An hour later we pulled into the car park in Clapham and started to get our kit together. There were no other mountain bikers about but there were hoards of walkers including several sturdy looking “Jolly Hockey Sticks” young ladies with stern faces, pneumatic cleavages and expensive boots.
Ten minutes off faffing later and we were off. We rumbled past the ramblers who have rallied outside The New Inn and head off into Austwick for the first and second climbs. Both are pretty awful on a cold start (like doing The Rake, then doing it again) but after a mile or so you get the reward of the descent through Austwick Beck and down Blue Bell Lane into Wharfe. It has everything that you want in a technical descent. Rocks, roots, tight corners, changes in gradient, tight sections between walls and speed. It also has walkers. Lots of them. We slowed for each group and said hello etc and everybody was pleasant. Everybody except the bloke in the last bunch who informed me loud and boorishly that I had forgotten my bell. The cock. Still, they had as much right to be there as us so I nodded and smiled and rode past at a considerate pace safe in the knowledge that I had been courteous and that he was, and forever would be, a cock. I smiled at his wife. I bet that she hated him. I hope so.
After that it was the bridleway into Feizor. Previously this had been a tricky couple of miles of roots, pot holes and rocks the size of your fist. However now, due to trail sanitization, it is as smooth as industrial lino. Bugger. What used to be a testing 20 minutes was now an uneventful 5. I can see why they’ve done it though because it used to be a real ankle breaker.
Out of Feizor it’s another climb punctuated by gates which break up the flow. The advantage of the gates is that you are forced to stop and take in the view. I just wish I’d had the foresight to take a picture of it. Without the gates I would have just spent the climb looking at the word MANITOU on the top of the fork arch.
Over the other side is a screamer of a farm track descent towards Helwith Bridge before heading back towards Austwick. At this point we decided to do the climb up to the beck and Blue Bell Lane again. With 10 miles already in our legs the climb was a breeze and with only one set of walkers to say “hello” to the descent was a blast.