September saw a last minute ride organised up on the Yorkshire Moors. A glorious time of year with the changing colours of autumn. Shame about the weather
An early start then with myself, SimonsideResident and most notably the return of the Sith, climbing into the yellow truck for a steady run down to Rosedale (after a leasurly breakfast en route).
Layers were piled on under grey skies that threatened rain at any moment before heading up the long tarmac slog to Bell End where we would say goodbye to tarmac for the rest of the day. The first part of the route followed the ride we did in January's heavy snow. This time the going was easier but no less steep. Eventually we ended up on the old railway track bed high above the village. We were also now heading into a strong headwind that made the first section hard work.
Further along the trail now we find that the old railway is losing its battle against time and nature and the trails gets a little more interesting with small drops, curves and singletrack. We were soon in the shelter of the hillside and out of the wind for a period too. If the rain held off this could turn out to be a decent day out!
The trail gets a little boggy in places and wet feet signaled a need to push on to the Pub at Blakey Ridge. By now we had made our way around the head of the valley and the last mile to the pub had us flying along with the increasing wind behind us. A short techy climb had us sat beside an open fire with chip buttys and Crabbies Ginger Beer before you could say 'Brass Monkeys'.
Onwards. Suitably refreshed, we crossed the road and blasted down a rough techy decent back down onto the old railway line. Big grins and big rings mixed with the squeel of overworked brakes. We now had a longish run along to the top of Chimney Bank. Ever so slightly uphill but with a very strong wind behind us and smooth fast rolling trail beneath our wheels we made short work of it. Top gear was used all the way along and our speed cancelled out the wind noise giving a slightly surreal experience as we took in the huge views to our left; the village from which we departed looking like a tiny scale model below us.
A brief rest stop at Chimney Bank allowed us to catch our breath before heading straight over the road and onto more fast doubletrack and across to Ana Cross. The view is fantastic from here and on a clear day you can see the 3 big Yorkshire Powerstations over 40 miles away.
We were now about to head onto some really nice singletrack. Twisting its way through heather that brushed the ankles, the trail started to head downwards at a rate of knots. Simonside Ian blasting off into the distance with me and Sith gamely playing catchup on older bikes. A few nice drops and jumps, followed by a washed out section brought us down to Hollins Farm. This next section is said to be one of the best bits of natural singletrack in the country. My memories of it were hazy as i had last riden it back in the late 80's on a pannier laden Cannondale.
With a slight downhill angle and a wind that was getting stronger by the minute we rode the 3 mile section in no time. Hollins is great; slippy, occasionally rooty and rocky, but very fast and flowing despite some recent 'improvements' that have chopped out a few of the techie sections. Even the clouds began to clear and blue sky made an appearance. All too soon we were at the end of the trail next to the Lastingham Road. Laying on the grass in the dip gave us all a little shelter from the wind whist we had a breather and a few snacks.
The original plan was loop back over the moor on the shooting track and have another crack at the decent from Ana Cross to Hollins, but the combination of tiring legs, a good few miles of climbing, that strong wind that we would have to tackle head on, and skies that were turning from blue to ominous black, had us retracing out tracks back along the side of the moor toward Hollins.
Where just 30 minutes before it had been Big Ring and Big Grin, the return saw us in Granny and Grimmace mode. Even going the 'wrong way' the trail was entertaining enough to keep the mind off things.
Then came the rain. We had almost made it round when the heavens opened. The last tiring mile of farmroad slog back to Rosedale was done in a drizzle that soaked to the bone in minutes.
The temptation of the pub beside the road above Rosedale was strong but with a short but sharp 1 in 3 Tarmac blast back to the car park ahaed of us and the promise of warm dry clothes waiting, the choice was easy. Within minutes we were back at the van and out of the rain.
So, a nice loop, some good trails, some weather, good company and craic. Despite the weather I have to say it was indeed a grand day out. No punctures, no mechanicals, no serious offs- Perfect!