The Pennine Bridleway is now a very long trail indeed. It will one day be much longer but for now it starts at Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, winds its way through the Yorkshire Dales, into Lancashire and joins the Mary Townley Loop. It then continues south sort of past Oldham and into the Peak District, finally terminating at Middleton Top down near Matlock.
That’s a long way and (apart from the billion or so gates in certain sections of the route that someone evidently thought were necessary) it’s a triumph. It’s also been ridden in one go by a few people and impressive records have been set.
So there I was at Kirkby Stephen last weekend, setting off to attempt to ride the entire 184 miles to Middleton Top which includes a hairy-chested 22,000 feet of vertical ascent. I was also in possession of the brilliant Salsa Beargrease fatbike, lovingly built and lent to me by Rich and Shona at Keep Pedalling. Believe it or not, fatbikes are BRILLIANT for big days out. Granted there are lighter bikes available but when flat-out speed isn’t as important as “just taking in the views along the way” and you want to have a lot of giggly fun on the descents, you’ll love one. Trust me :-)
As much fun but a few pounds lighter than the Surly Moonlander I was riding a few weeks ago, the Beargrease is noticeably faster uphill and seemed easier to handle over rough terrain. I’d never ridden the northern section of the trail – the bit from the start to the Mary Townley – so I wanted to have done all that before it went dark. By the time I’d set off I only had 8 hours or so before sunset so I aws pushing my luck but my average speed, in spite of the 4” wide tyres, was pretty good and I was on schedule….
…until I got weak. I’m not sure why things suddenly got much, much harder but after 7 hours or so I started to feel like I’d been riding for much longer. I’d not been pushing the pace too hard so I assumed that it was a hangover from my last 24 hour race. My last 24 hour race was 4 weeks ago, but perhaps I’m taking longer to recover these days. Or maybe it was something else.
I’ve no idea what was wrong really, but one thing was certain – I still had 100 miles of mostly offroad and very hilly terrain to ride and I just didn’t have the legs for it. I also knew that if I did carry on, I’d be spending longer than I could afford recovering from it.
Decision made, it was past midnight by now and I was stood in the middle of a deserted moor somewhere near Burnley. Bugger!
After 30 or so miles of bridleway, but mostly A roads through town centres full of Saturday night drunks I arrived back home. At first I was disappointed that I’d not made it to Middleton Top but now I’m chuffed that I’d ridden off road back home from Cumbria, the northern section of the PBW is no longer unfamiliar territory and I’m planning the next attempt in a few weeks.