We had a fabulous time at the Forest of Dean on Sunday, with a great bunch of people and some great riding.
Our Swinley “Best Bits” ride is very popular, as it not only takes the best of Blue and Red regular trails, but some great bits off the regular trails (with some nice drops and roots) as well. But there’s loads more good stuff in the forest, off the (ginger) trail and so we’ve expanded it to include 3 more sections 🙂
The Peak District is a stunning place, with some outstanding geology (like the rock face at Stanage Edge) and beautiful reservoirs such as Ladybower, Derwent and Langsett.
There is masses of riding in the Peak District itself, but there are also some brilliant trails around the city crafted by Ride Sheffield and Bike Track at Grenoside, Parkwood Springs and the latest, Lady Cannings.
We took a trip up there and had a look at a few of those in episode 5 of SMTBE TV Continue reading Places to Ride: Sheffield and the Peak District
Swinley is a great trail centre for all abilities, especially beginners, but isn’t blessed with the biggest hills (by a long way!). This can make some of the trails feel like a bit of a slog with little reward for the more experienced rider. However, there really is something for everyone – you just need to know where to look.
Weather conditions and injury thwarted this ride in April on Andrew’s and my recce weekend so while on holiday with the family last week I took a day out to test ride the route in readiness for September when weather permitting six hardy souls and guide will head to the top of England’s third highest Mountain at 950m and make the classic descent to Glenridding via Stick Pass East.
I met Charly my guide and good mate to the injured Nigel Piling (our guide in September), in the carpark in Glenridding. Charly came over as a really nice guy and proved to be, as well as an athlete and talented rider. At present he works for International Mountain Bike Magazine as product review, so turned up on a Polygon carbon DH bike at £5.5k load for a review. Nice job if you can get it. After a chat and kit check we headed west out of Glenridding up Greenside Road in glorious sunshine. The road giving way to concrete then gravel track that steepened to a point that proper bike on shoulders hiking was required for a time before remounting and passing Greenside and the grassy slopes of Stybarrow Dodd. Here to be met with a long but smooth packed gravel and grass descent littered in small rideable rock down to the saddle where Stick Pass crossed west and east from Therlmere to Glenridding.
Heading south Charly and I rode the lower skirt of Raise before once again bikes shouldered we walked to the top taking good note of the steep loose rock surface we would attempt to ride back down on our return from Helvellyn. This first true test of riding skill to come stuck in my mind as we rise and fell along the plateaued ridges of Whiteside and Lower Man before arriving to some surprised faces at the trig point marking the summit of Helvellyn. There we sat on the edge of the col and lunched in light winds and sunshine Red Tarn more deep blue in the reflected skies.
A few selfies and a one by a passing exuberant American tourist amazed to find 2 Brits with bikes on top of the mountain he had just puffed and panted up, we rolled back towards Raise and the 150m drop to the beginning of Sticks. Other than one tight turn where we had to wriggle between large boulders dabbing required I was pleased with my efforts and descended back to the fast flowing lower section, where speed and indecision ended in a parting of body and bike through the side door. I foolishly opted at speed to leave a stone filled rut and make for the smoother walkers path, the transition between the two at speed looking much shallower than it actually was. I have learn from years of walking these hill to give them respect, a slide across the grass at speed avoiding the stones that litter the surface reminding me that on a bike this respect is just as pertinent.
The top of Stick Pass is smooth and flowing with natural berms and rollers, the terrain enough to trick the mind that one is riding a trail centre; The steep smooth descent lulling one into a false sense of security, as soon we found ourselves on rockier single track with pinch point boulders and cutting to ride over or between. Picking a line well ahead became imperative as the descent became more and more gnarly, hanging off the back of the saddle with speed enough for the front wheel to rise over the boulder littered path while picking our way through a moonscape the only successful way down. Of course Charly glided over all with ease while I managed with a few refusals at particularly large drop offs. That is but for one particular line that I took on a tight bend that lead to nowhere, the actual line much wider around the bend avoiding a big drop on the rocky out crop I followed. Faced with a severe but ridable drop but the prospect of landing on a bed of ostrich egg sizes stone I anchored up, nearly saved the tumble off the ledge and the gravity bill paid with some large bruise. My advice to those in September, pick your line and full commit there is no room for bottling, ride what is in front of you look well ahead.
After my off it was the turn of my newly tubeless set up to fall fowl of the tough terrain, the tyre derimming and tube having to be installed before another section of gnarliness before the rocks. These subsided and gave way to fast flowing track to a gate that re-joined Greenside Road and the concrete to tarmac that lead to the Travellers Rest for a well-earned pint of Helvellyn.
To summarise: This ride is immense, the most taxing and technical I have ever ridden. Helvellyn is my favourite mountain in the Lake District and to have ridden it and Stick Pass gave me great pleasure. The route, terrain and weather conspired to make this the best ride of my life. What we do is called mountain biking. That is exactly what this ride is and it is truly awesome!
A write up of our recce trip to the Lake District, to prepare for the club trip there in September.
Here’s a video compilation showing me and Phill at the Forest of Dean last week.
Swindon MTB Enthusiasts decided to see how many bikes we could get in a Vito, how many different pick up points we could find and head of to Cwmcarn for the day. What could possibly go wrong?!