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.