Windy training ride with half a cat

A few mates had entered the Cheshire Cat sportive at the weekend so I thought it was a good excuse to get some fast miles in on the roadbike and incorporate the middle bit of my route with half of their sportive route (the interesting hilly part of it) and some cheeky banter….

Even though I had planned to start very early and ride to the start in Crewe, I opted to ignore the alarm clock for an hour then ride to Crewe thus missing Budge, Nick and the others at the start. I thought that the challenge of catching them up after an hour head start would be fun and I’d be faster after more sleep anyway 😉

After checking they weren’t hanging around at the start and feeling like a proper freeloader, I rode out of Crewe following the sportive direction signs.

The thing about the Cheshire Cat and in fact Cheshire in general, is that it sounds like it should be flat. Mostly, it is. But the hilly half of the route is peppered with short but very steep climbs that need a lot of out-of-the-saddle pedal mashing and a low gear to get to the top of. I’d been thinking about this aspect of the route as I was riding a bike with a ‘standard’ double chainset for the first time so my lowest gear was a fair bit taller than the lowest gear on my old compact chainset-equipped road bike. As it turned out, a fair amount of grimacing and kung-fu noises saw me to the top of each climb just fine and as an added bonus, the very large top gear had me descending at 45mph and still pedalling.

Eventually I caught the guys up and we rode the next couple of hills and flat bits together before we got to Holmes Chapel and I left the sportive route and headed back north. Holmes Chapel is near the start of the predominantly flat half of the route so it wasn’t going to be too interesting from now on so off I went, still riding into the headwind that greeted me several hours ago when I left the house. Despite having a good few more hours and almost 60-odd miles in mind left to ride, the headwind was starting to wear very thin indeed. So I changed my plan a little, opting to ride a revised and shorter but quite pretty route towards Tatton Park and then through Dunham Massey.

Reality kicked in eventually (the headwind now right into my face and getting stronger) as I rode closer to Manchester, eventually dodging the traffic on the A56 through Old Trafford, the City Centre and up to Prestwich, 120-ish miles later.

Hit the North 2. We’re off….

We’ve got a course sorted. I’ve been making lines in my head all week after a couple of rides around various bits last weekend and up until this afternoon it had started to really peck at me. A couple of bits are needed for various silly reasons – reasons I’m not going into here as I’d be giving too much away before the men in suits have said ‘yay’, but the problem last week was stuff like…’if we include this bit we’ll have 2 way traffic there so we’ll need to go up that bit to avoid a crash but that might be too horrible and if it rains that other bit will be hell on earth…etc’. It’s now all crystal clear though. All of the ace bits are in, chicken runs are there if we need them and we can even accomodate the rain if we’re unlucky with the weather.

I can also reveal that there are a few really tough uphill bits again but this time the altitude is being lost a lot more quickly than usual. Some of the course has been used before but most of it will be new. Some of it isn’t even built yet (yes, I said NOT BUILT YET).

It’ll rock, like it always seems to do.

You’ll see it soon anyway, if not on one of our now-customary preview/coffee rides you’ll see it on the day, that’s if you can get your entry in quick enough. 

Cycling history and DIY Culture hits North Manchester again on the 17th July. Racing will last for 8 hours, you can do it on your own or in a team with your mates. the party will kick off just after last man rides back to his tent.

Newcastleton and Kielder (mildly) daft ride

Yesterday’s ‘daft-ish’ ride started up in Newcastleton, just north of the England/Scotland border and just north of Kielder. There are two big races this year in that part of the world – the UK 24 Hour Championship and the Kielder 100. We thought both of them would need some reconnaissance so decided on a route that included plenty of good bits of both.

After collecting Dave we drove north on the near-deserted Sunday morning motorway and were soon in the Scottish borders. Starting at the car park of the Newcastleton ‘7 Stanes’ trailhead, we planned to ride a lap and a bit of the red route and then join the cross-border trail to take us to Kielder – a lap of the big route over there, back again then repeat the whole thing again, giving us a 8 or so hours in the saddle and around 80 miles on the clock. That was the plan, the reality was a bit different.

The Newcastleton red is a typical Scottish trail centre – in other words, massively enjoyable, very physical if you want to ride it fast and smooth, lots of berms and rocky bits and plenty of trees, ditches and streams to crash/fall into if your concentration wanders for a second. Ace for a lap or three, however 24 hours of this will definately be a big challenge needing more than just aerobic fitness and a stubborn head…

Once on the cross-border trail things calmed down a bit and we were able to take in the view and increase the average speed. Running parallel with the border for a few miles we eventually crossed a small wooden bridge marked at either end by ‘Welcome to England’ and ‘Welcome to Scotland’ signs. Up until now, we’d encountered some small patches of ice but nothing much, however as soon as we crossed over into England we were soon off our bikes and pushing through deep snow. No worries, it’ll just be this bit here and it’ll all be rideable around the corner.

Short sections of rideable trail were broken up by seemingly massive unrideable sections covered in knee-deep snow. The next 3 or so hours were spent slogging our way around deserted snow-bound forests on foot or plummetting down steep ice-covered man-made trails that invariavly ended with more knee-deep snow.

This was not going to plan. Not only that, but it had started to snow again, hard. In almost white-out conditions we both nervously rode along the long timber sections of trails until even they became unrideable, lost under a foot-deep blanket of snow.

Much later, legs sore from the unexpected snow-hiking in carbon-soled cycling shoes and very much behind schedule, we arrived back in Scotland and opted to rejoin the Newcastleton red trail as quickly as possible, ride back to the car park and then ride another lap of it. This ended our day in the way it had begun, a total contrast to the middle bit. We’d lost so much time earlier that our plan to turn around and repeat the entire ride was out of the question but at least we’d managed to ride a fair distance and learn a lot about the upcoming races up here. No disaster – in fact I’m really looking forward to UK24 now.