Sunday, 28 February 2010

Just a bit further...


Holme Moss, supposedly closed, but hey, how dangerous can sheep be in these conditions? Is the warning sign really necessary? Think it through though, sheep in snow = instant camo. They could be on you before you know it. Not a place to linger, so home the long way. Tuesday's plan realised.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Straight outta the door...

A quick and dirty post... yesterday's late afternoon ride turned into something slightly more ridiculous than intended. Took the Cross Rat, now with gears and bowled along the Old Woodhead Road - 'closed' by road works - into a ridiculous headwind, and then one thing led to another and suddenly I was riding up Home Moss - 'closed' by winter - and surrounded by gorgeous views of hunched, snowy hills. Over the icy top, hard look from the copper in the unmarked 4x4, and distant views down into Yarkshire.

At that point brain started whispering about a circuit over via Holmfirth, Strines and the Snake, but fortunately common sense won, so after a slug of Bowmore and some added facial protection, it was back down and homewards, except of course, well, yes, the Snake was 'closed' as well, so logically the sequel was a gentle roll to the top of that and back down again and home for toast and tea and venison bangers and mash.

Ace, kind of cold and bleak and windy and lonely but beautiful. And straight from the door. But really I should have done the Strines thing, maybe...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Thermostat borked.

My internal thermostat is screwed. I no longer know whether it's cold. Or warm. Or scorchio. It all feels the bloody same. The other day I was solo night-riding above Hayfield thinking just how mild and pleasant and spring like it all was, when I realised that the glittery rain-drops reflecting my helmet light were, in fact, snow flakes. Oh yes, it really was just like spring. In Antarctica. Or maybe Siberia...

And this morning, when I woke up to find two inches or so of the white stuff loafing around outside in a 'What, me? Didn't you know I was coming' display of nonchalant insolence, I just kind of shrugged internally, swapped slicks for knobblies and Mog for Pace and hit the trails instead of the roads.

Of course, six weeks ago, I'd have been consumed with childish glee - 'Look, snow!!!! Wow!!!' - and indeed my mate, Dave, was horribly enthusiastic in a way that suggested he has the memory of a goldfish (fortunately he doesn't have internet access, or at least he has no idea that this blog exists, hopefully) - but now, I don't care. Snow is just a crap annoyance that looks vaguely scenic and made me crash when my front wheel disappeared into a powder-filled slot, bastard stuff.

It all made me think of Mick Fowler, the infamously 'normal' extreme mountaineer who combines ridiculously hard climbing trips with a 9 to 5 spent working as a tax man. I was fortunate enough to meet Mick once, at the launch of the TNF store in Manchester I think, and asked him why he didn't just become a full-time climber. Because, he said, slotting climbing trips in around his normal existence made climbing extraordinary, different, vivid, escapist. He didn't want to be a professional climber because he reckoned it would spoil it for him.

That's the danger of making your passion, your job. Or - desperately tries to square circle - living in a world where snow is no longer the exception, but the rule. Suddenly the extraordinary is merely ordinary. And that's rubbish. When your escape is your norm, where do you escape to?

So it would be nice if it stopped snowing now.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Return of the GiT...

I can count the cars I like on the fingers of one hand: VW Corrado, Porsche 911, E-Type Jag and the Mk Golf GTi. Modern cars? Bland, tedious things - need crushing. Wankers who think a turbo diesel estate is desirable? Need crushing. Mk3 Golf GTis erm, yes, you guessed it, need crushing.

And as of Thursday, I'm back in a proper GTi, a red, three-door Mk 2, that doesn't know what's about to hit it. And what's about to hit it is the tuned TSR motor, manifold, chip and exhaust system from my grey Mk2, the GiT, so called because he was ridiculously quick, appallingly rough in a good way and, well, a car with very short hair, stubble and an evil, laughing glint in his little round eyes.

I've missed the little sod. Missed the distinctive feeling of  mass wedged into a very small space, like a little brick of compressed rawness. Missed the rumbling, lumpy tickover and the howling, bonkers acceleration when the tacho hit 4,000 revs. Missed the stuff it in as hard as you dare cornering. Missed driving a proper car.

The Mk3 I've been rolling around in for the last 18 months or so never felt like  mine. Too bland and wobbly and dull and modern. Just functional, but I don't really do functional, not when things with wheels are concerned anyway. Reasonable fuel consumption, comfy seats and relaxed motorway cruising don't really impress me much. And yes, it's shallow and daft and about as eco-sensitive as making candles from baby seals, but there it is.

And right now I'm grinning just at the thought of being back in a Mk2. Plotting suspension upgrades. Pondering tyres. Window shopping for wheels - BBS RAs as came stock on late 16v GTis - hey ma, the GiT's almost back. Can't wait.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Yesterday turned out to be one of those rides that took on an organic life of its own. Plan A was to head over to Edale then potter around the Jacob's Ladder / Roych Clough Loop with a flock of STWers, which is where it began. Bright and beautiful across the Roych, ten-foot snow drifts still there but now hard, grippy and rideable, stepping over gate tops near South Head. Dodging crevasses and body-shaped cavities in the snow. Like Everest but without the red-socked remains.

And somewhere near the ford, surfing snow waves, a small voice in the back of my head started whispering, 'Cut Gate, you could head over there instead.' And by the time I'd reached the Rushup road, the idea had gathered layers like a falling hailstone and become something bright and glittery.

Pottered over Rushup in a pool of warm anticipation then gunned the right-hand descent from Hollins in a mess of sludge and frozen slush - new steps there - before climbing gently, steadily, sub-threshold up Jaggers, down Spud Alley and over to Fairholmes for duck spotting and water before rolling along the reservoir side to the bottom of Cut Gate.

Draggy, slow, anticipation-starred climb up onto the moors proper, where the snow was waiting with open arms and a five-mile intermittent drift of deceptively slippy, sugary but just about rideable snow. But it wasn't really about the riding, more just being up there and the peace and the views and the solitude and the lack of buzzing digital noise and radios and the brutal racket of car tyres on wet roads.

And being alone leaves you the space to appreciate your friends. So screw Valentine's Day, this is a thank you to all my mates who've stood by me over a crap few months, the people who understand who I am and what I am, who don't make things up about me to suit their own needs, or put me down,  and who've been there for me. Thanks.

Dived down Mickleden, below the snowline and into Langsett, tired and happy. Draggy rail trail home with one last sluggish road climb, tired legs turning on automatic, but knowing there's much, much more there.  A lovely day. Who needs plans when you have a bike, a map and lights?

You'd have loved it.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

London bothying...

Two extremes. Dubs Hut in the Lakes at the weekend. No fire. No light. Just four walls, stone flags and a roof. Frosted on the inside. Tea lights. Wine. Friends. A makeshift fire on an upturned supermarket basket. Waking to blue skies and crisp snow.

Glowing bothy - by my mate Gary

And some time later. London. The tube. And a jacket that still smells faintly of bothy. A warm island in the middle of too many people with too little space.