drystonepaul's official aftermath
Darwen Tower and Pendle Hill behind a GT and a Saracen
After hyping up, or perhaps over-playing, the challenge of riding a 20 mile loop around Ribblehead and Dent Dale on a bank holiday weekend, it was a bit surprising that there were no takers for the original ride.
Perhaps everyone was busy putting up shelves, visiting relatives or any of the other myriad of excuses used in long August weekends to avoid riding bikes.
What was left though was just Harrycrumb and myself to represent the Retrobike NWA moorland assault squad.
So after contacting my NWA Deputy the night before the ride to discuss some alternative options, I set of early on Saturday to meet up at Martin's house in Preston. We decided to leave the Ribblehead and Dent ride for another time when a few more people could join us to experience some of the finest riding and ales that the Dales have to offer.
Instead we agreed on a short loop starting from Martin's place.
After an hour or so exploring the delights of Martin's double sized garage, crammed full of car and bike restoration projects we eventually got moving shortly before 11.30am.
I was confidently reassured that we'd be back by 4.30pm as we set out on Martin's regular 'local' loop.
Within minutes we were both filthy. An off road short-cut down to the banks of the river Ribble was a slippery test through the woods. The past couple of days had seen plenty of heavy rain and although the sun was shining, there was a threat of more precipitation in the clouds above.
After a couple of miles by the river we picked up an old tramway; part of the Sustrans route 55. Dodging walkers on the end of dog leads we rapidly under-passed the M65 and the M6 leaving Preston behind.
We were heading towards Rivington, steadily climbing through country parks and then picking up the Leeds - Liverpool canal towpath.
The off road routes allowed a fast pace away from traffic but also meant plenty of muddy puddles to either ride around of splash through depending on what particular grinding noise was required from period correct drive trains.
For this ride Martin had pulled out his tried and tested 1994 GT RTS, complete with a full XT M737 groupset and some decidedly saggy RockShox Judy SLs. Meanwhile I had chosen to test out my latest acquisition, a 1997 Saracen Kili Comp. Built up with a set of Marzochhi Bomber Z2's, LX V brakes and an STX-RC drive-train.
I'd spent the previous evening rebuilding a rear XT M737 hub, with the intention of replacing a very tired, noisy and wobbly freehub body. Unfortunately my spare didn't fit so I had to make do and keep my fingers crossed that the current one would make the distance. The rear Mavic 517 rim was also very concave...
With a dodgy rear wheel the last thing I needed was a pasting of wet grit, but after 12 miles of mixed terrain we reached the northern end of Rivington Reservoir and rolled a little further south to the cafe at the Great Barn visitor centre.
At this point we were both filthy and I was regretting my choice not to fit a rear Crud Guard. Drying off as we ate bacon baps and drank expensive coffee the rain hit for the first time. A heavy downpour washed our dirty bikes as we sat sheltered under a large parasol a short distance away.
During the second cup the sun returned and steamed away much of the rain.
After about half an hour we began climbing again up to try out a recently discovered route up onto Anglezarke Moor using old shooting tracks.
Martin pulled out a vague internet print-out which sort of correlated with the OS map and we decided on which track to take.
Not long into the pioneer territory and my front tube punctured due to a crap rim tape on my recently purchased wheels. With retrospect should really have checked them, but fortunately it wasn't raining as we sorted out a repair on an exposed moorland with no cover in sight whatsoever...
Onwards and upwards the track climbed at a very nice rideable gradient, Martin effortlessly continued our conversations while my words were more punctuated by the need for oxygen.
Eventually after a short push towards the top we realised that a wrong turn had been taken. The clear conditions, easily distinguishable landmarks and stunning view from the top of the moor made orientating ourselves pretty straight forward. The soft terrain however meant a push for a couple of kilometres along the summit ridge until we picked up a stone flagged path heading north towards Great Hill.
Harrycrumb rolls along the secret stone flagged singletrack
The sun shone and the riding proved fast and fun along this section. A final short climb brought us to a summit shelter on the moor top with a commanding view all the way down to the coast in the west and across to Darwen Tower and Winter Hill to the east and south. The Lakeland fells were also visible in the distant north.
We paused for several photographs and savoured the prospect of a long downhill back down to Anglezarke reservior.
The Forest of Bowland to the north
Martin points out the Lake District
We hadn't seen a soul all the way along our high level route, but a we began to descend a small group of walkers smiled and returned our greetings as we passed. The long downhill track was loose in places and complicated by a few rain bars and deep water worn channels.
It was a great descent though and my latest bike felt great as I tried to smooth my way down a rough bit of terrain.
Passing through a gate, Martin used his local knowledge to pinpoint a gap in the fence leading to a superb section of singletrack through the woods.
It was rooty, flowing, technical and steep at times, but the general gradient took us downhill delightfully. It would be well worth a return visit, but I doubt I'd ever find it again.
We picked up a short section of new bridlway and rolled along the river to a game of cricket. We stopped a while to watch the match and devour some freshly made toast from a well placed clubhouse serving hatch.
By now any illusions of a short ride and being back by 4.30pm were more than shattered. It was 4pm and we were nowhere near getting back in time.
Oh well, it still didn't mean that we'd miss out the purpose built singletrack loop of Healey Nab. We climbed up and then ripped around the berms and plunged through the puddles adding new layers of mud to the layers of mud already accumulated from the past five hours of biking.
Dropping down we picked up a familiar bridleway and began the long return journey, back along the canals, tramways and cycle-paths we'd used in the morning.
Martin was still fresh and strong, a benefit of regular commuting and general legs of iron. I meanwhile was suffering a bit. Any climbs were now a real test of will and strength and I was rapidly dropped behind. I kept up on the flat sections though and tucked in for a slip-stream on the road sections, happy to let Martin do the work.
Eventually after Martin had pointed out all the drowned old bikes he'd seen in the Ribble over the years, we arrived back at his house after a 6 1/2 hour 40 mile epic. This was double the length of the originally planned ride. We'd also completed over 3750 ft of climbing during the day too.
A quick change and a hose down to reveal what colour my bike was, and it was time to say goodbye and make my way home. I also had to make a few apologies for arriving home two hours late.
So a word of warning to anyone who is considering a short ride out with Harrycrumb... Take your definition of a short route and then triple it, you'll still be nowhere near close.
New favourite bike - 1997 Saracen Kili Comp