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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