'The Chicken Chaser ' - Cat & Fiddle, Buxton and the Goyt Valley ~ Monday 27th December 2010
With 'The Turkey Twizzler' postponed this was a hastily convened alternative ride around the snowy hills between Buxton and Macclesfield.
We had been meaning to start at the Cat and Fiddle Pub, but at an altitude of 515 metres (1690 ft), and with an overnight fall of fresh snow the road was a bit dicey so this was changed with a flurry of phone calls to just outside Whaley Bridge.
After a relocation convoy of vehicles, seven riders arrived to brave the elements. With temperatures hovering just above freezing, there was a respite from the much colder weather of the previous few weeks.
It was still wise to wrap up warm though.
The fearless adventurers line up in an icy lay-by.
L to R: elPedro666, Charlieboy28, Mr Kawafrosty, drystonepaul, Woody, HarryCrumb and kaya.
That'll do pig...
Waving goodbye to a friendly hog in a field we slid down the first icy track to ford the River Goyt. Fortunately a bridge was available for those with any sense of self preservation and no wet-suits. A short but ever so steep climb up past Taxal Church tested traction and cold legs early on, and then we headed north along a farm track towards the Goyt Valley reservoirs.
Sheet ice was a constant threat but the tracks were thankfully largely free of the deadly slippery stuff, with instead an inch or two of slushy snow offering reasonable amounts of grip along with a bit of energy sapping drag too.
A long and scenic snowy climb warmed us all up nicely.
After a few miles the gradient dropped down in our favour. Feathering brakes and careful line choice was a good option while scanning for ice on the rocky lanes.
Another spell of climbing brought us into the coniferous forest and some slightly deeper and more powdery snow. The forest track contoured along above Fernilee Reservior and brought us out amongst a group of walkers on the snowbound road.
Making the most of the fresh powder in the forest.
Mechanical of the ride was grasped by elPedro666 with his slipping carbon seatpost and seatclamp combination. Pete had the foresight to pack a spare alloy clamp too though and spent a couple of minutes waggling his allen keys at it while Mr K lubed up a squeaky jockey wheel.
Pete replaces plastic with good old fashioned metal on his Ibis
Onwards along the singletrack road we climbed without seeing a single vehicle in what is normally a bank holiday weekend honeypot area.
We did pass some friendly dog walkers, as we battled into the headwind.
Stopping at a frozen waterfall, it's curtain of ice was a spectacular backdrop for some photos.
...and the bikes: drystonepaul's 1993 Snow White Saracen Retro-mod.
kaya's Kona Retro-mod
Charlieboy's 1998 GT
Woody's 1993 Specialized Stumpjumper M2
HarryCrumb's 1990 Kona CinderCone
elPedro666's Ibis Alibi Retro-mod
Mr Kawasnowy and his 1984 Andy Powell
Pressing on we reached Derbyshire bridge, the old historic boundary with Cheshire, and encountered some burly Land Rovers out for some fun in the snow.
Following their tracks we started following the old Buxton road over the moors. Reaching the highest point of the ride we paused for more photographs and to laugh at Mr K's ineffective brakes just before a lovely snow covered rocky descent into Buxton for a long overdue visit to the chip shop.
It's bleak up on them there t'hills
Locking up the bikes, we had great pleasure sitting inside and soaking up the warmth. We indulged in pies, chips and hot mugs of tea and coffee.
Pete enjoyed the pies so much he was well underway eating Charlie's before he realised it wasn't his.
The important business of deciding 'Bike of the Ride' also took place over the warming stodge. It was close, but HarryCrumb took away the honours yet again with his beautifully turned out 1990 Kona Cinder Cone, complete with a full Suntour XC-Pro groupset, grease-guard hubs and BB, and that stunning splatter paint job.
Mr K's Andy Powell could've claimed the prize but for that damned squeaky jockey wheel earlier in the ride.
The cold was more noticeable as we left the chippy and rolled down to the famous St. Anne's Well to fill up with warm Buxton spring water. The aptly named 'Long Hill' was a good warming climb out of the spa town back onto the moors.
Happy smiles at the end of a big climb and the start of a long descent
With the threat of darkness catching up with us we reached the final summit of the ride and braced ourselves for a long descent along a broken tarmac lane. The snow concealed many holes and edges which caught HarryCrumb out with a sliding wipeout just in front of me. It was all great fun though.
The lane surface deteriorated some more and was replaced with a sustained sheet of lumpy and perilous ice. Truly terrifying stuff to ride on but huge grins of relief were abound as the survivors regrouped at the end of the glacial gamble.
The light was really failing by now so we dropped the Ladder Hill loop and short-cutted along the snow bound and icy tarmac lane back towards our start point. Then with one final shoot down an a singletrack chute we were spat out back at our cars, with perfect timing to meet up with elPedro's lift home.
A few slurps of tea from a Thermos warmed us up before loading up and returning home.
All in all it was a great ride in some memorable conditions with very good company as usual.
Thanks to everyone for making the effort to get out an brave the elements with me.
Happy New Year to you all!