Sunday, 23 November 2014

End to end planning, 2

I thought I'd try to post where I'm up to with my planning at monthly intervals. So now it's five months and counting before the trip.

Since last time I've had an overnight camping trip with the Thorn (see separate post) and this revealed a number of significant points.

i. I can easily top up the charge on both my phone and satnav in the evening, from the Powergen AND, importantly, a five or six hour ride next day, charging the Powergen from the dyno hub, will virtually put back into it the energy I took out. I say virtually cos, in fact, it wasn't fully charged when I left home, Chrissie having charged her phone with it earlier in the week, and it was still taking charge when I got home, but was almost full. It certainly looks like an effective system; at worst I may have to "beg" a charge for the Powergen from a campsite occasionally if I don't manage to fully charge it. It's also fair to say I don't plan on keeping my phone turned on all the time.

ii. I have a real problem sleeping in a normal, mummy-shaped sleeping bag on a mummy-shaped mat. At home, I normally sleep in the recovery position, on my tummy with one knee raised, which is difficult in this kind of bag. So, I've bought a Rab Ascent 700, which is still mummy-shaped but significantly wider lower down. It's a three season bag which should cope with my bicycle touring needs; still have "colder" bags if I put up with a narrow one for any colder trip. Yet to try it in anger. And we do have rectangular mats in our arsenal, just not full-length. So, I'll try one of these next trip but may yet buy the soon-to-be-available full length rectangular Thermarest Neo-Air X-Therm.

iii. My backside ached badly after two, back to back, 40 odd mile days. Now, it's fair to say I don't regularly ride this far. My usual daily rides vary from 10 to 30 miles. So I may just need to get used to increasing mileage. I expected the Thorn Velo saddle to be up to the job but I wonder if it's too soft, so I've switched to the Charge Spoon from my road bike as an experiment. Tried it for 15 miles yesterday and it was OK but I didn't have time for a longer ride. Watch this space.

In addition to the above, I've bought a set of front and rear Ortlieb Roller Classic panniers. I had a mix of older rear Karrimor Kalaharis and Altura front panniers, but I've been lusting after waterproof Ortliebs for a while. They're smaller than the Kalaharis but seem to be quite big enough. Fitted 'em in the warmth of the lounge a coupla days back.

And a plug for Scotby Cycles, where I got the panniers. Good price, very fast delivery and discount for returning. Recommended.

Also spent some brass on a Topeak Hexus II which is highly recommended on CycleChat. Super bit of kit with built in chain splitter. And I bought a Leatherman Crunch, which appears to be the only tool of this kind with lockable pliers, like a Mole wrench. This was suggested in Stephen Lord's Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook.The thing's a joy to handle and behold, if a tad expensive, and weighs only a few grammes more than the pliers I used to carry.

Latest thoughts on route is to follow Nick Mitchell's, Cicerone guide all except for a significant deviation to avoid the A82 in Scotland. So, following Jackie's (Bikerta) lead, I plan to cross Dumfries & Galloway to Ardrossan, cross to Arran, then Kintyre and Mull before heading up the west side of Loch Linnhe to then follow the Great Glen Way, after which I'll rejoin Nick's route. This way I can rely on maps in Nick's guide except for the stated deviation. Course, I'll probably change my mind several more times before May!

I'll be keeping an eye on weather forecasts through the winter. Should I spot a window of clear weather for a coupla days I might well charge off on another trial camp, hopefully wild camping somewhere in the Peak District (sssh ... don't tell the Ranger Service).

Shortly off in the camper up to t'North Pennines. Bit o'hillwalking, bit o'cycling, bit o'socialising (not too much, lest it waters down my inherent grumpiness).

Think that's it for now.
Enjoy your own adventures, whatever they may be.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Overnight in Cheshire

Since getting the Sherpa home just over a week ago the idea of an overnight camp's bin bubblin' away. 

Yesterday morning, with no urgent demands on my time and a half decent weather forecast, I perused the road atlas over breakfast. Where to go? The Peak District? Not sure I fancy the hills for a first trip. How about trundling downhill into Cheshire then? A quick flick through our Camping & Caravanning Club guide revealed that their Delamere Forest site's open all year. Plugging into Garmin Connect told me a direct route from here to there was about 36 miles, but nob'dy in their right mind would go by the direct route on a bike. So, very rapidly, I linked a couple of NCN cycle routes and came up with a journey of about 43 miles. I transferred this to my Edge Touring then reversed the route and transferred that too. And with help from Chrissie, bless her, I was packed and out of the house by 11am.

First then, from Hayfield, through New Mills for a short few miles down the A6 before I joined the Macclesfield Canal at High Lane. And only a little way along here I found this floating cafe; the Tea Cosy.

'Seemed too good to miss, so I stoked up on coffee an' carrot cake before carryin' on.

I soon joined the Middlewood Way, following a former railway line and running towards Macclesfield. I found this bench along the way.

After six or so miles you find yourself atop the spectacular Bollington viaduct with a view over the village's rooftops up to the local landmark of White Nancy on the hill in the distance.

A short way further on I left the trail and headed out across country through Prestbury. I don't like riding through here; the obscenely expensive homes revealing the thinly disguised chip on my shoulder, a result of my working class roots. Never mind, the scenery's beautiful and I grind up the hill onto Alderley Edge and find my route's guiding me onto this bridleway. 'Looks a bit rough but hey, this is one of the reasons I bought this bike so, let's go.

The bike's up for it; my skills aren't stretched too much an' we're back on tarmac all too soon.

Hitting the Cheshire plain now, another local landmark rears it's head against the autumn sky. The Lovell telescope.

And as I pass the entrance to Jodrell Bank I make note of the fact that there's a cafe on site; maybe for tomorrow?

My journey continues westwards. Bypassing Goostrey I encounter another narrow bridleway. It's fun but I do resort to pushing round the muddier sections; more to do with my nervousness I suspect rather than the capabilities of the Marathon Mondial shod Sherpa but it's all good, clean fun. Actually, it's not - the Sherpa's looking reassuringly mucky as we meet metalled roads again, then it's onwards to this lane ...

... whose photo I took cos "Crowder" is the original, medieval spelling of my surname. Crowders were travelling fiddlers, playing for their supper in fairs and the like. 'Shame I didn't inherit this ability; the most I can manage is a dubious rendition of the Streets of Laredo on my harmonica.

And eventually, having passed through the charmingly named Lach Dennis, Hartford and Norley I finally arrived at my destination, still in daylight. Me an' the Sherpa had done just fine and the tent was soon up and coffee on the way.

After a rainy night, the morning dawned dry but overcast and, having breakfasted on "Expedition Porridge" I was off on the reverse of my outward route.

Leaving Davenham, I stopped to update Chrissie of my ETA at home.

I tackled the bridleway near Goostrey again. It was wetter today but I was a little more confident.

I enjoyed lunch at Jodrell Bank's cafe; the bacon sandwiches are a joy, not to mention the apricot, white chocolate and frangipan sponge. Then it was back up over Alderley Edge towards the Middlewood Way. On the trail, here's a section of the route which would make a challenging ride; the turns clearly not designed for a fully laden tourer!

Back on the canal towpath, I simply had to stop for tea and apple pie at the Tea Cosy again before stopping for a call of nature in anticipation of returning to the delights of the A6.

I returned to the village via the Sett Valley Trail and Chrissie captured me arriving with a grin.

My gorgeous, red Thorn Sherpa had ridden like a dream, carrying around 20kg of luggage across a multitude of surfaces with aplomb it had met, if not exceeded all my expectations.  A future of bicycling adventures beckons.

Life is good.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Wheeling in the White Peak

This morning I dropped Chrissie off at Middleton Top near Wirksworth in Derbyshire, the official start of the Pennine Bridleway. She's walking from there to our home in Hayfield over the next three days, camping along the way; planning on picking up the rest of the route north later.

I took my Sherpa in the car having sourced a good looking route from a new cycling guide book.

Having waved Chrissie off I sorted my kit and head off down the road towards Brassington in sunshine. It was cold though and I was well wrapped up.

I left Brassington on a narrow road I'd never been down before, passing the limestone outcrop of Rainster Rocks.

Past Balliden and the scar of a large scale limestone quarry I found myself on a track, barely tarmac, climbing easily up towards Royston Grange farm. This strange sign was by a gate across the road.

The lane ran up a peaceful valley.

Along the way I passed this disused 19th century pump house, once used to serve the quarries along the railway line that's now the High Peak Trail.

The route took me onto Cardlemere Lane, a rough track heading up and over the hill towards Hartington. The roughest, most challenging bit was through this gate, being scattered with loose stones. Me an' the Sherpa coped well, with little fuss.

This was the lane heading down to Hartington.

After lunching in the sunshine in Hartington, my route took me up the beautiful dry valley of Long Dale. I found myself wondering at the water running through the limestone, somewhere beneath my wheels.

Long Dale led me up to Parsley Hay on the High Peak Trail/Pennine Bridleway/Midshires Way; they can't seem to decide what it's actually called. I've been here many times for the start of bike rides. Today the cafe's closed, so no coffee. I linger for a few minutes, then set off south down the trail, back towards Middleton Top. Along the way I met Chrissie, making her way steadily north. 

I passed by the remains of a lime kiln ...

... and admired the sunny view back towards Parsley Hay.

Before arriving back at the car I had to descend the Hilton Top incline, at 1 in 14, once the steepest incline in Britain, regularly used by steam locomotives.

Back at the car I'd covered a very enjoyable 30 miles in fantastic, autumn weather. Bliss!

Next on the agenda; load the Sherpa up and go camping. Weather permitting, I might follow Chrissie's lead next week and make a start on the first section of the Pennine Cycleway.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Chrissie goes road riding

Chrissie's had her new, first road bike for a few weeks now. She already has a Giant hybrid she's had for yonks and is very happy on, but envied my Cube road bike. She's bin quite nervous on it up to now. I had to fit spacers so she could reach the brakes (no thanks to the local bike shop who failed to do a final fit cos she wanted flat pedals!) and stick some prompts on the hoods so she could tell which way the indicator was moving i.e. up or down.

I've left her to pootle about round the village for the last few weeks but yesterday she said she fancied a proper ride somewhere flat; Cheshire. It's v.hilly hereabouts. So we loaded the bikes on to the back of our Scooby Do and set off for Knutsford. We had a lovely, gentle, level ride through Tatton Park; actually no we didn't - it's closed today, then round the lanes towards Mobberley.

The first smiley pic was taken on the way, moments before Chrissie had a puncture in her "puncture resistant" Schwalbe Lugano! Never mind; I fixed it with a patch (ages since I've done one) then we were on the way again ... for five minutes, before I got a flippin' puncture in my "puncture resistant" Schawlbe Ultremo. Bu**er! This time I just stuck a new tube in.

We both set off again ... waiting for the next one. But it never came and we found a bench outside the church in Mobberley for lunch.

Then we carried on our merry way back towards Knutsford. A nice, relaxing ride.

So, Chrissie's first proper ride out on a road bike and her verdict? For the first hour, she was contemplating selling her lovely new Cube Axial, so disconcerted was she with the handling and position. However, during the second hour, she changed her mind completely, finding herself really enjoying the ease of pedaling a lightweight road bike, but the last half hour or so brought the dreaded sore bum. Never mind, hopefully, with more practice, she'll get accustomed to the seat (she'd already changed it for a more comfy Specialized item). I reckon she did really well, 'specially with the unusual, for her, STI shifters, and we're looking forward to lots more fun on the bikes together.

BTW got home fixed tube, no success, second hole ... a classic snakebite methinks. Should be dry now, so I'll check again.