drystonepaul's official ride report
The Retrobikers assembled for the group photo at the top of the last climb
After all the anticipation, recce rides and weather watching, the morning of the big ride had finally arrived.
I opened the curtains to reveal a drizzly and grey sky. Just what I didn't want for the day. A quick bowl of porridge and a check on tire pressures and I set off over to Hope to meet up and sort out the final preparations.
Although wet it was also warm and humid with the temperature on the drive over hovering in the high teens. As I reached the top of Winnats Pass the cloud was low and visibility was poor. In short it was looking pretty dismal and I began to worry about just how slippery the first muddy descent would be.
Strolling into the Woodbine Cafe at 9 am I was greeted by several familiar and some less familiar faces. Heathy and Gravy Monster were already well underway with their hearty breakfasts, and the Heathy abuse machine was already well warmed up.
I battled through a huge bacon and egg bap like an ice road trucker while chatting to a few other retro breakfast companions and a strange looking lady Morris dancer.
Mr Kawasaki had invited everyone to join him for a 9 am breakfast, but 45 minutes later there was still no sign of him. But then his epic Westfalia arrived and blocked some traffic while he complained about a hangover and about being locked in his own cellar by his house guests.
Outside the light rain had stopped and given way to some lovely sunshine as more and more people arrived for the ride. We reached and surpassed the anticipated fifty rider mark with ease. The pavement was rapidly filling with an assorted trip hazard of great looking bikes.
Pretty much on schedule we gave a short briefing covering what to expect from the day. We thought it was also important to quash any rumours about Mr Kawasaki's demise despite him not riding for the past two years. He had worried that people thought it was his memorial ride...
To spread the group out a little, Mr K led away a 'Gentleman's group' along the road towards the first of the day's climbs.
15 minutes later the terminal faffers, late arrivals and Tim Gould wannabes set off in not so hot pursuit. The first short climb gave way to a pleasant roll down to a water splash and the turned right to begin the first big climb up onto Shatton Moor. I rode ahead and directed everyone up the turn and waited for Sinnett177 the designated section sweeper.
My camera had switched itself off several times and eventually I put it away whilst waiting for what seemed like far too long. After several minutes a small group of puncture repairers arrived led by Kaya whose front wheel promptly slid out underneath him as he nearly made the tarmac turn.
Dusting himself down and muttering a couple of choice phrases, Vern insisted he was fine despite the dull thud I'd heard as he hit and then slid along the tarmac. Tough bugger. Everyone was safe and accounted for.
The sun was now beating down and raising the temperature to match the incline. The long, steep climb onto the moor hadn't got any easier since last year. With a 20 minute deficit I rode at the back in my role as sweeper. I don't really think I could've gone much quicker though, so staying near the back was a preferred option.
The tarmac ended and the last section of loose and rocky stuff brought everyone up to the radio mast for a planned full re-group. The 50 plus riders were all happily chatting away, chilling out in the sunshine, recovering strength and soaking in the views.
EdEdwards was apparently first to the summit but was disqualified on a tire pressure rule infringement. Next up was Jonnyboy666's mate Adam. He was also discounted on account of his modern bike.
So the honour of carrying the 'Monkey of Hope' was claimed by RichAitch on his 1992 Marin Muirwoods, thus proving that 200GS is truly the most awesome groupset ever.
Go on... Kiss the monkey.
After a few minor and not so minor bike adjustments it was time to contour around the top of the moor and pick up the start of the tricky singletrack descent down Bradwell Edge.
There had been plenty of discussion about this section prior to the ride in terms of managing so many riders down a potentially hazardous section. But that's what mountain biking is all about so HarryCrumb, Sinnett177 and I set off down with our first aid kits to mark the drop at strategic points and hopefully limit the danger.
On my way down at the front I picked up a matching set of scratches for my right arm from the recce ride the night before. I'd been down this descent twice already in the previous ten days so I knew what to expect. With the morning's rain it had become a bit more slippery than before though. It was all rideable with a bit of skill, nerve and luck.
I positioned myself at the top of the last rutted steep and slippery bit and pulled a few thorns out of my bloodied arms while I waited for the ensuing carnage.
Spencer unleashes the power of the splatter paint
Bradwell Edge - click on the images to enlarge
There was some very impressive riding skill on display, as many riders successfully negotiated the ruts and twisted their way through the gate at the bottom. FluffyChicken rode it like a pro and MrK gave a slower but measured and very competent demonstration of how to ride a tricky mudslide with drop bars.
A few others weren't quite so lucky, but possibly more entertaining as they used prickly foliage to slow down and break their falls. Harrycrumb also hit the ground like a sack of spuds when his front wheel got caught in a rut and threw him over the bars. He had three kneecaps by the end of the ride.
Rider after rider bravely smiled or grimaced their way down until finally Ibelieveinfixies and Wu-Tangled showed everyone their expertly honed Mountain Mayhem Solo survival tactics by mincing it down the hill.
No Gus, there's nobody behind you.
With everyone comparing the fun of minor injuries and bracken I gave away an antiseptic wipe to stop Gus from being 'poisoned' and we continued down to Bradwell.
Passing through the village, everyone spread out nicely as anticipated on the bridleway through the incongruous Hope cement works. Then we all turned onwards and upwards through Pin Dale.
Regrouping again we began the now legendary 'Hill Climb Challenge'.
Setting off at short intervals everyone tackled to ridiculously loose rubble climb up out of the old quarry. While some riders adjusted tire pressure in the vain hope of finding traction, others mentally prepared themselves and visualised how good winning could be. To do well you need a combination of skill, strength and balance. But mostly you need luck and, it seems, a 29er.
Imnotanumber-06 took the honours on what was admittedly a modern bike. We couldn't really separate the next rider up it was so close. It was possibly Sinnett, Heathy, JV, LGF or me perhaps.
Anyway, John got the heavy lump of monkey on his back for the next few miles and he seemed quite happy about it.
Go on... Spank the monkey.
Part two coming soon...