and Burdock. You rarely find these drinks in the south, it made Ross feel at home. Only Shandy Bass was missing. We climbed slowly up the cobbled road away from the water, I counted each cobble to maintain rhythm until we reach the top. At the top, there were more tarmac lanes for a couple of miles. I enjoyed the sections of asphalt that punctuated our ride, which allowed me to take in the surrounding beauty and acute differences to my home in Bristol. I felt cheeky as I benefited from the protection provided by following Sharon into the headwind. It gave me more opportunities to look out over the long stretches of the rolling dales and lakes, so wide and open, with no sign of inhabitants, only a burnt-out car from a previous week’s rave. Then I saw the boys ahead as they turned off the road and lifted their bikes over the gate and waited for us at the foot of the final climb. I enjoyed myself for the last mile of the day’s
riding after embarrassingly falling over during the last climb - the kind of climb that I had tried to avoid mishaps on all day - a narrow and annoyingly sunken and hidden gully beat me at the end. I was trapped in the rut and it was doing all the steering for me. Much like the famous railway lines on Bristol’s dock side, which have Pringled many an unsuspecting wheel. All day long, different gates opened onto new chapters and different types of trail. I was certainly attracted to the moors with their black sandstone, small hidden valleys, and rocky blasts. I saw the familiar reappearance of the moors after each tight and twisty section: it was a big loop compared to the known compact playground style of the Leigh Woods maze in Bristol. On the last section, we prepared to enjoy the coming route through fast, rocky tracks, enough to make the scenery blur like an
I spent most of the journey home, thinking how to compare north v south:
North South Gully Roots Valley Woods Black Grit Sticky Mud Time to ponder Quick response Climbing Technical Spacious Hemmed in Wide Loop Maze
Photo: Simon D Barnes alcoholic cameraman - joy. I had become more comfortable on the terrain and relaxed into the secret winding gullies, as I got used to the tricks of making them work. The image of Luke’s successful bombing run on the Death Star sprang to mind. I admired White Moor, the water squelching in the earth underneath my tyres. Dave informed us it gets icy in winter and you skate more than you ride.
The surreal Punch and Judy show. All of a sudden Dave stopped and disappeared behind the dry stone wall. A hand holding a beer can appeared from behind the wall like a surreal Punch and Judy show, and then another beer appeared as if by magic. Dave, reappeared pleased with himself, brushed soil from the perfectly cooled cans and passed them around our gang. We sat down on the bridge in the warm sunshine and listened to Dave recant how he spent the night on the moor bivvying with Mat and Sim. I then knew what our rides at home are missing. Shortly after the last drops of beer had been sunk, the sun faded behind the clouds. My head slightly lighter, as I tried to focus again for Sharon’s favourite singletrack finish. I was disappointed that my lack of a clear head hindered my speedy descent, along with the fear of an embarrassing mistake. I rejoined the group at the bottom and Ross knowingly looked at me while I tried to hide my tipsy smile. Back at the house, Ross and I washed our bikes – it was much quicker than the usual ‘Bristol Dust’. The beer didn’t help my bike washing skills, I washed the same side of my bike at least twice - D’oh. A cuppa, snacks and a hot shower brought me back to life. For us tired visitors a warm evening ensued. Dave and Pip’s double act was first rate and Sharon’s chilli and beers went down a treat. An ace day but I was quickly losing the battle to stay awake.
Mission IV: Location: Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire’s South Pennies Date: Sunday 23rd September 2007 Weather: Cloudy, windy
The wind twisted, turned, and roared overnight, but when we woke in the morning we found it had ceased by the time the tea had brewed and the smell of toast filled the kitchen. Dave showed Ross his new single speed frame while Pip begged me to play with her - what a dog!
We drove to Hebden Bridge across the treeless moor, it reminded me of Dartmoor at home. There was no rain, just clouds after the weather’s raucous misbehaving overnight. We met up with Kirsty and Craig, a friendly couple who are regular riding partners of our hosts. We headed out of Hebden bridge up another long climb. I was assured that this route was the easiest of the possible starts on offer. Lots of hard breathing and exertion knitted together my negative thoughts, the landscape and I had not formed a great friendship. I obsessively stalked Sharon, I had no idea how far the climb reached, and after learning that Sharon knew the route well I decided to try and match her riding to help meter my efforts. I mentally slapped my face, I must not think about the unhelpful thoughts, and focused on Sharon’s line. Slowly I calmed my erratic breathing down. My brain was just about getting used to the effort by the time we arrived at the next stop with the group. At the top of the first of the day’s climb, we rested a bit and pedalled further along the lane, spotting the steep turn the track takes upwards - oh my God! There were two fields bisected by just a single, straight, steeplypitched right-of-way lined with more of the ubiquitous dry stone walls. I groaned and watched the confident Sharon, as she whirred onwards in a low gear. I could tell she was prepared for the steep hill while Kirsty had already flown half way up; I was next. Towards the halfway point of the gnarly, rocky climb there was a steep section, but with tyres spinning it was too much effort to stay upright and quicker to walk it. The boys followed shortly behind; but it was just too much hard work for singlespeeds and camera equipment and they decided to walk the last half (Well, that was their excuse anyway.)
Not my cup of tea. Treble carbohydrate intake then a toilet stop with a very scenic view before we headed straight down to the valley floor via ‘Ben’s Zig Zags’. Wet, slippy and with hidden rocks, it started to get interesting, then it started to get narrow. In waist deep trenches I started to feel like I was in a bowling alley. It changed from rock to grass-covered tracks mixed in with a generous helping of nettles and branches, it looked like no one had ever ridden there. The unsurfaced path was bounded by mossy stone walls and barbed wire fences. I couldn’t see what was coming, whatever was lurking I had to react quickly. It was fun, but not as fast as l would have liked. At this point Dave said ‘We’re at the bottom, we need to go along the right lane and then up again.’ Eh? Up again - already? Oh, joy(!)
Photo: Simon D Barnes