Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Kentmere Horeseshoe

We were having a mini-honeymoon in the Lakes (more on the big day soon when we get the photos from our photographer!) so we decided to get some walking in and tick off a few more Wainwrights.

T' Wife and me at the trig on High Street
The Kentmere Horseshoe was top of my list, having had it recommended by several friends. Including the nip out to High Street, it packs in 9 Wainwrights into 13 miles of walking: Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, High Street, Mardale Ill Bell, Harter Fell (Mardale), Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts.

Strava log of the route
It was a gorgeous day, much nicer than the day before when we had a tired potter up Loughrigg watching the rain sweep up Troutbeck and Kentmere. Heading up Garburn Road we saw a group of mountain bikers coming down, one of whom had a properly mashed rear derailleur that had thankfully avoided being dragged into his spokes. Not too far to trundle down the road to Wheelbase I guess for for him the ride was over.

Looking down over Kentmere
Once we'd gained the ridge it was a nice steady height gain over the first peak of Yoke and onwards to the crazy slate arrangements of Ill Bell. We could see Morecambe Bay, the windfarms in the Irish sea, what could well have been the Galloway Hills in southern Scotland, Cross Fell and Ingleborough - a truly marvellous panorama.

Steady climb up to Yoke
Panorama from the summit of Ill Bell (C) aka t' wife
First view of Kentmere Reservoir
Looking back down the ridge to Windermere
Small Water and Haweswater from Mardale Ill Bell
By this point I was starting to get a bit sunburned, having forgotten to pack any sun lotion. Time to deploy the time honoured sun hat of Englishmen abroad! MY BRAIN HURTS!

Mr. D. P. Gumby spotted in the Lakes
The last steep climb of the day onto Harter Fell
The view from Kentmere Pike
Cracking day, great route and fab views. Get on it.

p.s. hard boiled eggs are now a must-have walking food.

p.p.s. My knee high red socks and Ramblers Association membership are in the post.

Fork Service.

After damaging my freehub in the Lakes I thought I'd take the opportunity to strip my coil fork down and give it a good service as it was sticky, rattly and squeaky - all the things a fork should not be. Thankfully, Rock Shox provide a pretty detailed service manual for it. Also thankfully it's a very basic coil fork so there's not a lot to go wrong and not a lot to service.

Stripping it down took a couple of hammer blows on the bolts on the bottom of the fork legs to persuade the lower legs to part company from the stanchions. Once they were apart it was fairly easy to see that there was no grease or oil remaining in either of the legs.

I stripped the spring out and also the damper, emptying the oil into the jar of bike related old fluids that now resembles the rhubarb gin our neighbour gave us. It has a cheeky nose with a hint of apples and engine oil. A bit young, could do with laying down for, say, 35 years until it's past it's half life.

Everything was cleaned and re-greased with SRAM Butter supplied promptly and efficiently by the folks at Bikegoo (along with some 5wt and 15wt suspension fluid) and reassembled. I used a bamboo cane with tape around it to get the right fluid level in the damper leg and my set of baking measuring spoons from the kitchen to get the right volume of oil in the bottom of the damper leg. Improvisation is our watchword!

The fork in the work vice, just after filling the damper leg bottom with oil
All in all, it took a couple of hours to take the fork off the bike, strip, clean and reassemble it.

Best of all, it's now like a new fork! It sags gently when I sit on the bike and bobs gently with pedalling. Taking it down through the old Riddlesden golf course it ate up all the bumps and more. It has also delayed my decision to change to a better air fork now it has some new life back in it. I should have done it sooner and it will certainly be on the regular servicing list in future. Happy bike fixing times :)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Lakes MTB: A Grind Around Grizedale and Some Pass Bashing (Got Bashed)

Grizedale Grinder

It would be rude to go to the Lakes and not take in a bit of the fantastic biking to be had in the region. Spending a bit of quality mini-moon time with The Wife (need to get used to saying that!) meant heading over to Grizedale for a potter around the fire-roads with the odd excursion onto the red trail singletracks.

Of the bits that we did there was nothing massively challenging although Louise was surprised by a step down in the boardwalk at one point causing her to utter a naughty word before falling, very gracefully, into a tree. A slightly scraped arm was the only damage.

Tis but a scratch!

They'd been doing some logging so we did get some nice views down across Coniston Water and up to Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag allowing us to trace the route of a walk we did a few winters ago over Wetherlam way.

View good. Malt loaf also good.
We were startled at this point by what looked like a bloody big hornet, causing us to head off in short order. Later research led us to finding out it was in fact a Great Wood Wasp and is in fact entirely harmless. Phew!

The threat of rain meant we headed back early instead of exploring some of the sculpture trails in the area. I think I prefer the Blue single track at Whinlatter, the fire roads are a bit boring to be honest even though the views are much better.

Pass Bashing (Got Bashed)

Last day of the holiday and Louise wanted to see the Beatrix Potter house in Near Sawrey and to catch up with a family friend. I'm not National Trust Man yet as my beige elasticated waist corduroy trousers haven't arrived from my tailors (soon, soon) so sooner than part from the mountains my love, I went for a bike ride instead.

A short sharp rocky climb on tired legs out of Ambleside up to the top of Jenkin Crag was rewarded with some pleasant views over Windermere and Bowness.

View from Jenkin Crag
The track contoured around the hillside, maintaining the view over Windermere until I dropped sharply into Troutbeck village down a slightly rocky but fun bridleway. A short road section led to the bottom of Dubbs Road and the long steady climb up Garburn Pass.

Garburn Road Climb
This got steeper and looser the nearer I got to the top, requiring the odd pause for lungs and legs to recover, before it finally flattened out. Food stop!

Top of Garburn Pass. The joys of the descent were to follow!
The descent from here was brutal. Despite dropping the seat to its minimum height and hanging my arse off the back of the bike I struggled to keep the bike pointing in the direction I wanted to go. A bike with a slacker head angle, better suspension and wider bars would have made life easier. So would being a bit stronger in the upper body, too much champagne and fine dining this week obviously. I now know how the ball in a pinball machine feels!

Down into Kentmere and then out again on High Lane heading for the next pass and the descent to Sadgill in Longsleddale. Another rocky climb but not quite as steep which was good as my legs were beginning to struggle. The descent wasn't as rocky as Garburn but made up for it in steepness. More hanging the arse off the back of the bike to remain in some semblance of control.

The exploratory climb up Gatesgarth Pass was too much to hope for as far as my legs were concerned so I bailed just at the start of the steep bit and turned around.

Don't be sad, Sadgill. you are lovely.
Time was running low, I was hungry and my freewheel had started making a clunk every revolution. Time to head back down Longsleddale to Staveley for a well deserved feed at the lovely Wilf's Cafe (lentil and black bean bake with sundried tomatoes and olives, a coffee and a big slice of chocolate cake since you asked) and good old browse at Wheelbase.

Nice waterfalls at Garnett Bridge
I bought a couple of Lakes MTB guidebooks in the bike shop and was slightly pleased to see that the route I'd taken gets a "very hard" rating in the book for the descent of the two passes I'd done. I'll come back when I'm fitter and better and smash it out properly next time. The broken freehub has been replaced and I'm servicing my fork ready for round 2!