Monday, 30 May 2016

Bikepacking 2: Kettlewell Trip

This is a slightly belated blog from the other weekend's bikepacking adventures. Chris put a shout out on Facebook for anyone wanting to join in on a trip up to Kettlewell, a camp over and a ride back the next morning. Jonny was keen, fabricating a bracket to fit a rear rack to his old Raleigh and Adam packed his panniers with samosas. Having a free evening, I jumped at the chance as I wanted to try out my new bikepacking bags from Alpkit. We met at Steeton train station on the Friday afternoon, ready for off.

Jenny loaded up with camping things. Bloody Alpkit fanboy...
It was a very pleasant spin up through Cononley into the back of Skipton and then out on the Grassington road, light sunshine and cloud. Traffic wasn't too heavy and was mostly respectful and well driven. It was good fun riding in convoy and with everyone loaded differently we looked like a proper travelling circus.

We took the road through Linton to Grassington and then the back road all the way up through Conistone to Kettlewell, this last bit proving especially quiet which allowed us to ride side by side and chat.

Tim (Full Of Win) had pointed us to the campsite in Kettlewell just behind the church on the back road, saying it had the poshest toilets he'd ever seen on a campsite. He wasn't wrong; nice sinks, underfloor heating and in very good condition! For the princely sum of £7 each we had a pitch for the night at the top of the field.

The Travelling Circus: Chris, Jonny, me, Adam
We knew it was forecast rain later so Chris and I took some time setting up our tarp properly. We were quite happy with the results too.

Tarp for two.
What did it look like inside? Have a look!

We meandered off to the Blue Bell (on another hot tip from Tim) in the search of pies of legendary status. We found them.

The meat and potato pie, which we all ordered, was marvellous. As were the pints of local ale, even the one we liked the least was pretty good. No room for pudding afterwards

It was drizzling outside so, tired and full, we quickly settled down and fell asleep, our tents and tarps resounding to the various sound effects that accompany a big tea and a few pints...

The rain kept me awake a far bit through the night, and I occasionally had to push the tarp to remove the accumulated puddle to stop it pressing on me. I got a the odd splat in the face which wakes you up very suddenly!

Adam left early to meet his family for his daughters first birthday, I unashamedly pulled my buff over my eyes and got a another hour's kip ;) It wasn't long before Chris and I roused ourselves, packed up, then stood around whilst Jonny faffed around a bit (plus ca change...) before we headed into Grassington to find a cafe for breakfast.

The roads were still damp but it was warming up and drying off quickly.

Grassington furnished us with a small bakery with some fab looking cakes but a bacon butty and tea was high on the agenda. We sat in the square, squeaky styrofoam cups of life giving tea, rustling paper bags with baked goodness inside, swallows singing on wires.

The ride back to Keighley was punctuated (ha!) by a shard of glass from a broken mirror by the roadside making it's way through my rather underinflated Conti Gatorskin tires. New tube, a higher pressure and we were off rolling again, back through Skippy town and down to Keighley.

We stopped in the cafe by the bus station for toasties where I bade Jonny and Chris farewell for their return leg to Huddersfield. I headed home, unpacked and promptly fell fast asleep on the sofa for a couple of hours, the lack of sleep the night before taking it's toll. Louise tried to rouse me to no avail, the cup of tea and apple went untouched!

A most enjoyable adventure.

Bikepacking Lessons Learned

  • The tarp needs to be tensioned enough on the edges to ensure it sheds water and doesn't accumulate a massive puddle. By the time it was wet the tarp weighed about twice as much
  • Try the bivvy bag outside of sleeping mat so I can sleep on my side, I cant sleep properly on my back!
  • Tire pressures, make sure you've got enough in there youth!
  • The Alpkit Koala setapack does woble around a bit unless you pack it super tightly and cinch the straps up really well. Once packed properly and strapped down firmly it's brilliant.
  • Packing the sleeping bag inside the bivvy bag, whilst very easy to get everything out and set up, makes for a larger pack size. Sort it.
  • Smaller tarp for solo adventures would be a good purchase.
  • As would a comfier saddle for longer adventures, the stock Genesis one is a little hard on one's posterior

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Cote Gill and Mastiles Lane

Tuesday rolls around, the forecast is nice and the trails and bridleways of the Dales are calling. Karl is otherwise indisposed (house hunting) so an early off from work sees me rolling out of the car park near Malham Tarn for what the (excellent) South Dales guide book lists as it's first Classic ride - Cote Gill and Mastiles Lane. Admittedly I'm doing it from the Malham side and not Kilnsey but there's the same amount of up believe me!

On the way up to the top of the hill
It's a steady climb up to Cote Gill top on grassy track. Nothing technical or muddy, just sit and spin and enjoy the views, the sheep staring at the intruder, the purple and yellow flowers making the most of the sun, curlews barracking you from the skies and oystercatchers and lapwings zooming around overhead. And the brutal headwind that reduced me to the granny ring for much of the climb!

About to head down Cote Gill
Over the top and a long steady descent with Cote Gill on the right. I was somewhat disappointed to not get a good view down into the gill from the trail. I must come back for a walk up it at some point, perhaps on a roasting summers day where is northerly aspect might offer respite from the sun and make for a nice cooling gorge scramble.

Before I knew it I was down in the very quiet and pleasant valley of Littondale, with my knobbly tires on freshly laid tarmac making me sound like a swarm of disgruntled wasps as I rolled down towards the main road and on to Kilnsey.

There were plenty of climbers on Kilnsey crag but too far away for any of my photos to do them justice. Lots of lurking at the bottom in down jackets, one chap redpointing a route with an inventive heel hook rest on a ledge and someone else top roping a pale patch of limestone on the left of the crag. A good evening for it.

Turning right at the Tennants Arms I pulled in on a grassy bank, pulled on my jacket which smelled of ripe banana, ate the aforementioned fruit item and the standard cheese/marmite bagel, enjoying being out of the breeze for a moment. A man in a white car drives past, opens his door, a dog jumps out and then runs up the road with the man following behind. Most people use feet and, you know, a lead when walking their dog, not a mid price Japanese saloon car...

Up a short tarmac climb and the long climb of Mastiles Lane hove into view, extending up into the darkness of a cloud shadow looking ever so slightly foreboding. To the Granny Ring Batman!

Mastiles Lane
Not a bad climb really, steep but mostly fairly easy to pick a good line along the edges. The hardest bit was the slightly looser and rockier steep section at the top where my front wheel was feeling light and a bit of zig zagging over the width of the trail was required. The climb up Rooley Moor on the Mary Towneley Loop was much harder with it's unavoidable fist sized rocks ready to send you off in interesting new directions like pinball bumpers in slow motion.

At the top of the steep part, I paused to cough up a lung or two, noting the lack of really hard exercise of late. Now that work has calmed down a little, the dial registering "busy" instead of "frantic", I hope to he stretching my legs a bit more.

A good climb.
The ride back towards Malham along the top of Mastiles Lane was great. Fast rolling grass, the odd depression in the trail to pump the bike into for a bit more speed, middle ring riding all the way scattering sheep and skylarks. Well worth the climb up.

Fingerpost, Street Gate, Malham Tarn
I wasn't ready to pack up yet, so I headed for a quick loop around Malham Tarn, surprising groups of blindfolded children on a "team building" exercise from the field centre with dings of the bike bell.

They have a problem with spiders at the Field Centre...
A quick whip back along the road, back to the car and then off in search of chips...

Monday, 2 May 2016

First Ride With The Boy

I've been wanting to take my son out for a bike ride for a while now, but merely wanting something does not make it happen. It was a kids weekend so I spoke to their mum about taking Ben out his bike (which lives at hers) and thankfully she agreed.

So, for a nice easy first ride, we parked up at Farnhill and rode down the canal towpath to Skipton in the sunshine.

He loved it, and it was a nice man and boy moment riding along together. It's the first time he's been on his bike further than the end of his street so the feeling of exploration was ever present in his new environment. Also, he was putting the hammer down on the flat stretches and enjoying moving fast, I struggled to keep up (or at least pretended to).

We reached Skipton sooner than I thought and enjoyed a really good chocolate ice cream from the Tug Boat Ice Cream canal boat. Most of it ended up in my moustache.

Me and my mini me

We were back at the car before we knew it, Ben sailed past the turn off to the car and had to be called back. He insisted on riding around the car park a few times before letting me put his car back in the boot! I'm glad he enjoyed himself.

One of my more distinct memories from my youth was going on a bike ride from Huddersfield to Marsden along the Leeds-Liverpool canal towpath with my Dad and brother. Now, I feel like I've been present at an similar notable moment in my son's life and hopefully given him a lasting memory. Here's to many more rides to come.