Wow, what a whopper!

That was the weekend that was the Poynton – Snowdon Summit – Poynton Challenge.  And we took it by the horns and smashed it.

Only a few weeks ago, Jason came to us to ask if we’d do some sort of charity fundraising ride to help some friends of his with a very poorly young boy.  4 year old Ollie had been diagnosed with battens disease.  None of our group had heard of this genetic disease before, so through the wonders of modern technology, a bit of web searching on our phones brought up the very sad truth that Ollie’s life would be cut tragically short.

The Tuesday Night Riders stepped up and said a fairly unanimous yes, but what should the challenge be?  A few ideas, some good and some less so were mooted and booted into touch until we decided that in order to raise some decent and much needed cash, it had to be a challenge that would stand out as being hard enough to make people open their wallets and purses to donate.  This is where the Snowdon idea came forward.

At first, we discussed a team relay there, all riding up together and a team relay home.  This sounded reasonable, but still not hard enough as with all the riders taking part, we’d only have to tackle about 30+ miles each, along with Snowdon.  That was when the plan to do the whole thing together came about:  To ride our mountain bikes from Vernon School in Poynton to the top of Snowdon and back with a night out in bivi bags.  That should pique people’s attention nicely.

As the ensuing weeks rolled by, kit was bought, bikes were prepped and training miles went in, the miles and the bivi night being people’s biggest concerns.  Dan did sterling work putting the just giving page and text donation line together, Marc came good with the offer of a support van to carry our kit to and from Snowdon and the money started to roll into the fund, helping us on our way to the £5000 target we had, rather ambitiously set for ourselves.

With only a few weeks to go before the challenge, we heard the devastating news that Ollie’s younger sister Amelia had also been diagnosed with battens.  We had to do this now, more than ever.

All too quickly, weeks of good weather turned to wet and windy, just in time for our challenge.  A call to postpone it was dismissed, we’d come so far and done so much, not to mention the growing support we were receiving, we couldn’t put it off for a bit of bad weather.  After all, how bad could it be?

Saturday the 2nd of May arrived without the forecasted rain and our motley crew of bike riders assembled outside Vernon School for our 6am start.  Well, almost all of our crew.  A quick phone call from Andy to Paul revealed he’d slept through his alarm but assured us he’d be there as soon as he could. Much mickey taking would follow but for now it was nervous anticipation all round.  The roar of Paul’s Audi announced his tardy arrival and he was good to go within a few minutes.

6.30am and we were on the road.  Mile 1 soon ticked by and the pace was good, spirits high and the banter started to flow.  Our first stretch of offroad pedalling came between Prestbury and Alderly Edge, met with huge cheers and a massive injection of pace.  Good to see we’re all still mountain bikers, despite the tarmac miles we’d be facing this weekend.

Our first leg went by quickly with one comedy crash as we realised we’d missed a turning and in the slamming on of brakes, Paul took a trip over the bars.  Payback for our late start perhaps.  The meeting point in Davenham was soon reached and we happened across a lady in the local hairdressers who was the first to rattle our collection can and took a photo for our progress report.

Bottles filled and pockets stuffed with supplies we took to our next stretch towards Chester, via some more fast miles on good tracks through Delamere and onwards.  An impromptu call of nature break, or maybe two were the only things to halt progress and we arrived in Chester earlier than expected for more re-supply and some very successful can rattling.  It’s amazing how easily people can be persuaded to listen to you when the other people vying for their attention are talking politics so our chosen location, opposite a load of pre-election campaigners worked out nicely.

Saddling up again, we headed east along good cycle tracks to the Welsh border where the weather got rather more Welsh and it started to rain with a little more determination.  Meeting point 3 was Prestatyn which was reached via a mix of more good tracks and some rather tedious A road.  A persistent beep of a car horn was very nearly met with the customary hand gestures you might expect as we were doing no wrong, but thankfully, we noticed the outstretched arm from the passenger window brandishing a £20 donation.  Good job we didn’t offend the good lady first.

A long lunch stop in Prestatyn gave Jason time to catch up with his holidaying kids and in-laws and also a chance for a local in said boozer to rattle our can very successfully around the bar on our behalf.

Once more into the wind and rain, we continued along the, thankfully, traffic free Wales Coastal Path as far as Colwyn Bay with only a puncture holding up our steady progress.  A couple of road miles took us, via a chip shop stop, to Conway with it’s imposing castle and it’s welcome sight of our support van.  One last re-stocking of drinks and snacks saw us on our final leg before Snowdon and some tired legs were called on to tackle the first of many Welsh hills.

Re-grouping on the road south to Betws y Coed revealed a couple of very tired faces in the pack and speeds slowed to a crawl on the climbs.  All our faces, no matter what colour, were drawn to the occasional breaks in the cloud which revealed much snow on the higher flanks of the Carnedd mountain range.  The slog onwards from Betws, for a predominantly uphill 10 miles, steepening to the end, sapped the last of Jason’s reserves so he took a seat in the support van for the last few miles.  Our rendezvous with the van at the top of Pen y Pass revealed the lack of anything approaching sensible weather for a night time ascent so a rare sensible decision was taken to head into Llanberis and hit Marc’s thoughtfully scoped out bivi spot for the night.

Unloading the van in a few trips into the woods had us setting up a camp fit for a king, tarps strung between trees, campfire lit and well supplied with wood, stoves cooking tea and a bevvy or two being passed around.  Suitably fed, our numbers started to turn in in preparation for the dawn start on the mountain planned for Sunday.

The alarm apparently went off at five, though there was little movement for some while as no-one seemed to want to experience the rain pounding on our tarp first hand.  Had we realised that Phil wasn’t even under the tarp, we could have just asked him how hard it was raining.  Nice one Phil, taking one for the team without complaint.

More faffing about than you’d find at an award dinner for champion faff abouters meant that the dawn start turned into a 7.30 start and a realisation that we were going to struggle to beat the 10am no bikes on the mountain cut off time.  Best get pedalling then.

The initial 1/2 mile or so is a tarmac surfaced swine which saw one or two resorting to pushing bikes before we even hit dirt.  A last re-group at the first gate would be the last time we all saw each other for about 4 hours.  The battle we were about to do with gravity and the weather seemed to mean heads down and get on with it.

Passing above the first of the mountain railway stations, the wind decided it was time to start playing it’s part in slowing our progress.  Very soon it invited it’s mate, sideways rain to join in.  By the halfway point, visibility was down to a few feet and any section too steep to ride was a wrestle to hang on to our bikes as the wind tried to steal them from us.  Under the railway tunnel and into the final steep stretch to the summit, the wind turned from annoyingly strong to THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

By now, our well strung out party were well out of sight of each other so I was surprised to be met by a descending Andy.  I knew he was ahead of me but surely the Wee Man couldn’t have summited already.  A quick chat and map check showed that he’d turned around to head down, fearing the time limit, within half a mile of the top so we carried on up together.

Never has a summit been savoured for such a short time, I think Andy’s hand had left before the muffled sound of his glove slap had met his ears and my 3 seconds contact with the trig point warranted a “Come On” shout.  Sorry mate, off we go.

Early attempts to ride down the steps off the summit pyramid were thwarted by the gale force wind so we walked until a more suitable surface was reached.  Dropping down the higher slopes, we met the fragmented group coming up and warned them of what was to be expected at the top, Marc and Ant joining us to head down, Dan, Forbes, Damian, Paul, Mark and Phil continuing to top out, Jason having made a solo sensible decision already to head down.  While our foursome enjoyed the thrills of the descent, with stops to allow our steaming and hissing brake rotors to cool, the topmost party headed for the summit café for much needed warmth and hot drinks.  Several even opted to purchase fleeces from the shop before it was announced that due to the weather conditions, the café was being closed.

Welsh weather being as unpredictable as it is, our regrouping in Llanberis didn’t seem to be on the same planet as our trip up and down Snowdon.  Not only had the wind and rain disappeared, but it was warming up in the sunshine very nicely.  This good weather allowed us to eat porridge, drink brews, prepare kit and snacks for the ride home, accompanied with a huge amount more faffing about for an hour or so.  This meant it was around half an hour into Sunday afternoon before we turned a pedal for home.  By which time, the rain was making another appearance as Jason took the van keys for the stint to the coast, Marc opting to ride a while.

Having all descended Pen y Pass at some rate of knots the previous evening, we knew what a slog the climb would be and we weren’t let down.  Thankfully, it doesn’t last forever but the headwind up and down into Betws y Coed robbed us of the fast descent we had hoped for.  A left turn over the bridge in Betws and we were soon crossing the River Conway via another bridge, into Llanwryst to turn north for the coast.  Good road surfaces and a tail wind meant we’d hit the Colwyn Bay meeting with the van in good time so we caffeine filled ourselves in Costa, loaded up pannier pockets with bananas and Snickers, then took to the coast path again with a rejuvenated Jason back on the bike, Marc back in the driving seat.

The puncture gods being the twisted individuals that they are meant that only our second puncture of the trip was picked up within yards of the first on our way out the previous day.  More thorns than it’s possible to hold in a tyre and a piece of glass were removed from Ant’s tyre and we were off again through Rhyl and Prestatyn towards the border.

A few quick mental calculations revealed that t would be late o’clock or later when we arrived home so we should make an effort to stick together in one line to save everyone having to push on through the wind alone.  This proved quite successful for many miles and we made the meeting point in Chester well before lighting up time.

Lights were fitted, bottles were filled, snacks were stashed and Ant took control of the van as Marc headed onto 2 wheels again.  A wrong way up a one way street through the bank holiday weekend boozers and a wrong turn at a roundabout delayed our escape from Chester a little but we were soon out into Cheshire on ever quieter roads as the evening drew on.  The train of riders rolled well together into Northwich for another meeting with the van to fill up and meet the local constabulary.  “What’s this then, some kind of bike ride?” seemed an unusual and rather un-necessary question to ask a load of bike riders, obviously on a bike ride, but we satisfied his curiosity and were allowed on our way towards the final meet up in Mobberly.  What the sleeping residents of this little Cheshire commuter village had done to deserve the hideous outbreak of energy drink fuelled farting that was deposited on them, we may never know but it brought on much giggling in our ranks to help raise spirits for the final push to Poynton.

The late hour, clear roads and finish line almost in sight led to our pace picking up a little and we were soon through Wilmslow, passing the Deanwater and into the last few miles.  On through Woodford and finally into Poynton, all joking about a sprint finish turned into a desire to finish together as a team and so it was that 10 riders pedalled into the other end of Clumber Road from the one we’d left about 41 1/2 hours before, to a welcoming committee and a stop.  We were made to feel truly welcomed and appreciated, a bottle of beer and a donut has never tasted so good and a one man round of applause has never lasted so long.  A quick picture of some somewhat smellier faces behind our mis-spelled bannor and it was time for much needed showers and beds.

Depending on who’s computer you check, where they pedalled from and how accurate their device may be, we pedalled something like 265 miles and climbed something like 14000 feet.  The only statistics that really matter though are:

2 children have inspired us to do this.
1 family have so graciously accepted our help and supported us so well.
11 stepped up when asked and smashed the challenge.
5242.01 pounds has been raised so far.
343 wonderful people have donated.

We’d love it if those last two numbers continued to climb.

Massive thanks from the 11 of us involved in the pedalling to everyone who has supported us into and during the ride.  Please don’t forget why we did this and keep checking  http://www.olliesarmy.co.uk/  to see how else you can help.

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In need of some miles in my legs…

Having booked myself a solo place in this year’s Mountain Mayhem event, I thought it was well beyond time that I started to get some rides of longer than a couple of hours under my wheels.  Having also just turned 40, I decided that the ideal thing for an aging chap would be to ride an Audax event.

A quick scout through the events calendar on the AUK website revealed a local start for a 200km event, described as pan flat.  My only road bike being fixed wheel, this sounded like a grand place to start.  Sadly, the only thing I couldn’t arrange was decent weather, but the event was to take place on the first day of British Summer Time so obviously, it would be glorious. Wouldn’t it?

As the day drew closer, the wind picked up and  the forecast for ride day showed that our out and back course would be buffeted by an almost dead-on headwind on the way there which would swing round slightly in the afternoon to become a crosswind for the return journey.  Bummer.

All too soon, the alarm was waking me up and I was dressed, drinking coffee, eating toast and packing a few essentials together before pedalling the few miles to the start.  Not knowing what to expect or how many competitors there’d be, I was quite surprised by the number of riders already milling about in the car park, the variety of bikes on display and the huge amount of luggage some people were carting about.  I’d thought I was being very cautious by bringing some spare clothing in case the rain that was already falling left me soaked and cold.  What were they carrying and what were they preparing for that I didn’t know about?  Bikes varied from out and out race bikes to fully laden touring mules.  Everyone had one thing in common though, all apart from me, gears.  Hmm, I might be about to do something I’ll regret later.  It’s always better to regret what you’ve done than what you’ve not done though I reckon, so off into the breach.

The start was a very relaxed affair, collect your brevet card and head out whenever you’re ready.  Grand, just time to check my map sheets and route cards were in order, eat a banana and hit the road bang on 8am.

Being a local start, I knew many of the early roads well so I was able to make good progress out into Cheshire, passing plenty of early starters along the way.  Our route, for a few miles shared many of the same roads as the Cheshire Cat sportive which was being run on the same day.  As expected, there were plenty of folk out riding the course minus a number board.  Too tight to pay the entry fee or just wanting to take in the ride with an earlier start?  Either way, these not quite sportivists provided me with plenty of targets to catch and pass, taking my sad little delight each time in noting the carbon bling expense of their bikes as I rolled by.  Without exception, each overtake was met with Mr Fancy Bike clicking up a gear or two to jump on the fully mudgaurded up back wheel of the fat chap who’d just passed them by.  Most managed half a mile or so before sliding of into the distance, one pair coming straight round me to blast up the road by some thirty or forty yards before blowing horrendously and going backwards.  Sad, I know, but it kept my speed up for a good few miles.

Cheshire being the land of the road rider meant that I was quite soon on unfamiliar roads and needing to take fairly regular map checks but the navigation was easy enough so progress remained good, despite the promised headwind starting to pick up it’s pace.

Control one was an odd place, like a school canteen in a sewing and knitting factory but the two ladies handing out the teas were quite excited to have a customer so we chatted a little while I slurped my brew before pressing on.  From here on in, the wind was starting to get quite deeply unpleasant and I was spending more and more time trying to hide in the drops and less and less time taking in the scenery of my new surroundings.  A few little climbs were starting to pop up too so progress was slowed further.

Heading out into the western edge of Cheshire I was in places I’d never visited before and doing a fair amount of paranoid map checking.  However, no amount of checking the map will help when you’re riding with your head down to cheat the wind a little and not looking for turnings.  Inevitably, this is where I wandered off course and found myself at an unexpected junction at the bottom of a steep little river valley.  With no real clue as to where the sun was for navigational reference, I took a guess at where I was and churned up a steep and muddy little road, back towards the course.  Although my detour probably added no more than 5 miles, the wind was leaving me feeling quite drained and eagerly awaiting my arrival at control two for some scran.  The addition of some face stinging hail stones wasn’t too welcomed at this point.

Over the border into Wales, unpronounceable road signs meant I must be nearly there and finally, signs pointed to Chirk, passing an impressive canal aqueduct en route.  The Milk Bar Café was a very welcome sight for a hungry fat bloke so I ordered a full fry up and a large mug of tea.  Superb.

Suitably replenished, I nipped into the shop to fill my bottles and headed out for the return leg, remembering as I pedalled out of the village that the steepest little climb of the ride was about to reveal it’s self.  Maybe all that food and tea sloshing about inside me wouldn’t help too much.  It certainly didn’t help at all on the fast downhill which preceded it, my legs flailing wildly to keep up with the gear.  Sometimes, being a right stubborn bugger pays off so thankfully, the 4 hairpins of the climb weren’t quite enough to stall my forward progress or make me suffer the internal humiliation of walking up a road climb.

The route back followed a few of the same roads as the route out so for some while I passed riders still on their outward leg, thinking to myself that in their position, I couldn’t wait to be making the return and making the most of the (hopefully) tailwind.  Easy progress was made for an hour or so as the wind aided my ride, but not my navigating as it had helped the rain find it’s way  in to the plastic coverings and started to remove all the highlighter ink I had marked the route with.  Still, at least the map was still intact, for the time being.

Heading back east, place names became more pronounceable and recognisable to me so I felt like I was truly headed for home.  Control three came at just the wrong time for my legs.  A sit down, a coffee, a jam and cream scone and a little break were all the legs needed to convince themselves that we were done.  To paraphrase the great Jens Voigt, shut up legs, I know you didn’t sign up for this and I know you’d love to freewheel a while every now and then, but tough.  Let’s get the job finished.

Back on the road again, the map print decided to follow the highlighter ink and run off the paper so navigational stops became more frequent and more drawn out.  My home bodged map board also decided to get in on the unhelpful action and snapped.  So it was that I finished the last few unfamiliar miles looking like some sort of bedraggled traffic pointing policeman, with my route sheets acting as white paper gauntlets strapped to each forearm with elastic bands.  Laminated paper doesn’t aid the breathability of Goretex at all so the inside of my jacket became an even less happy place to be.

Back on known roads, I was able to stow all the pulp-like ex-map in my pocket and pedal on for home.  With some very weary legs being forced into one final blur down into the River Dane valley, I was soon back in Poynton and ordering a coffee in Costa in order to provide my proof of passage with their till receipt.

So, that was Audax then.  Was it fun?  Sitting here now, typing this nonsense, the worst bits are obviously fading, the image of the Barn Owl flying straight toward me, round face and big eyes looking me squarely in the soaking wet face, the café stops, the scenery and the sense of achievement make me think that while it wasn’t exactly fun, mostly down to the weather, I reckon I’ll be back for another one sometime.  Next time, I reckon I’ll sort out a few gears though.

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When the wind blows, head out with Bicycle Smithy.

March arrives with a chill wind.

Tonight’s ride brought out Anthony, Philip Smith, Forbes, Mark Butterworth to join me for a relatively short ride with a lively wind in places. This week, thankfully, not due to Butty’s bum.

Heading out along Towers Road we met a seemingly chatty chap who wanted to enquire where on earth we were going to be riding our mountain bikes in the dark and he engaged us in conversation as he asked a few questions. When Phil dared to ask him a question, he seemed to take offence, though non was offered and high tailed it out of there with a “you know what, I’ve got to be somewhere”. Strange. Our delay meant a singlespeeding and late running Butty had to wait a few moments for us before we all pedalled off through Higher Poynton. Our often used climb into Lyme past Windgather Cottage was a breeze, thanks to the one blowing from almost directly behind us so we made quick progress until a right turn meant a nasty crosswind and slower progress into the woods.

The trail centre-esque gravel trail past Phil’s Ditch was taken without any falls tonight, though the same cannot be said for the bogs of the next section. Anthony taking a very rolling trip over the bars as his front wheel disappeared. Over East Park Gate and down the speedy ruts to the broken bridge, Ant almost went over again but luck was on his side this time. Up to Mudhurst Lane was slow going as recent rain has exposed a few rocks lower down and left plenty of mud higher up. A little tarmac before some more mud as we headed around Black Hill and onto Buxton Old Road meant we were in the vicinity of the caranvan park descent, so descend we did, Phil almost wiping out Ant for a hat-trick of events for the lanky man.

Peak Forest Canal, the Co-op Scalectrix singletrack and The Torrs were soon under our tyres and a decision was taken to head for home after a brief chat about each others bikes and the merits of our differing wheel sizes. Well, we wouldn’t be mountain bikers if we weren’t obsessed with talking bike.

A short up, a fast down with sections of boardwalk and a final tarmac cruise took us to the Royal Oak where 80% of our fivesome stopped in for a pint.

Another lovely evening out on the trails and only a few spots of sleety rain to be had, the wind doing a good job of blowing away the clouds.

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Nine out and up for a Kinder Surprise.

This weeks clear skies brought out 9 riders, including, me, Anthony, Philip Smith, Andrew Lindley, Jason, Damian Clemens, Mark Butterworth, Brett Dempsey and a late running Forbes. Due to the tardy return from work of Captain Coldfeet, we headed, via Torkington Lane and the Middlewood Way, pausing briefly for Damian to try breaking tarmac with an ill-timed wheelie and his coccyx, onto the canal for a Ring o’ Bells Rendezvous before an aborted attempt to rejoin the canal. Maintenance work to the towpath meant a drop down Strines Road before a steeper and faster drop to the pack horse bridge over the Goyt. Turning upstream and slightly uphill over the rocks towards Strines station before a quick thud through the ruts and pot holes to the Dove pond.

A second section of Strines Road took us to the rather muddy but very fun papermill singletrack and up, between the cones and road closure signs to Disley and a little more canal cruising. The left turn down the lower section of Little Chef provided Butty with an opportunity to best his adventuring skills and handlebar gripping skills. Both seemed to allow him safe passage to the Goyt where we took to the woods and into The Torrs. Leaving the teenage stoners to their rolling up and shivering, we took off along the river and up into New Mills for the Sett Valley Trail.

Some easy miles and general chit chat meant Hayfield was soon surrounding us and it was off up Kinder Road for some climbing practice. The cobbles of the dam-side bridleway were in good condition considering the snow and rain of late so reasonably quick progress was made by all as far as the hairpin and a deterioration in surface. A quick re-group and we took to the typical short rides and pushing that usually accompanies the section to the gate. Gradient eases slightly here but the ruts are still there to catch out weary riders so there were dabs a plenty as we continued to the shooting lodge for a whisky break. Forbes nicely summed up our attempts at conquering the ruts by saying it was like riding drunk as he kept falling off the trail edges. Ideal time for that whisky stop then I guess.

A rather extending chat stop was finally ended by Butty’s backside announcing in no uncertain terms that we should move on. Dirty smelly boy. Down the rocks and sand banks we went, some avoiding the huge puddle of doom, others being less fortunate and getting cold wet feet. Speeds went up as trails lead down and it was superb fun all the way back into Hayfield barring one tumble as Jason decided to get better acquainted with a pile of rocks.

The Sett Valley Trail took us back to New Mills where we took to the canal for the final time, back into Disley and onto the A6 for home or the pub for a well earned pint.

Once again, a grand time was had by all, the high numbers keeping the pace sociable to aid the training taper of the racers out doing their light bike thing on Saturday.

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Getting high in Coombes

A not so cold ride with plenty of ups and downs tonight for the fat boy, Philip Smith, Damian Clemens, Jason and Forbes.

Following a so familiar start up Torkington Lane and onto the Middlewood Way as far as the Boars Head at Higher Poynton where we headed into Lyme Park via Windgather Cottage. Dry trails and a smallish group were already leading to respectable speeds so the planned route via somewhere high was looking good. A dash across Lyme and out through (or over) East Park Gate, down the muddy ruts to the broken bridge and onwards to Mudhurst Lane. A right and a left took us past the Moorside and another left meant boggy grass and stiles over to Buxton Old Road with only one comedy sinking along the way.

This brought about the premature end to Phil’s ride as a slightly buckled rear wheel meant rear tyre/chain stay interaction issues so we pressed on as four. Down the caravan park descent we all had a momentary dismount to clear the pile of snow, kindly shovelled into the end of the bridleway off the road. Speedy plummeting into Furness Vale meant a little tarmac to Whaley Bridge, then into the tramway up Shallcross Incline. Here, it was decision time, was a steepish, longish road climb going to be met with to much complaint? As it wasn’t, probably due to the lure of a couple of good descents in return, we pressed on up the single track road above Long Hill until our left turn down rocks and ruts towards Coombes. Another left to complete the loop meant a short rocky climb for some lovely bedrock-step-filled gravity fun. Well worth the effort and we still had the Shallcross singletrack to look forward to and the chance to clatter through the overhanging branches at a pace.

Through Horwich End and past the sports ground we found time to drop a couple of laps round the pump track before the last climb of the evening to join Phil’s Hill part way up and continue towards Higher Disley. A newly surfaced puddle free bridleway, Green Lane and Red Lane took us to Disley proper, where the Poyntonites made a left for home, leaving Forbes and I to head for the Royal Oak and a pint with the road riding Mr Butty.

A properly nice ride tonight and a few new trails for most. Grand.

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Bicycle Smithy Werneth Low highs

Respectable numbers tonight for a more or less ice free ride out with some nice trails and a late finish.

I was joined by Anthony, Forbes, Andrew Lindley, Damian Clemens, Philip Smith and Mark Butterworth for a gentle warm up of Torky Lane and the Middlewood Way to Marple. A few red traffic lights split the group before we’d hit the first bit of singletrack but we re-grouped and slid through Memorial park for a whizz down the canal bank with drains and rocks to keep everyone awake before a 180 turn and back to enjoy the uphill downhill passage. A few twists and turns through suburbia and a plummet down the still new-ish track to the Goyt put us back on tarmac and lead us to Romiley.

The first climb of any note took us into a fun singletrack descent and along a passage or two before a little more road height gain further up Werneth Low. Stockport Council seem to have got a trail improvement right for us pedal powered civic citizens as the usually horribly muddy byway towards the gold course has been transformed into a quick gravel drop. Down the doubeltrack, mud karma was restored so there was plenty of muck flying when we return to Romiley and took off into the woods. Front runners possibly took off a little quicker than we should so the stragglers didn’t see which way we’d gone and another re-group was needed, still it meant we got to enjoy the descent twice.

Riverside sliding and climbing over a fallen tree brought us to Compstall so we got to enjoy the climb to Werneth Low’s highest point from it’s lowest. The top was playing host to some chilly fog, which called out the hip flasks, and to some steamy windowed doggers so we left with a few giggles and dropped down the drainage bar trail towards the monument. A rare left turn to avoid the recently (un)improved trail down, then a right, through much slop and down, down, down to the Tame Valley.

After a brief skirting of Denton and a fast run down into Reddish Vale, we enjoyed a quick play on the singletrack in the woods then off under 4 tunnels and up through Vernon Park before folk started to peel off for home. Those of us with a thirst headed for the pub where a fire literally went out on command. Some limited extra fuel was found and a little heat appeared, then all of a sudden it was time for bed so we braved the cold and went our separate ways.

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Ice Ice Crikey

Tuesday the 3rd of Feb, the forgotten ride report.

A very very icey ride for Fatboy, Mark Butterworth and Philip Smith with everyone in hibernation mode, possibly quite a wise idea.

Torky Lane and the Middlewood Way lead us to Marple where we took to the canal for a couple of miles before closed towpath meant a quick nip into Disley and back. The lower section of the little chef descent was icey but, thankfully, had a rideable line all the way down leading us into a reverse paper mill battle with the frozen ruts, footprints and hoof holes. Passing trough Strines and around the duck pond, a left turn meant some climbing as we pedalled onwards to the bottom of the Banks.

Taking the right turn option and not pushing up the higher steps met with some approval so we blasted through Brookbottom and continued on tarmac, past the golf club and to higher levels once more. The first descent from the back of the cross was an iced up rubbley gamble but we came through unscathed, though there were a few opportunities for twitching rearward orifices. Nice.

Left, left and into the track of many puddles, tonight mostly full of not very firm slushy ice and a right towards Mellor Cross. Here the ice seemed to have been polished by vehicle tyres meaning that progress slowed to a crawl with dabs a plenty all round. The cross quarry came up trumps with some lovely powder to play in and a handy trig point to lean on while the hip flask and snacks did the rounds.

Ice covered tarmac proved a test up our uprightness that we all passed, how much was down to skill and how much down to luck is anybody’s guess. A cheeky slalom down Death Rut and a sneak down several fairways of Mellor sledging club spat us out onto the golf course singletrack anf off under the tunnel to join the Goyt and head back into Marple in time for Phil’s crank to fall off and then enjoy a pint.

Nice in general, difficult in places, but good fun all round.

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