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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New bike!

I wanted a road bike. I’ve been riding my Uncle John on the roads and it is OK, but it is not a road bike. I wanted something that was more delicate, something with thin tyres and tiny little brakes, something that looked fast even when it was still in the shed. Something that was fast out on the road. The UJ is a pretty capable piece of kit but it is neither delicate, small or fast looking.

The problem however is that I’m skint.

The good people at Cooksons offered me a hefty chunk off, which was nice, but it would still mean having to find the money up front which would take forever. Alternatively, I could get one on interest free, but I wouldn’t get the same deal. The only other way to get a discount would be to go through a cycle scheme.

When using a 3rd party cycle scheme the bike shop has to pay a fee to the scheme provider. If you set your own up then the shop don’t have to pay the fee and if they are nice (like Cooksons) they pass the saving on to the customer. So, with a small amount of buggering about I managed to set up an in-house cycle scheme through work thus enabling me to get a cheap road bike. I’d like to say that I went and bought one from Cooksons, but I didn’t. I found some 2010 stock Scott Speedster S50s going for a very reasonable price so I ordered one of them instead. However, I wasn’t the only one at work who wanted a new bike and I was delighted that I could send half a dozen people to buy them from Cooksons. I’ve been going there for ages but I’m not sure that I’ve ever spent more than £50 in one go despite them treating me very well. So I was quite pleased to be able to point a few people in their direction.

The bike then…

Is it delectate? Yes
Thin tyres and tiny little brakes? Yes
Does it look fast? Judge for yourself.

Is it fast? Faster than anything else I’ve ever ridden.

When I first rode it I wasn’t impressed to be honest. The ride was so harsh compared to my other bikes that I thought that my teeth would fall out through my arse and the cage on the front mech chattered on the chain. However, after a bit of twiddling with a screw driver and a 20 mile “getting to know you” spin I was used to it. It doesn’t help that the roads near where I lived are still pock marked with the off target attentions of the Luftwaffe and are capable of vibrating a Vauxhall Vectra to bits, so the ride of a carbon and aluminium road bike is never going to be plush round Prestwich. Out on the country roads though it is amazing. It seems to move at a reasonable speed without too much effort and riding it with its skinny tyres and twitchy handling is a real thrill. I’m converted, and this is only a cheap bike! How good must a top of the range one feel?

A by-product of getting something that is a polar opposite to my full susser Specialized FSR is that because it is so different I’m enjoying riding the MTB much more. It is solid, comfortable, predictable and has a feeling of confidence inspiring indestructibility. Another factor in me getting on so well with it could be that I’ve actually fixed it. I’ve sorted the “Chinese Water Torture” squeaky seat post, the jumpy transmission, the leaky rear shock, the air bubbled brakes and fitted a set of forks that actually work. The improvement in ride is probably not a coincidence.

Whatever… bikes are ace and now I have another one.

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The Dawn Patrol

“Let’s do it against the fence in the pub car park.”
“Sorry. That sounded all wrong! I want to take a picture of the bikes.”

6:30am on Good Friday in the car park of the Pack Horse in Affetside. 10 miles into a 36 mile pre breakfast ride. A month ago a 36 mile road ride would have nearly finished me off but in the last 4 weeks I have probably done nearly as many miles as I did in all last year. Last year I wrote about bikes on the internet and organised races for them. This year I have made an effort to actually go out and ride one.
The plan was to do a reasonable (for me) road ride. Jason described it as a “spin”, but he’s allowed to as he did 93 miles the day before and The Mary Townley doorstep challenge the day after. I’d somehow managed to do 23 rides in the preceding 30 days, most of which were commutes to work or quick evening 10 milers, and I was starting to feel the benefit. Now was the time to see if it was actually working. It was.
The route was Simister, Prestwich, Whitefield, Radcliffe, Ainsworth, Walshaw, Affetside, Edgeworth, Hoddlesdon and back via Hawkshaw. All done by 8:15, so I could get on with the planned bank holiday jobs of gardening, potty training and building a scarecrow that looked like Darth Vader. Some of the climbs were a little on the rude side but there was nothing that made me want to get off and cycling along the quiet roads as the sun came up was a joy rather than a sweat drenched ordeal.
Getting fit and riding bikes at silly O’clock may have to become a feature of the summer. I enjoyed it so much that at 5:45 on Easter Monday I was at it again. This time on the FSR with its freshly serviced and none leaky rear shock. 17 miles round the local trails and not a single other soul apart from one dog walker, then back in time for breakfast before the rest of the family had even got up.

I’m already hatching a plan to do it again on Who Gives A Rat’s Ass Day Royal Wedding Day.

Tally-Ho! Watch out for bandits coming out of the sun!

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Tilting at Windfarms

This could turn into yet another “I’m getting myself back on the bike” post but for the sake of variety I’ll try and steer it down another course.

 Last year I did the Ronde van Oost Lancashire, Alan “Crossjunkie” Dorrington’s 50 mile road ride round the hills and cobbles of East Lancashire. I hung on to the bunch (social pace my arse) for the first 30 miles but due to a lack of fitness and poor nutrition, a poach egg isn’t going to keep you going for four hours, I spiralled into a monochrome world of hurt and could only be saved by a steak and mushroom slice and a can of fizzy Vimto from the Coop.

 This year would be different.

1)      I knew the route.

2)      I was going to cycle four times a week for a month in the run up to it to get the old legs working.

3)      I’d bought a wedgie bag and bottle cage so I wouldn’t have to wear a Camelbak.

4)      I had Haribo… lots of it.

But, all of this careful forward planning was kyboshed by a double bout of what is medically known as “baby puking up bug” that took out the whole family for a month. So now I had a dilemma. I wasn’t going to try and fail on the Ronde again but I had all of the paperwork approved and signed for a day out on the bike. What should I do?

A plan was hatched with my mate Neil to go for a ride somewhere different. We decided on Ramsbottom and the Scout Moor wind farm because a) It was only a few miles away so more time on the bike and less in the car and b) We both wanted to touch a wind turbine. Then the plan got mentioned on a Singletrack thread about turbines and before too long our quiet pootle had developed into something a bit bigger.

 So, on Saturday morning about 12 of us headed away from The Rose and Crown in Rammy. The plan was to do The Rake, Peel Tower, Irwell Vale, Scout Moor, Cragg Quarry, Rooley Moor Road, Ashworth Reservoir and Nangreaves and end up in the pub. The weather forecasts varied from tropical to biblical with a bit of everything in between.

The Rake and Holcombe hill were dispatched with some ease but then it began to rain. Waterproofs on we set off down th’ill at a fair old pace. Half the group decided on a technical wet rooty option but I was more than happy bouncing down the track at 30mph, so a few of us carried on that way to Irwell Vale. After that we regrouped headed through Edenfield to The Coal Road and the climb to the turbines. One of the bunch with a bit of local knowledge lead us on an off road detour that cut out the “crap road climb” then it was time for Haribo and a cheeky alfresco wee before a tail wind assisted climb to Scout Moor. At the wee/sweetie stop I had the first of what would be several crap-falls™ where the left spd wouldn’t release. I must have looked a proper div when I pulled up to the road junction, stopped, swore, wobbled and capsized. At home I discovered that the pedal was full of a compacted clay-like substance.

The turbine field was an odd place made all the stranger by the gloomy weather and the moaning noise emitted by the blades and gearboxes high above our heads. After another stop we set off across a brief section of bog into Cragg Quarry… and I have to say it was a bit of a disappointment. Neighbouring Lee Quarry is great fun but this was just a bit too stop-starty for my liking and if felt that I never really got going. Some of the big berms and drops where great but the twiddly nonsense that linked them was a bit dull. Each to their own and all that, but I’d rather be moving at speed than huffing and puffing over several million 4 ft lumps.

 After this we plummeted down a couple of miles of tracks back to Edenfield, which was much more to my liking, then it was back to Ramsbottom via a rocky stream bed, a housing estate, a park and another spd crap-fall™ in the middle of the town centre. I managed to pull my shoe out just in time so I didn’t end up sprawled across the pavement, but it was close.

 The ride finished where it had started four hours earlier but the weather had gone from April to July so a very pleasant hour was spent sat outside the pub in the sun eating chips and shouting encouragement at roadies as they attempted The Rake.

Not bad a bad morning. Not bad at all.



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Should I be cross?

Blimey! I actually got to ride my bike for a bit earlier this week!

After almost 2 weeks of eating cheese and drinking gin I thought it would be a good idea to do a cyclo cross race. I’ve only done one cross race before. That was 2 years ago and was my first outing on my cross bike. I thoroughly enjoyed it but, as my life has a habit of getting in the way, I didn’t do another one until this weekend. Indeed I must be the only bloke who has organised more cyclo cross races than he has competed in.

I set off for Todmorden with a clear set of aims.

1) Do not come last.

2) Do not DNF.

3) Do not make a tit of myself.

4) Try and enjoy it.

5) Try and say hello to a few people.

I’m pleased to say the I succeeded on all counts. The only downside to the entire day was when the lady at sign in asked if I was a Belgian. My response was “err…no” because I didn’t fully understand the question. If I had been paying attention I would have twigged that she was asking me if I was a member of the elite cyclo cross brotherhood “Her Come The Belgians” (think JedI Knights with lycra pants). I am a member. If I had said “yes” I would have saved myself £13. Bugger. If she had seen me spitting and coughing at the finish line it would have been very obvious that I was phlegmish. (Geddit?)

Some evidence of my efforts captured by Joolz Dymond


The day after was A Hit The North preview ride. 34 turned up. It was awesome. More details and other good stuff at www.hitthenorth.net .

However, one thing that dawned on me was that the HTN circuit is way tougher than the Tod CX. All the people interviewed on the British Cycling video were saying how hard Tod was… well, ladies and gentlemen you should sign up and help yourselves to some proper suffering.

To round off the week my Here Comes The Belgians team kit arrived. So next time I get asked it is written on my head to remind me.

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