Feature: Trail Swapping Part 2
The irony of having to concentrate so hard on trails with scant line choices was certainly different from the south where you’re tired from too many choices sometimes.
It was Faye’s idea to swap her and Ross’ riding lives with Dave and Sharon. First with a visit of the northerners to Bristol and now the payback – visiting Yorkshire for the return leg. Would it show that UK riding is basically the same? Or that there are deeper divides than we think?
Mission III - The North Location: Oxenhope, Yorkshire’s South Pennies Date: 23rd September Weather: Misty fog, Cloudy, Sunny, Windy.
We awoke in Warrington our overnight stop, hometown of my other half’s parents, to discover thick grey fog. We hoped it would fade once the sun arrived and we set off heading towards the Pennines. As we drove, my northern partner pointed out one of Yorkshire’s best-known landmarks, not the birthplace of David Hockney or even the Bronte sisters, but the farm that sits right in the middle of the M62 near Scammonden. How splendid that it stands at a symbolic midway point on the M62, shortly after you see a sign saying ‘Highest motorway in England’. The classic northern industrial landscape of old textile mills, redundant chimneys and rows
of terraced housing started to appear. Then we spotted the rural sign - Oxenhope, the village of Dave and Sharon and straightaway we recognised Dave’s van and at the same time we saw Sharon hanging laundry on the washing line. So there we were, ready for the adventure. Dave and Sharon warmly welcomed us and introduced us to Simon, another Singletrack friend, and their dog, Pip. As they served coffee and tea with biscuits before the big ride, Dave and Simon recounted numerous stories. There was a definite role reversal from guest to host and it felt good that I was not in a charge for the weekend; I was going to enjoy the riding. We unpacked the bikes, changed and got my SPDs ready for action while Dave and Sharon waited – no change there then. We set off and pedalled along roads, lanes and pathways, often lined by mature trees and interspersed with stone-built houses and farms. Quickly the males were leaping forward so I decided to stay with Sharon who began leading me to the gentle hill ahead. Halfway up, Sharon stopped to point out the buildings visible in the valley and introduced me to Oxenhope spreading out below us. It’s a small Pennine valley community, centred on a Victorian mill village, including many smaller settlements with large open fields. Sharon suggested that we ended the day’s ride with a great downhill back into the village – saving the best to last. Dave pointed out the railway line where the well-known Railway Children was filmed.
Singletrack Expectations I started to revise my singletrack expectations with the first trail. It was the narrowest one I have ever been on, barely twice the width of my tyre in places, with gullies and channels everywhere. I hadn’t had to focus that hard on the ground for a long time and had to tell myself to stick with often the only line available and to stay with it and not move the handlebars at all. The irony of having to concentrate so hard on trails with scant line choices was certainly different from the south where you’re tired from too many choices sometimes. ‘Shoeshine’? It puzzled me why the impending trail was given its name on this windswept land of heather and wild moor. The gang sped up and it was all I could do to keep up. Suddenly I stopped and examined just
‘Trust me, it’s better than it looks.’
exactly where the trail went, the heather masked the gully’s direction almost entirely. Direction relocated I got my bearings, took aim and accelerated, leaning my chest forward and gripping the bars tight to give chase through the heather. My attempt at an aggressive pursuit failed and I began laughing to myself as the low foliage tickled my legs along the way until I reached a drop off and exited the heather’s grasps to rejoin the group. I looked down at my shoes to see if they really were buffed to a glossy shine that my Grandad would have been proud of. I only saw my dry, mud-covered shoes staring back up at me, hardly polished as the name of the trail suggests. I then noticed the red scratches from the heather causing my legs to throb.
It’s OK, I suppose. . . ‘Not bad, is it?’ I surprised myself when I expressed my thoughts aloud again during the next section. I looked up at a view of a long gentle incline, lined with trees and fences. The gentle pace felt very different from pedalling uphill at home with the short, sharp, shocks of the Bristol