Saturday’s weather lived up to expectations – so arriving at Ladybower it was about 4°C, windy and hailing! As per normal, I was also running about 15 minutes late… Luckily that was absolutely fine as Natalya runs to a similarly ‘prompt’ schedule. I hope she doesn’t mind me saying, but she is one of the few people I can agree a time with and find we both get there at the same time!
So soon Natalya, Al and I set off towards a very deserted looking Win Hill. The planned route for the day was to climb towards Hope Cross and continue along there before dropping down into Woodland Valley. From here we would climb past Rowlee and Lockerbrook Farm before taking on the epic descent down Gores Heights back towards Fairfield. Then at this point decide if we could face the Derwent Moor loop opposite (ambitious as always given the hours of light left!).
Initially, it was all going very smoothly – I had decided that climbing along the roads towards Aston then branching off at Edge Farm would cut out a little of the mud. However, I had slightly forgotten how muddy the start of that track is, even in good weather. Progress was slow, I for one am not quite at peak fitness at the moment, Natalya was battling with a fold-up mountain bike (one of the strangest bikes I have seen), and Al was stuck with clipins – which given the sheer volume of mud and sliding was not ideal! Conditions were then exacerbated when the wind and hail picked up even more and started really gusting. To put things in context, I could barely stand – let alone cycle in a straight line! However weather aside, the tricky terrain and good company made for great riding. As well as that I was happy to see my recent focus on skills was paying off, and my balance on the bike was better.
However mountain biking is a great leveller, and just as I was feeling particularly cocky hopping uphill over a log, my chain snapped… obviously due to the sheer power in my legs..! Initially I wasn’t too worried as for the past year and a bit I have been lugging around a spare chain… until I realised that this had been used on one of the bikes back home and I hadn’t replaced it. In addition to this, all chain tools were also at home in the tool cupboard – oops!
Step in Al to the rescue (assisted by a very able Natalya). The bad news was the chain seemed pretty knackered. The good news was despite limited tools we had mini eggs! But after many decent attempts and broken links, now with frozen hands, things were looking bleaker than the weather. Enter unsuspecting kind mountain biker Simon – another mad passer-by out on his mountain bike…
With renewed energy and a warm pair of hands, we gave it a few more attempts. Finally just when we were all ready to give in (I mean we had even resorted to hitting it with a rock – and that’s never a winner!) things clicked into place. It was very precarious – no pedalling allowed – but meant that I had just enough tension on the pedals to be helpful. Thanks, guys!
Now at this point, semi-frozen, the grand plan of the three loops was out, and the general thought at this point was to head in the direction of the pub and the rugby (pints on me*). So we headed for the quickest descent – The Beast! Now, without the ability to pedal this was hilarious – I never thought about how much I need this on downhill sections.
Somehow I made it down in one piece, and we started along the fire track around Ladybower back to the car. It was at this point I tentatively tried to pedal… Seconds in my chain fell apart. This resorted to a very amusing fell running / cyclocross style approach to riding – running the ups and the flats pushing the bike and trying to be as aero as possible on the downs!
Luckily this somewhat easy turned epic has a happy ending, and soon the three of us were sat in the pub with hot chocolate, homemade chips and a pint. All in all still a great ride out – I just hope Natalya and Al will come out with me again.
* P.S Simon if you end up reading this cheers mate, I owe you a pint too!