple of weeks ago Julie had to work on Saturday so I would…

a) Drop her off in Town.

b) Drop the kids off at my mum’s.

c) Drive up to Ramsbottom and have a few hours playing out on the hills with some mates and some total strangers of the Singletrack forum.

It was all going swimmingly until I checked with my mum and discovered she had booked a week in Ibiza and knackered it all up. Arse.

So, I had a second plan. This was pretty much the same as the first but I’d confirm that there was somebody to look after the kids this time. Also, this plan had a point d) to it.

d) The temperature would be 25°C+, the sky would be clear and there would just be enough wind to keep the sweat off.

The route was set in advance and numbers were a very manageable 7. Previous rides with 15 people and no real agenda have ended up with bickering, getting lost and bodies going missing. So me, Neil, Lee, Adam (Binners), Simon and two of Simon’s colleagues, Ian and Tony, met up in the train station car park, said a few hellos and set off climbing. Ramsbottom – Rake – Tower. I think that it may have been a bit rude for Ian and Tony as they weren’t familiar with the area so the words “Rake” and “Tower” didn’t impart the necessary levels of foreboding (700ft climbing in 1.6 miles) as they did on the rest of us, but I’m pretty sure that they do now ;-). Both climbs are a lot easier when you know them. Doing them both blind and from a cold start can’t be much fun.

So, first big climbs were rattled off and followed by a silly-speed descent into Irwell Vale where bravado nearly did for me and Lee’s trusting that I knew what I was doing nearly did for him. Turning the high banking and shrubbery at the base of a stone wall into an impromptu berm after hitting a bend way too quickly was probably the single most skilful piece of riding that I had ever done. It was also one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Get it right and you look like a hero, get it wrong and they have to come and get you with a helicopter.

Next up was Edenfield and a detour round Michael Wife Lane with its rocky downhill section and ford. It is named after the wife of a farmer who spent time in the stocks for not keeping it in good repair back in the early 1600s. I’m quite glad that he let it go to ruin because his knackered old road is an absolute hoot if you take it with confidence and a bit of speed. If you take it slowly and cautiously (like Simon did) you increase the chances of having a tumble (like Simon did) and ending up in A&E the day after because your leg has stopped working (like Simon did). After that it was a bit of tarmac stuff on Rochdale Road then a climb up Fecit Lane and The Coal Road to the turbines on Scout Moor. Again we were taken aback by the conditions considering that it was the 1st of October. The sky was blue, the climate was Mediterranean, there were parascenders above the hill in front of us and smart arsed walkers saying “I thought you’d be going faster” on the trail with us.

There was no head wind up the Coal Road so whilst it was a bit of a drag there was no battling with the elements. Fuelled by Haribo and loads of water it was a comfortable climb to the turbines. Well… comfortable for most, Tony hadn’t really got over the rude shock of the Rake/Tower 90 minutes earlier so he did the sensible thing and pushed up in the company of the afore mentioned walkers. In all fairness to the bloke whilst the rest of us sat at home, or in A&E, the day after he went out for another ride. In amongst the turbines it was epic. The size of them, the superb visibility and the brightness of the place in the midday sun made it all a bit surreal. We traversed the access roads at a fair old pace to the last turbine then dropped down the hill to Ashworth Reservoir. I could have ridden up there all day as the conditions were so good.

At the bottom Binners came out with those fateful words “Want to do a bit of very cheeky single track?”. The ride so far had gone smoothly as we had stuck to the agreed plan. We were on time, we knew where we were and nobody was bleeding. Next time Binners says such a thing we will wrestle him to the floor and wrap him in gaffer tape. This time we followed him. The cheeky single track involved a bog, several styles and a gully full of 20 tons of slow moving beef. I stopped, put my foot down a hole and capsized somehow managing to stab myself in the side of the knee in the process. The only positive thing I have to say is that it was the perfect spot for an alfresco piss as the likelihood of seeing anyone else down there was extremely remote. Maybe my memory of this section has been tainted by the mystery knee stabbing. The carry – bog traverse – bleed brought us out at the top of another rocky descent which finished at the junction of the road back into Rammy. After 3 ½ hours we were back at the car park. A quick trip to Morrissons to wash off the cow crap and buy a couple of pies and then a swift pint in the pub and it was time to go home.

Probably the best ride of the year. Good company, good weather, good route.

We will have to do another one soon.

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