Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some Lakeland Hills.

We always try and do something at Autumn half term holidays. The days are getting shorter, but there is still enough daylight to get some decent days on the bikes in.

In the summer, Alan Goldsmith had mentioned some possible changes to his original Lakeland 200 route. Whilst the variations make a route roughly the same length, they add in a couple of significant hills which make the ascent greater, around 7000 metres. So that was the plan, the new Lakeland 200 route. Rather than start from Staveley, we opted to start from near Keswick.

A couple of pints with some friends in the Coledale Inn the evening before, a good night's sleep in the back of the car, and just after 6:30 am, in the darkness, we are away towards our first hill, Skiddaw.

Tom and I had been up here not long ago so no surprises. A push up the first bit, then a mix of riding and pushing up to the top.

We knew that this route was going to have a lot of pushing, so instead of the usual bags on bikes set up, we carried everything on our backs.

By the time we got to Threlked we were in need of coffee and cake. Oh and some cardboard to sit on so we didn't soak their seats. It wasn't raining but the trails were certainly wet.

After some quiet valley roads and bridleways we find ourselves at the foot of Sticks Pass which heads up towards our next main hill, Helvellyn.

We'd ridden down here before, so knew it was steep. There wasn't much riding until we made the pass.

Over Raise, White Side, then a bite to eat near Helvellyn Summit.

Some nice easy riding towards Dollywagon Pike, followed by some real tech stuff down to Grisedale Tarn. We then follow the valley pictured below down to Patterdale.

In Patterdale we stopped to refuel again. It would be dark in a couple of hours, but we certainly weren't done for the day.

From Patterdale we ride towards Hartsop, where once again we commence hauling bikes up a steep grassy hill. Our goal is High Street. We do make the summit ridge before dark, but it still takes the best part of an hour to get to the trig point.

At Thornthwaite Crag a piccy. Before the tricky descent down to Troutbeck Park.

I only say it was tricky as it is justification for the spectacular over the bars thing I did half way down.

Above Limefitt Park we stop to eat some delaminated sausage rolls before the last climb of the day.

Garburn pass again is a familiar, and is not really a thing after the day's previous climbs. The descent as ever is testing though.

By the time we make Kentmere 16 hours in, we've both had enough and set up camp on Green Quarter Fell.

We both had a rubbish nights sleep, it was much colder than had been forecast. We woke up feeling more tired than we had been the night before. So instead of the planned 5:30 am start we opted for the 8:30 start followed by breakfast at Wilf's in Staveley. Below, on our way to breakfast.

It was a stunning day, so we were still going to ride back to Braithwaite where we had started, but day 2 was now, not going to be a tough one.

After a top breakfast we followed cyclepaths mostly to Ambleside where we popped into the Alpkit shop for a cup of tea (thanks Chris).

Bridleways round Rydal Water to Grasmere then over Dunmail raise.

We then followed the West road round Thirlmere, before heading up over Long Moss to Watendlath.

Here, Tom catching the last of the afternoon's Sun.

Bogtastic up there, but beautiful with a sweet little last drop down to Watendlath.

Back on the road to Keswick for some chips, and back to the car before dark.

A great couple of days in the Lake District. With day 1 being a strong contender for the toughest bikepacking day we've done.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Everesting Stwlan Dam.

Rested up after our Tour de France trip, we were looking for a late season challenge to put our fitness to use.

 Initially we'd planned to head up to the Lakes and do a big ride on our mountain bikes, the Lakeland 200. Reports though said that the ground was very wet after recent rain, so we were after a plan B.

James had mentioned the other week that a 14 year old had become the youngest to complete the Everesting challenge. Back in 2015 as part of the Rapha Rising challenge Tom had a go at Everesting Holme Moss, but at the half way mark on an undergeared bike he called it a day.

Tom fancied giving the challenge another go. After all nobody is getting younger.

I had a chat with James about suitable hills that hadn't yet been everested, and he suggested the gem that is the road to Stwlan Dam.

It's a gem for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a gated road, so no motor vehicles, except for access for dam maintenance. Secondly it is a fairly consistent 10% gradient. Finally it is a really pretty place to ride a bike, the scenery is stunning.

The weather forecast for the weekend looks OK, there's less than 1mm of rain forecast, so we decide on a 2am Saturday start. James kindly offers to meet us down there and support our everesting attempt.

Tom and I drive down on Friday evening. As we arrive just after 10pm it starts raining. We recline the car seats, and I set the alarm for 1:30am. The alarm goes off, but I've not slept, the rain has kept me awake. I message James to say that I am resetting the alarm for 6am. I awake and it is still raining, now though with added hailstones.

James says that the nearby Lakeside cafe opens at 9, and he retreats to his car. Just after 7am and I can see the cloud is starting to break, and the rain is now just showers. Tom wakes up and starts putting his cycling gear on. So I do likewise. A couple of laps before breakfast at the cafe is the plan.

Once we've started and the weather improves though, there is no time for a proper cafe stop, we are committed to giving this a proper go. Instead James goes to the cafe and grabs us a sausage sandwich and a coffee.

The weather is a mix, one minute it is fine, then the next we have our waterproofs on again. Though as the day progresses, the rain lessens.

The above picture was taken just after the 10th climb, and we were both feeling great. All those cols in the Alps and Pyrenees with laden bikes had made us strong.

 What a pretty place to ride a bike.

James kept us fed and watered. Here he's prepared one of our faves a Firepot Orzo Pasta Bolognese , fuel for another few laps.

More pictures.

James as well as catering for us, rode a good number of ascents with us.

By the time darkness had come, we'd done 20 ascents, only 14 left to do. We were well over halfway, though it certainly wasn't a done deal. We were both slowing down a little. Needless to say as the night progressed we both felt more and more tired.

We talked all the time on the way up the hill. If you are talking to someone your focus is on the conversation, not the blister on your bottom, or the fact that you'd rather be pushing your bike than pedaling it.

I notice a  mechanical as I'm grinding up the hill, I've lost 2 of my 5 chainring bolts. No worries James sorts that out back at the car by pinching one of Tom's and checking and tightening all the others.

Wow, a clear sky, and that meant a bazillion stars in the sky. We'd stop for a few moments at the top of the climb, and try and take some of that in.

The descents at night were cautious, there are lots of sheep on this hillside, many of which apparently like sleeping on the road.

We were riding slower, it was getting colder so we tried to minimise stopping time at the car. We wanted this done inside 24 hours.

One last stop at the end of rep 33. We turned off our Exposure lights for the last time grabbed a handful of Haribo washed down with some Coca Cola and headed back up the hill in the dawn light.

At the Dam we hugged each other then a "summit" picture.

James was waiting back at base camp for us to take the obligatory finish line photo..

Tom Seipp the youngest person to complete an #everesting age 12 years 7 months 22 days. 8954 metres climbed in 23 hours 21 minutes.

His Strava is a bit wonky as his batteries died a couple of times mid segment, the GPS chewed through batteries in the cold, but unusually we took two GPS units and my Strava is here.

Now to rest up for a couple of weeks before commencing the build up to Strathpuffer.

A big thanks to James for his help in catering for us, fettling bikes, and the use of his pictures.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tour de France 1955 - A story to tell.

We've been back from France for two days now. Our ride a homage to the 1955 Tour de France finished.

Some figures for those that like to quantify numerically. 34 days riding. 1 rest day. 4744 km ridden. 54,310 metres climbed. 11 days where we rode in excess of 160 km. Average 139 km.

A friend said recently at a talk we did, "you make it all sound so easy". This ride wasn't easy. There was pain, illness, though in the main it was a real pleasure.

This trip rather than a blog or a series of blog posts deserves some words printed on paper along with some accompanying pictures.

When the kids are back at school expect a crowdfunding campaign. ;)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tour De France BikePacking Gear List

On the 24th of August, Tom and I will set out on our 4500 kilometre ride inspired by the 1955 Tour de France route.

Below is what we'll be taking.

Luggage -

Rich - Alpkit Big Papa, Stingray Frame Bag, Medium Fuel Pod.

Tom - Alpkit Stingray Frame Bag, Koala Seat pack.

Sleeping -

Force Ten Helium 2 tent.

Rich - Enlightened Equipment down quilt, Sea to Summit mat.

Tom - Adult Pied Elephant down bag. Klymit mat.

Clothes - All Rapha - Merino base layers, Lightweight/Aero Tops, Bib shorts, Arm Warmers, Leg Warmers, Gilets. Magic Rock Caps.

Extra clothes - Primaloft jackets, Waterproof tops, Merino beanies, undies, socks.

Tools etc. Pump, 3 tubes, puncture repair kit, tyre lever, multitool, chain breaker, spare links, pliers, cable ties.

Personal care - Factor 30 suncream, Assos chamois cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste, tea tree cream, wipes.

Electrics - Rich - Garmin Oregon GPS, SP PD-8 dynamo. Igaro AC power into 5V USB power convertor. Anker PowerCore 20100 battery, leads. Fujifilm X30 camera, spare lithiums for the SPOT.
Both - USE Exposure Toro front lights with Exposure RedEye Rear Lights

Water - Both 2 bottles. 

Luxury item, a roll on deodorant.

SPOT Tracker - Click for our location.

Oh, and Tom's Stingray frame bag is empty, he'll be carrying our food.

Some close up photos below.

Monday, July 3, 2017

What's next? Summer Plans

"What's next?" A question that we're often asked. It's a question that I've got usually got an answer to, though the answer often changes.

We'd penciled in a European end to end for this summer. It ticked many boxes. Though when I started to research a route it became clear that we'd have to avoid the mountains to make good time over the 5000+km. Not ideal.

Whilst watching Le Tour on the television with my daughter the other day, a seed was sown that changed our plans. Why not ride the "Tour de France" then we can come out and see you?

I looked at this years route and like most modern tour routes there's a lot of transfers between the end of a stage and the start of the next. As we are planning on riding unsupported, we'd need to find a tour route where riders actually rode the whole route. Oh, and can we have some hills including Mont Ventoux?

I spend an afternoon doing some research and settled on using the 1955 tour route as a template for our trip.

Starting at Le Havre, the route heads clockwise dipping into Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, then round France. Climbs include - Aravis, Télégraphe, Galibier, Vars, Cayolle, Vasson, La Turbie, Mont Ventoux, Aspin, Peyresourde, Tourmalet, Aubisque.

As usual the route ends in Paris, some 4476 km later.

We're not going to follow the exact route, preferring quieter roads when possible, so we may do a few km more.

In 1955 (the first year that there were British riders) the Tour was ridden in 22 days with 2 rest days. We'll be aiming for something similar. There will be no broom wagon, and we'll be carrying all our camping kit.

Thanks Skye for the inspiration, and for drawing the map. See you in Paris!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ride to the Sun....and back.

We first heard about Ride to the Sun in 2016. The ride starts from Carlisle, and heads North to finish on Cramond beach which is a few miles North of Edinburgh. Riders can leave whenever, but the goal is to get to the beach in time for sunrise.

Our plan was to ride to the beach, grab a few hours sleep, then ride back to the start. 200 miles in 24 hours.

Tom and I arrived in Carlisle on Saturday around 6:30pm and after chatting with a few folk at the start, we were away for 7:20 pm. Our last big (100 mile off road) ride had an average speed of under 7 miles an hour. We were a good deal faster than that on the road with skinny tyres!

The miles quickly passed. We paused for a photo and a snack in Ecclefechan. Not long after we caught up with "Pyro" one of the Bear Bones Forumites. We rode along with him for a few miles and chatted.

At Moffat we stopped for tea and more food.

We arrived at Moffat, though didn't hang around long as the midges were about. Though we did have a cup of tea.

As we headed up the only hill of note on the route, the Devil’s Beef Tub, dusk fell and we turned on our lights. Though Tom's rear light had disappeared since leaving the car, so he had to stay alongside or in front of me for the rest of the night.

Dusk fell, but it never really got dark.

Outside the now empty Crook Inn in the Tweed valley a DJ is playing some tunes, we listened to a few beats whilst filling our water bottles.

One more drink stop on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Then it's heads down for the last few miles to Cramond. We were pleased to have ridden the 100 miles with a moving average of over 15mph.

Shortly after our arrival our friend Alasdair McLean arrives, and we all adjourn for some well earned food.

After eating Alasdair heads off home, and Tom and I find a comfy looking bit of grass near Cramond Kirk and throw our tent up.

After four hours sleep, it is time to get up and head back to Carlisle.

Alasdair had suggested an alternate route back, but my GPS routing insisted on sending us via the Edinburgh ring road which you are not allowed to cycle on. So it took longer than it should have done the first few miles. Nearing Peebles, we decided to retrace our previous route.

The ride back was into the wind, and wow it was hot, but what a pretty part of the world.

By the time we arrived in Moffat for the 2nd time in 24 hours, we were cooked. Cold drinks and ice lollies needed.

A final photo at Gretna Green before the last few miles to Carlisle.

We arrived back in Carlisle almost 24 hours after leaving, having ridden 210 miles.

All that was left for the day was to drive back home in time for sleep, then school and work on Monday.

Thanks to Fraser Maxwell, Gary Cameron and the rest of the people who helped put on such a great event.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Highland Trail 550 - Part 4

Day 7

There comes a time in these trips where you think that there's a good chance that you're going to get to the end, and with 160 miles left to do in two days, we could now visualise the end.

From Kinlochewe we headed into the Coulin Forest.

Towards Coire Lair.

Down then to Strathcarron for ice cream before  a small climb over the hill to Dornie for lunch.

The onwards into Kintail.

We did stop to change our damp socks for dry ones before the big climb.

Just past Glenlicht House, Tom shouts me. He shows me his front wheel. There is sealant leaking from one side and the middle of the rim. The nearest bike shop is 40 miles away, we are surely finished.

The sealant is still not sealing, but a positive is that it is  only escaping slowly. A quick bit of thinking and I have managed not to fix the crack, but have stopped the air escaping, if only temporarily. (On our return the rim was examined and there wasn't a crack in the rim)

The next section is pushing followed by  a fairly smooth descent.

I'm amazed but the wheel holds. We ride on until it's dark.

Day 8

We are up early. We know that this is going to be a long day. A couple of big lumps take us over to Fort Augustus for brunch.

Next comes the Caledonian Canal down to Fort William.

It's a hot day, Tom needs ice cream.

Out of Fort William we follow the West Highland Way over to Kinlochleven.

The walkers had mostly long gone home.

Half a lemon drizzle cake each for us before the descent.

Devil's Staircase, the last big climb of the day.

As we climb up, the sun sets.

 We make it over the other side of Devil's staircase just in daylight. Thereafter we ride with lights on.

It's fair to say that we were both very tired on the last few miles. The temptation to sleep was great, but finishing in under 8 days was more important.

At 2:10 am we arrived back in Tyndrum. A 101 mile day with over 9000' of climbing.

Our total time was 7days 20 hours and 25 minutes.

Strava -

We were most surprised that Alan and Mark had stayed up to see us in. Thanks, Oh and thanks to Mark Armitage for the pic below. Not looking too shabby after a 20 hour day.

We were in bed somewhere around 3am, then up again early to see of the folks who were setting of that morning.

After Alan had got a selfie with Tom, Tom started the race.

A big thanks to Alpkit for the bikes and luggage. I rode a rigid Frontier, and Tom rode a Carbon Transmitter.

Finally a big thanks to everyone for cheering us on!