It was a crisp and cool autumnal morning as I arrived at the Woodbine Cafe in Hope shortly after 9am. At first I didn’t recognise Mr K sat outside in the sunshine sipping on a cinnamon semi latte, despite his fluorescent pink roadie cap and Afghan scarf/cravat. Flicking through a low budget fixie fanzine he nonchalantly acknowledged my arrival as I tripped over his polo mallet.
His breakfast arrived shortly afterwards along with a growing assortment of chaps wheeling with them an assortment of old bikes. From dipped in glitter disco Konas, to effortlessly well assembled Fats, Paces and DeKerfs and all the way through to John and his 89 Raleigh Mirage. Mr K was particularly cutting in his analysis of the rear centre ridged Cheng Shin tyre on this ‘classic’ beast.
After an hour or so of not so serious discussion and bacon butties, 28 riders lined up their bikes for the traditional pre-ride welcome and photo opportunity.
At some point during this assemblage a small commotion broke out nearby. At first, thinking that a couple of our retrobike riders had accidently stumbled over into a comedic heap on the ground, I let out a loud belly laugh of approval. Imagine my horror when I realised that our very own Guv’nor was callously granny bashing in broad daylight. I felt sickened to the very core.
Although that could’ve been last night’s beers.
Goodbye Hope, hello hills
Leading out a long retro crocodile we reached the foot of the first small climb only to realise that we were already a rider down. The technical tarmac section on the main rode out of Hope was clearly too much for the front tyre on John’s Mirage. One tube down he was paced back up the the peloton by Sinnett177 in the yellow gilet.
After a brief descent and a refreshing water splash, the first real climb up on to Shatton Moor began. Cheered along by a group of tourist at the half way stage I forced out a smile to the pretty girls and sucked in my belly to give the appearance of a highly trained athlete. grrrr!
The Guv’nor flexes his chainstays
The strenuous effort was rewarded with a splendid view from the radio mast. The first of many fine views was soaked in whilst soaked in the sweat induced by climbing with 110 BCD chain-rings.
Climbing out of the cool air in the valley and into the last of the late summer sunshine was a great warm up for what lay ahead.
A late surge of energy from Kaya and Mr Lee
HarryCrumb was also awarded with reaching the summit in pole position with the honour of carrying the legendary Monkey of Hope, for the next stint, or at least until the ride organisers saw fit.
However the problem with carrying the monkey isn’t so much the additional weight on the climbs, but the potential damage inflicted in the result of a fall to both rider and piggy back primate.
HarryCrumb proudly receives the Monkey of Hope
After a few words of encouragement including the phrase “There’s no shame in walking”, the tricky downward traverse of Bradwell Edge was on the agenda. Several days of heavy rain had made the off camber singletrack descent even more slippery than a soaped up otter.
As the designated ‘safety officer’ for this section I held back and let everyone find their own way down with the intention of sweeping up any mishaps. Carefully threading my way through the bracken, nettles and thorns I desperately hoped for anything resembling traction from my twenty year old skin wall tyres. They were pumped up harder than my brake lever gripping forearms to avoid the chance of pinch punctures.
I did chuckle on hearing the whoops and screams echoing from the steep mudslide section lower down the descent.
Sufficiently ‘papped’ walking by Mr K and his long lens I joined a rag tag band of smiling bikers on the tarmac. There were a few blood injuries and plenty of mud, but no broken bones, so the first aid kit and accident book remained stashed away in my Camelbak.
Plenty of respect though for guest rider Kris. He skilfully rode most of the descent on a single speed fixed wheel Voodoo with only one brake on the front which didn’t really even work too well.
He was also riding with the deathly pallor of a very sick man. He muttered something about poison Guinness at one point, before Stally, and I think perhaps the Grim Reaper, took him back down to Hope later in the ride.
The Mirage and the Monkey
Rolling down through Bradwell like a troupe of mud shedding muck spredders, we hooked up with a nice little section through the cement works and joined the start of the climb up Pin Dale.
After passing a large group of moto-crossers we assembled at the start of the ‘official’ hill climb competition. Last years winner Orange71 wasn’t in attendance to defend his title, but 2008 victor P20 was.
Strict no bike alteration rules were enforced to prevent Jack from ‘cheating’ with lowered tyre pressures.
After many spirited attempts, included a few bike-ground interfaces, it was the long chainstay/Cheng Shin centre ridge combination that steered John to a convincing win. The budget rubber biting through the loose boulders to kick some Peak District ass.
It’s notable that John’s lungs expired before his bike did. I expect the value of Cheng Shins and Mirages to sky rocket on eBay as a result of this.
It’s also notable to the rear tyre punctured part way up the climb, perhaps adding traction accidentally or perhaps a piece of cunning strategy. John remained tight lipped when questioned, although this could be due to him nearly coughing up his liver at the time of asking.
His sterling effort meant that he now had a monkey on his back.
More climbing ensued up Dirtlow rake and up onto the windy moors above Castleton. The moorland tracks provided a puddle slalom for some and a water splash for others.
Our happy but now hungry band of retrobikers dropped down to the road and up towards Mam Tor.
A third hill climb challenge was spontaneously contrived to really determine whether John’s luck would continue. It didn’t.
A three way tie between Mr Ship, Kaya and P20 though, was decided by a track stand competition. I think Richard won despite asking “What’s a track stand?”, but it could’ve been Jack. By this point I was too hungry to remember.
Retrobike Ridge riding
A fine view ruined by a gratuitous display of lycra
A section of lovely natural singletrack brought us onto the ridge between Mam Tor and Hollins Cross. Stunning views and a fun bit of riding followed. I witnessed P20′s slow motion cartwheel in front of me, but he said he was fine so I continued down to meet with the group.
This time rc200ti was in the midst of a puncture repair.
Seen it all before
Of course Rob’s mechanical provided ample opportunity to soak in the views down the Hope Valley to the south and the Edale to the north.
It looked a long way back to the radio mast on Shatton Moor we’d passed nearly three hours earlier.
Onward and downward
The next drop down into Edale was superb fun. Beginning with a series of rain bar rock steps, and continuing with thin lines of compacted dirt and mud contouring down the hillside, there were plenty of opportunities to sample the local hill grass more closely should concentration or skill levels suddenly wander.
After final section of loose twisty and gravelly tarmac, we counted everyone safely into the cafe for a well earned refreshment break.
Enduring the queue created by twenty odd (very odd) retrobikers in the cafe was arguably harder than some of the climbs. Unfortunately I was at the very back.
Now I feel I should address those who have cast doubt on how incredible the girl in the cafe actually was. Mark’s photo has captured the exasperated expression of a women who has once again seen a freaky bloke in lycra secretly trying to photograph her. To be fair to her she didn’t make a fuss as she probably had a backlog of more serious restraining orders to deal with.
She was very beautiful in the flesh. And my what flesh she had…
I must admit that we did exchange ‘a moment’ at the counter when she got a little flustered and forgot to prepare my coffee. It was clearly just so she could steal a few more precious seconds with me.
Oh how we laughed together…
Of course being last in the queue meant I was also the last one still eating when in it was time to leave. I did feel a little pressured when five fellow riders stood around my table, bullying me into eating my pannini more quickly, and taunting me with “You can’t climb on cheese” jibes.
I did consider using the facilities before leaving too, but the combination my personal welfare being ridden rough shod by the retrobike lunch gestapo and the realisation that doing a big poo is hardly considered good form when flirting with a beautiful woman, meant I was soon back outside with my bike.
Waving goodbye to the staff at the cafe we rode on along the Edale valley, losing a couple of riders at the station for their early return on the train.
Use the beard
The 24 ‘survivors’ tackled the next climb out of the valley. With cheese based taunts still ringing in my ears, I found some speed to counter the old adage and sped over the next climb to re-convene everyone at the foot of yet another loose, steep and challenging climb.
With his puncture repaired, Longun bounced into view on his full suspension Trek 9000 pogo stick to complete the safety head count.
This was Mr Ship’s chance to get the monkey of his back with the last of our hill climb challenges. With riders scattering left right and centre I again tapped into the cheese reserves to catch up with HarryCrumb. If he hadn’t had to stop to open a gate half way up the climb, the monkey would’ve been his, but sadly I ended up with that faux furry critter strapped back onto my pack. My reward for having a beard and trying too hard.
With the sun lowering in the sky, and streaming through the scattered clouds, the views down Edale were spectacular as we rolled down along the wide ridge towards Win Hill.
Monkey receiving position
Sinnett177 announced that the next crash, puncture or mechanical would award the rider with the much coveted ‘NWA Bike of the Ride’ sticker, so everyone crossed their fingers and threw themselves with gay abandon down the next short rocky drop.
Kaya’s self separating Pace forks meant that he snatched victory of this increasingly randomly judged competition. All the other riders cleared the section unscathed, although I later discovered a loose spoke in my rear wheel…
The last slight ascent brought everyone to the top of a fitting finale down the side of Hope Brink.
But not before another group photo and a breather.
Back row standing L to R: HarryCrumb, rc200ti, mr ship, Gravy Monster, P20, kaya, ?, longun, saltyman, BIBBY, ?, ?, Sinnett177 (hiding), Woody, Antiquekona, khane, ?, John, slmracing
Middle row standing in a hole to the left L to R: mrlee, nayfinesse
At the front: Imnotanumber-06 (reclining), drystonepaul (squatting)
Apologies to those whose names/forum names I can’t remember. Let me know and I’ll update/edit
The last downhill was a descent that just kept on giving. A truly fitting end to a great day’s riding. Everyone easily sped down the trails and back down to our starting point in Hope.
After a few farewells, a slightly diminished group retired to the pub for some food, reflection and to experience perhaps the most insincere waiter in the UK. The service was a vast improvement on last year’s though.
A huge thank you for everyone who could make it to ride with us today. It was a real pleasure to meet you all and great fun too.
There’s plenty more rides happening regularly too so keep an eye on those area group calendars.
See you soon.