Inspiring the next generation of cycle tourists – a mini tour to the sea

dsc_0125

I enjoyed a lot of time outdoors as a child, but my wildest camping spot was within feet of my parents caravan and longest bike ride was 10 miles with a break in the middle. I joined the Scouts at 13 and a whole new world opened up to me. So now with my own boy, I am hoping to whet his appetite to the simple pleasures of walking, cycling, canoeing, wild-camping and the like rather earlier in life. I want to prove there is (a better) life beyond the X-Box.

With half term coming up, I muted an idea to Junior (now five) – would he like to cycle to the seaside and take a tent for our accommodation? He was pleasingly enthusiastic about the prospect, so the idea was born. The primary goal of the trip was for it to be fun throughout and to be something he would want to repeat. Thus I planned a route of just 20-23 miles / day which would mean we it would take us a day and a half to get to Knott-End-on-Sea via one of the flattest routes possible in this hilly area.

By taking the same route out and back (which to avoid big hills was itself unavoidable) this meant we could leave all the camping gear in place at the end of day one and travel light on day two. The first day took us from East Lancashire to Garstang and a friendly basic campsite. To keep the weight down we left the stove at home and opted for a pubs for our evening meals, no great hardship. Heading West from here takes you through Chipping if you stick close to the river/s and this proved a great lunch spot with the seats they have outside the church. Mid afternoon saw us arriving in Garstang in time to set up the tent and have a hour in a local playground before seeking out our dinner.

On day two it was just 10 miles of flat riding over the Fylde Plain to Knott End. I chose this as our initial destination because it meant we could catch the passenger ferry over the River Wyre to the better beach and playground at Fleetwood. The ferry only had us and one other passenger, and the pilot volunteered to show Junior the controls and let him rev the engine and sound the horn. Someone was in seventh heaven, a useful reminder to see the pleasure in the simple things of life.

Wyre Ferry.jpg

Once at the coast the drizzle started, but whilst this disappointed me it seemed not to dampen Junior’s spirits. He loves trains and trams so we took the tram for a few stops South and then back again before seeking out the playground which again he loved. The last ferry back was at 1445, and fuelled from a huge hot chocolate mid morning we were happy to wait until we were back in Knott End to get our lunch out of the supermarket. A short ride took us to a steam engine we had seen on the way out. A great lunch spot if you are five.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day three saw us pack everything up and trace our route back home. By chance we crossed the river Wyre several times on the route, with it being smaller each time as we headed back closer to it’s source. This fascinated Junior. On our return journey he commented that the bottom of his feet hurt – this I can only assume was because he was pushing so hard on the peddles – certainly I could feel his welcome input on the short steep climbs when I shouted back ‘push hard please.’ He had done just that.   Stopping every 6 miles rather than my normal 10-12 miles worked really well, as did the provision of pressed fruit bars at each break.

This was the first long journey we’d done with his new tag-along and I can say we were both impressed with it. My primary reason for choosing the Burley Piccolo was that it is the lightest tag-along on the market (apart from it’s sister model the Kazoo). Also, uniquely, it has gears which Junior soon got the hang of; meaning he could contribute more and do so more easily on the climbs. In typical American style it warns you to go no faster than 15 mph for fear of anything up to and including death! It’s not limited to this speed in truth, but the gearing does not allow him to pedal above 15 mph. However if the road means I’m able to go at 15 mph with a 26 kg load behind me then at that point I guess I don’t need help! As Newton would remind us, you only need to put in major effort when you are accelerating (or fighting the acceleration due to gravity when going up a hill).

Junior said he wants to go again – on that basis alone the trip was a success. I enjoyed his joy at simple things too and some father and son time with pie, chips and a pint in the pub. (Just a half for Junior of course…)

Junior’s new wheels

Well, in truth it’s just one wheel on a tag-along.  He’s gone from a seat to a saddle and lost 4 kg in weight at the same time.  Also, to aid with those Lancashire hills, he’s now got gears!  The Weehoo was great, especially for when we rode across France but now he’s bigger the Piccolo should be a lot easier.  He can get on and off without help for example.

DSC_0123

Weehoo Turbo (now for sale)

Piccolo Tag-along first ride

Burley Piccolo – first test ride

We hope to go for our first micro-tour, complete with tent, in October when Mrs W is away visiting a friend.  To make it more fun I’ve fitted a cycle computer with a rear wheel sensor so Junior can know how fast he’s going and how far he’s gone.   The hope is that this has the same motivating effect that his step counter does on a family walk.  Let’s hope too that I can maintain the fitness I built for, and on, my Welsh C2C – I think I’ll need it!

Welsh C2C Cycle Tour

The inspiration for this ride was the Wales in a Day Sportive / Challenge ride. I modified the route a little to take in Builth Wells, which was the town Mrs W was working in when I first met her. This took the total distance up to 210 miles. For me it was not the distance which was the challenge, because I covered the route over 4 ½ days rather than one, it was the 4500 m of height gain. In summary, it was a fabulous route but I’ve no idea how anyone has the combination of speed and stamina to do it all in less than 24 hours.

Day 1 – Chepstow to Gospel Pass :: 43 miles

There did not seem to be an iconic start point for the route, and the most convenient place I could find to start was a Tesco Car Park!

IMG_0571.JPG

I delayed the start of the day until the heavy rain had passed and I had only drizzle to contend with, I thus started at 1100. By 1145 the drizzle had stopped and the sun became increasingly evident through the afternoon. The highlight of the day (as expected) was cycling along the Llanthony Valley, flanked by the Black Mountains, and then up Gospel Pass. Just before the big climb I took the opportunity to get a pint of knee oil from the slightly tired looking but very friendly and welcoming Half Moon Inn.  At this point I shared the climb with a retired group of cyclists who passed me each time I stopped for a breather and vice versa. Both in theory and in practice this was the toughest individual climb of the ride. The Sportive runs North to South, I was doing the route in reverse as this seemed to make a lot more sense after looking at the elevation profile. Furthermore that normally puts the wind at your back.

Welsh C2C height profile.gif

It was very satisfying to reach the top and once through the saddle the views were extremely rewarding. For me this was to be the end of my day because I had the pleasure of Mrs W and Junior as my support crew in our VW camper who joined me at the car park just below the top.   We’ve stayed in some great wild-camping spots in the past but this surpassed them all.

Day 2 – Gospel Pass to Builth Wells :: 41 miles

Day 2 covered the heart of Mid-Wales and was, despite never reaching great altitudes, the hardest day of the tour. The reward was the scenery and the weather. The day started with a two mile descent to the river Wye.

IMG_0593.JPG

The rolling hills of this area are beautiful and covered with quiet roads. Perfect cycling country in many ways but unrelenting ascent and decent. The highlight was the section from Painscastle to Hundred House which reminded me of the hill above Llanddewi i Cwn where my wife-to-be first taught me to ride a horse.  I had hoped to reach Llandrindod Wells by lunchtime, but just two miles out I found that my tank was empty and I simply could not pedal another revolution without stopping for food. I was peddling up yet another hill, saw that it was due to get steeper, saw a lovely view over my right shoulder and simply stopped to sit in a gateway by the road.

IMG_0596

Not a bad lunch spot

Lunch was the equivalent of getting £10 of fuel from an expensive petrol station, just enough to get you to somewhere you are happy to really fill up. I knew there was a great chippy in Llandod and headed there for a second lunch! Now with a full tank I discovered that Mrs W and Junior were enjoying some Fine Dining in the Tesco car park just 0.2 miles from my chippy, so a peddled to join them, say hello and help them eat their strawberries. In distance I was now ¾ of the way through my day (perhaps that’s why I ended up with an empty tank at lunch time?) and the rest of the ride was sadly unremarkable but did lead me to Builth Wells, a welcome pint of knee oil and dinner with some old friends.

IMG_0598

Welsh Black – in the home-town of the Royal Welsh Show

Day 3 – Llandrindod Wells to Bryn Penarth (Nr. Llanfair Caereinion) :: 37 miles

The forecast was for rain for most of the morning and my route looked fairly flat, so I opted to join the family at Mrs W’s old church in Llandod and then fit my shorter (37 mile) day into the afternoon. New Life Church had grown and moved to a new building. Ironically they had converted offices in a former Methodist church back into a church once again. After a quick lunch I set off along the A438 which was to be over half my route today. I was glad it was a Sunday and thus the traffic light. I’d like to say I planned it this way but…  Whilst this section was mostly scenically unspectacular I did enjoy being on shallow gradients and being able to enjoy to get my head down and cycle at a very good speed for the 26 miles to Newtown. I am getting on really well with my new handlebars (link to blog), the aptly titled Crazy Bars from Velo Orange. On the front ‘aero’ position you can be both comfortable and use the combined power of your legs and arms. Both comfortable and very satisfying. This has proved an excellent change which has worked out just as I had hoped. 20 miles out of Llandod there was a beautiful sweeping descent with a truly fabulous view of the low ground stretching to Newtown (on Severn) and the rolling hills beyond.

I can only describe Newtown as an ugly town in a beautiful area. It has suffered from a major expansion in the late 60’s, that low-point of domestic architecture. After a rest stop it was a steep climb out of the Severn Valley and less than an hour to that night’s campsite. We had this view to ourselves.

IMG_0600

Day 4 – Bryn Penarth to Bala :: 41 miles

A gentle morning, through attractively names places such as Llanfihangel brought me to Lake Vyrnwy. Built as a reservoir to serve the people of Liverpool the dam is a wonderful example of Victorian utility architecture. Not only does it serve it’s purpose but it does so with beauty. Today when we build such things the design is purely based on function and a two year payback. The Victorians took pride in what they built. It’s worth remembering that it is down to the positive attitude of the Victorians that we have sewer systems and railways that still serve us to today.

IMG_0602

I decided to supplement my lunch with a hot baguette from the café next to the dam. You never know how this will turn out. What I’d say is that next time I’d try the Old Barn Café around the corner. However I had a nice rest and hid from a shower before setting off along the lake. You don’t get to see much of the lake because of the trees on the shoreline, but the draw-off house is amazing.

IMG_0604

Five miles of level riding meant my legs were warm and ready for the climb out of the valley. It’s an odd road which combines steep sections with gentle gradients in between which enable you to recover. If you decide to pedal this route take heart, the climb gets much easier after the first half mile. The first two steep sections made me fear it would be a killer climb, but with this part behind me it was wholly reasonable and allowed me to enjoy the woods I was passing through, a stream next to the road and then the heather and views higher up. Having got to the top I can say it was a lovely climb overall. At the top you officially enter the Snowdonia National Park and are afforded with a glorious heather clad valley to enjoy. A pleasure for the eyes and a rest for the legs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was then pretty much downhill all the way into Bala. A very memorable day with the perfect balance of challenge, easier sections (to get the miles in) and views. I stumbled into Mrs W in Bala buying Welsh Cakes, which were promised once I’d completed the last three miles to our campsite. Quiet, level, tree lined and friendly, I’d highly recommend the Tyn Cornel campsite.

Day 5 – Bala to Caernarfon (51 miles)

What I expected to be the most difficult day, physically, turned out to be modest in comparison with Day 2. In short I would rate it as one of the top five days riding I’ve ever known in the UK, and top ten anywhere in Europe! Whilst I’d like to say that the cloud was ‘just kissing the top of the peaks’ as you’ll see below, it was more of a full on embrace!

IMG_0625

Whilst the climbs over three passes took me to good heights (around 500 m each time) the gradients were kind. The scenery is what I always dream of cycling though. Narrow roads in good condition bisecting a wild empty landscape. It was a breezy day which offered a tailwind for an hour, before a combination and it and my route found it in my face. I normally stop for a short break every 10 miles, but had to cover 15 miles before I found anywhere which constituted shelter. A small copse of trees next to the road. A small amount more climbing took me to the hills above Penmancho and then sweeping down into Cwm Penmacho and the village itself.

IMG_0626.jpg

With only myself for company I toyed with renaming it Pen-Macho – for you would have to be a real man to climb the route in reverse. Once again I was glad to have reviewed the elevation profile and ridden the route South to North. It was then only a short distance to the A5 and the Conwy Falls Café. Now this is a café I’d heartily recommend. For £8 I had a giant fish finger sandwich, salad, chips and a pot of Earl Grey. All this lounging in a sofa, the ideal cycling lunch stop.

The next section along the A5 had little to recommend it, but was an unavoidable and essential link to Capel Curig. Once well outside Betwys Coed the mountainscape came back into view. Turning off onto the A4086 was a blessing and took me down a gorgeous valley with the Glyders to my right and Pen-Y-Pass and Snowdon in front of me (the latter hiding its modesty in the cloud).

IMG_0633.JPG

It was an easy ride despite the headwind, and whilst rain threatened it never actually fell. Then came Pen-Y-Pass which was neither steep nor felt as high as I imagined and I was soon at the top and having fond memories of the times I’ve climbed Snowdon.

IMG_0638

Again I was greeted with a beautiful gulley descent, but with something of a mean headwind at the top. Having to peddle to may headway downhill never seems fair. I, however, didn’t mind, as I now had just 12 miles left to complete my Welsh C2C and from what I could see it was very nearly downhill all the way. As I lost altitude I also lost the wind and could enjoy sweeping down the river valley towards the coast. Upon my approach to Caernarfon the castle was clear to see and for a cyclist it was far better to navigate by eye that follow the signs which take you via a short section of elevated dual carriageway. Awaiting me in the car park was my support crew, enjoying tea and biscuits in the van.

I’d crossed Wales and achieved 4500 m of height gain with only one hill (end of Day 3) beating me. I simply cannot imagine how people could ride the whole route in 20 hours. I had underestimated my fitness (how often can you say that!) and think I could have done the route in three days. It is certainly a route I’d recommend and I certainly plan to go back and repeat day five at some point in the future, ideally when the cloud is restraining itself from embracing the mountain tops. I can see a long weekend in Snowdonia coming up in 2019 if my support crew are willing.

My/our day ended well, catching crabs with Junior off of the quay, followed by dinner in the only Italian restaurant* I’ve ever know to offer the option of gluten free pasta which was great news for me, less so for the clams in my sauce.

IMG_0651

*Villa Marina

Crazy Bars Review

dsc_0086

In my last post I outlined why I wanted to try moving from conventional drop bars to a pair of alt bars on my touring bike.  Two rides in and I’m really pleased.  They have fulfilled their brief which was to:

  • Give me a slightly more upright position to reduce / eliminate neck pain at the end of a long ride.
  • Allow multiple hand positions despite being more upright (std straight bars would not offer this.
  • Offer a good position for putting power into steep climbs using the strength of both arms and legs.

Tick, tick tick. And as a bonus the new stem needed has given an ideal place to mount my GPS, which used to be mounted on top of my bar bag in a very ad hoc and unsatisfactory manner. In the unlikely event of Velo Orange (the makers) reading this there are just two changes I’d make.  I’d add 25 mm in length to the forward facing bars to be able to get a whole hand onto these bars rather than part onto the bar end shifters and I’d cut 25 mm off the end of the raked back bars (though I guess I could do this myself without much bother.

dsc_0066

It took ca. 30 miles to get used to them.  Perhaps the oddest thing is that, for me, my most frequent hand position is not one close to the brakes.   Whilst this was to be expected, it takes some adapting too.  I am used to riding on the hoods with the brakes within reach.  Now for steep descents and in town I move my hands to the raked position, in town this is fine, but its a bit odd to be so ‘non aero’ on steep descents.  A surprise was my favoured position for honking it up hills and that is to have my hands out on the aero position, if I’m spinning I have my hands right to the top of the bars (which is when I think a little extra length of the tilted section would be ideal)  but when I’m up out of the saddle I just more my hands back a little to the level section of the aero bars.  I thought I’d be right out on the wide swept section for this, but it feels really powerful to be in the former position.  Resting my hands on the intersection seems to take the place of when I’d normally hold the flats.  I’ve got flats exactly as before but the intersection just feels better.  I use this position to recover after a long climb before I start applying the power again.  Overall I spend the greatest proportion of my time at the ends of the aero bars.  It feels like a really good position to put in lots of power.  My average speed was up, but whether this was the position or just the excitement of new equipment it is hard to say.

I cannot sign off without giving a mention to the cafe above, where I had lunch.  This is just off the A65 in Hellifield – Hazy Dayz  This was a pivotal part of today’s route and I was delighted to find they offer a free pot of tea to any cyclist the orders food.  Great all day breakfast too.

Hellifield 44 mile route map

Crazy Bars

dsc_0066.jpg

In August I plan to ride a Welsh Coast to Coast. From South to North following the route of the Wales in a Day Sportive. The animated route published on YouTube really sold it to me. The original route is 185 miles over some very hilly terrain so I plan to split it into 40-50 mile sections and add a loop into Builth Wells, the town in which I met the lady of my dreams who is now Mrs W. Along with Junior, she will be my support crew and have their own fun in the daytime whilst Daddy cycles over the hills returning in time for some playground time and dinner in the VW camper.

Originally I liked the challenge of riding this on my high racer recumbent to follow on from my ride on the Pennine Cycleway in 2014. I love my ‘bent for touring because it is so comfortable, but despite all the hype I would have to agree it is harder work up really steep grades because, whist more biomechanically efficient, you cannot get the extra oomph of getting out of the saddle and using also the power of your arms in a good grind.

I am no longer in my 20’s (by a country mile) and my big gripe with my touring bike is neck ache from the use of the dropped bars. So inspired by Matt Hobley I started looking into alterative or ‘alt’ bars. Normally reserved for off road touring and bike packing there are a number of options out there, including but not limited to Jones Bars and Surly Moloko Bars. But my choice has been some Velo Orange Crazy Bars. These are lighter (aluminum, no loop) and also better suited to a traditional bar bag. I get to keep my bar end shifters (a must) but gain some space to mount my GPS in a sensible place for the first time. The aim is the multiple hand positions essential for healthy long distance touring but a more upright posture.

First long test ride is set for tomorrow…

Training ride…

DSC_0360c.jpg

Preparation for our family cycle tour across France on the Canal des Deux Mers route is now in full swing with the arrival of Junior’s new accessory.  He can now contribute to progress with his own set of pedals.  He may only be 3 1/2 but I could feel his input.  I’d say it was around 10-20% easier than pulling him in his trailer and on this point I’d agree with Tesco’s…

…every little helps!

To Arncliffe & back – a micro adventure.

DSC_0309

Mrs W and Junior were planning to spend a few days with her parents, whilst I had to be at work. They were to be away for a good chunk of the weekend also, so what was I to do with my freedom from responsibility? How about a micro adventure? Cycling to the Dales, going at my pace and thriving on the hills rather than cycling around them (as I would if I had Junior in tow)? Living in East Lancashire is a blessing with so much beautiful countryside on our doorstep and yet more no great distance away. So a plan was hatched to take in my favourite road in the Forest of Bowland along with along the lesser known routes in and out of Littondale.

Day 1 – The day started heavily overcast, but the forecast promised that the cloud would lift and the sun make an appearance by late morning (and indeed it did). My route was as follows:

July Day 1 for Blog

First of all I took a new route over Grindleton Fell which I’d not ridden before, following NCN Route 90 from Holden. This route is further down the flank of the fell than the one I would normally take and proved to be a steadier gradient, to a lesser height but with views and as least as attractive as my usual route. New views are always a delight.

DSC_0309

By the time I reached Slaidburn the sun was firmly in evidence and yet the day was not to hot. Ideal cycling weather. Now it was time to climb to the head of the Hodder Valley and up to the Yorkshire border.   The ‘Trough of Bowland’ is the famous route through the Bowland Fells, my route being the only other North-South route in an area blessedly low in roads (I really must walk out into the middle of this wild space some time, but given it’s size and I think would be another micro-adventure in itself as a tent would be needed mid-way between access points.)

Arrival at the Yorkshire border yielded a glorious view of Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside.

DSC_0312My route then took me through very pleasant fields and woods to the New Inn at Clapham. Never one to turn down a special offer I tried a pint of their ‘special’ ale at a price even a true blooded Yorkshireman would have been happy with (more than could be said for their regular beers). This washed down my butties nicely and then it was time to make my way to the foot of my final climb of the day. Up Silverdale and along the flank of Pen-y-Ghent and Plover Hill themselves. My previous attempt at this route had been my first proper ride on the Metabike in traffic. Back then this climb had defeated me in two places where I had to get off and push. Would I be able to make it to the summit this time? Was I still ‘race fit’ after our tour of Norway in May? The answer was yes and yes – I was delighted to peddle all the way to the summit without any stretch really testing me to the limit. I must be stronger than two years ago, which when you are in your 40’s is a great boost to the self esteem. I rewarded myself with a rest break on the summit and the geek-treat of emailing a selfie to Mrs W.

DSC_0320Now I could swoop down into Halton Gill and then enjoy the longest strength of flat road I’d seen all day, taking me down the valley to Arncliffe. I was booked into The Falcon that night, not somewhere I’d even had a beer in before – but they had space available at the last minute and no single person supplement. (Now who sounds like a Yorkshireman?). Stepping into the pub was like stepping back in time, but also enabled me to encounter the warmest hospitality I think I’ve ever known in any overnight hostelry. The family who run the Falcon were warm, generous and helpful and even lent me a laptop to download the GPS route file for Day 2 which I’d prepared but forgotten to upload onto the Garmin. I had a backup on paper, but this would have been something of a hassle on a ‘bent. They are not built to hold maps and having a GPS strapped to the tiller is not only a great option, but really the only practical navigating option you have.

48 miles and 4243 feet of height gain got me the chance to sit back on a sofa, pint in one hand and novel in the other – bliss.

July Day 1 Elevation for BlogDay 2 – Breakfast was at 0830, by which time the overnight rain had cleared and whilst overcast the day looked promising – it looked like the forecast of the cloud lifting and clearing was a credible prediction. I’d treated myself to a pair of 25 litre panniers for weekends such as this, as with this volume you can carry enough for a weekend. Just the size that Frank Burns would approve of.  I draped these over the seat of the Metabike (panniers on a ‘bent are often hung just as they would be on a horse, rather than clamped to a rack.) and set off in the direction of Malham. I’d been warned by locals that the road was steep and “I’d never get up it on one of those sleeping bikes!” Well I think I would have proven them wrong had I not had to get off to let a car past on a section of 1 in 5. But once at the top of this I found no need to dismount again. The elevated sections of this road towards Malham tarn were gorgeous. It felt like a special achievement to be peddling up at this level as I remember the magnitude of the walk to get there from the other side.

tarnHowever as I peddled across I mused on the tiredness of my legs. I considered too if after another 35 miles I’d be OK to ride to the summit of Slack Top (925 feet) and thought better of this. Just then Mrs W texted that she would be home by 1400 and that was my mind made up. I’d head to the River Ribble and take a flat route back home. The river valley was a scenic contrast to the Fells as well as being an easier ride. I was home in 31 miles and in time for lunch. Achieving this distance by lunchtime seemed ‘none too shabby’ and I was then able to take Junior to the playground to enjoy his own micro adventure on the slide and the swings.

DSC_0281

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – 7th (final) day

Day 7: Nr. Nordfjordied to Nr. Maloy – 37 miles (plus 5 miles the following morning)

DAy7

Around five years ago I / we stopped going on holidays for a fortnight and went instead for week blocks but more often.  Days like today exemplify why we changed our approach.  After a week, even the most fabulous scenery starts to become routine and you lose the awe and wonder that a place really merits.  When carrying out our research it suggested that the ‘must see’ fjords of the region we were visiting were Sognefiord and Nordfjord.  The former was certainly fabulous as had been the expected gems we had seen since then when we had been further inland.  So I’m sorry but whilst Nordfjord was ‘pleasant’,  today it failed to impress until the very end of the day.

Light rain was falling as we set of from our campsite, but having stayed in a cabin at least we did not have a wet tent to put away.  Also, my front light had dried out enough to start working again.  Five years on the front of my bike in Lancashire was clearly peanuts to a week of standing out on wet nights in Western Norway.  We headed back into Nordfjordeid but took the E39 on the way back in as it was a quiet Saturday morning.  This did afford views of the lovely rapid filled river which was feeding from the fjord down into Hornindalsvatnet.  Once into the town the headwind became obvious and was our constant companion all morning.  Counting our blessings though, this was only second period when it was a case of ‘getting your head down’ (not that in fact you physically actually do this on a recumbent) and getting the miles behind you.  Mrs W benefited from travelling in my wake as we made our way up the Northern shore of the fjord.

Fortunately we found a bus shelter with a very pleasant view for our lunch spot and during lunch the rain decided to stop.  As I said before, never did we suffer a whole day of rain.  Here is our lunchtime view once the sun came out:

IMG_7007

The afternoon was dry but next highlight was the end of the day.  Our campsite was right down on the fjord side.  There was only one other tent on site so we had the freedom to pitch where we liked.  The site looked to have been hewn from rock and then topsoil added back to make flat pitches.  We found a semi-circular cleft in the rock with the fjord lapping at its base.  A nice sheltered place to cook…

IMG_7022

…and a fabulous view of the fjord and passing cargo ships.

IMG_7029

The day may have been mediocre, but the evening made up for this.  The sun came out and we reflected on a tour we had both really enjoyed.  Glorious and massive scenery yet a route (carefully planned I might add) that only saw two big steep climbs in all ca. 300 miles.

The following morning required a very early start as our return transport was on a Hurtigruten ferry back down the coast to Bergen.  There is only one boat a day, so one dare not miss it – the only snag was the 0545 departure time.  Thankfully everything went like clockwork in the morning and we arrived at the port in plenty of time to allow us to hunt around and find which mooring that was used by Hurtigruten.  In the end a single A4 timetable in an office window as the only clue.  Lucky for us that taxi drivers are always around and one pointed us in the right direction.  The best of Nordfjord was to be seen from the water, so we enjoyed that as we made our way out to a coastline dotted with islands.  In reality, once through the islands this was the end of the good views that the boat provided – apparently the speed ferry offers better views as it goes into many more fjord entrances to smaller jetties.  We looked at it this way – we could tie up the bikes without need to pack or wedge them in anywhere and we could look at the view from the warm and between chapters of our respective books.

IMG_7033

Epilogue:  Western Norway offers awesome countryside, massive scenery great campsites (and cabins), smooth roads and is inhabited by warm, generous and wonderful people.  It was a great place to tour by bike is certainly somewhere we’d like to visit again one day…

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – Day 6

Day 6 – Byrkjelo to near Nordfjordeid – 42 miles

Day 6 Route Map

Part 1 – From the start to the ferry

Day 6 - Route Map

Part 2 – From the ferry to the end of the day.

A dry start to the day and also a mostly downhill route along the E39 to the shore of Briemsvetnet which afforded glorious views of the 1000 metre peaks on the opposite shore.

IMG_6985

We enjoyed riding along the lake shore and then dropped still further into Sandane to buy food for lunch.  Then half of the height we lost had to be gained again as we followed a road high above Gloppenfjorden heading for our ferry crossing.  A few miles later we saw blocks of cars coming the other way, followed by periods of empty road – this tells you that you are getting close to a ferry port.  A sign saying 2 km to the Ferry coinciding with a glut of traffic, so we exchanged a few words and decided to up the pace and race to catch the ferry which had clearly just discharged its load.  A slight syncline helped and we raced down to and onto the ferry.  It was lunchtime but the crossing too short to enable us to dine on board.

IMG_6988As we landed some drizzle started and it felt pretty chilly.  We hoped that there would be a waiting room for foot passengers that we could use as a lunch shelter but, probably because it was only a very short crossing, there was none.  However there were some lovely clean toilets with underfloor heating!  The disabled toilet was big enough to get our bikes into, so we moved in to get out of the cold.  Being Norway, it was both warm and spotlessly clean – clean enough to eat your lunch out of you might say, so we did.

After lunch we started with a climb up the fjord wall to our last ‘long’ tunnel of the tour – which would take us from Innvikfjorden across to Nordfjord.  Even though it was raining as we were about to enter the tunnel, the view back across Innvikfjorden was something to behold.

Hundvikfjorden Pano 1c

After exiting the tunnel it was downhill all the way into Nordfjordeid, an attractive town but one without a campsite.  As we were raiding the supermarket the intensity of the rain upped a gear and our final 5 miles out to the campsite at Neajartun was easily the least pleasant part of the day.  We had picked up a weather forecast when in Byrkjelo that suggested that the following day was to have heavy rain from dawn to dust without respite.  We thus hired a cabin at Neajartun with the idea that if the forecast turned out to be accurate that we could sit the day out in comfort and simply watch the rain through the window rather than experience it first-hand.  Our plan had included a contingency day for just such an occurrence so we were relaxed about spending a day reading and playing cards.

IMG_7006

‘bent over the Pennines Day 4 : Salterforth to Holmfirth – 41 (hard) miles

IMG_6419The campsite at Salterforth had little to recommend it apart from its convenient location so I headed out early along the canal towpath towards Foulridge. The flat start to the day was to be a vast contrast to what was waiting beyond Colne. The next three valleys I was to cross seemed to have near vertical sides to them, and the initial climb was tough to impossible in each case. Could I have ridden all the way up these on a conventional bike? Somehow I doubt it would have been possible even then. However, in each case the gradient soon reduced some quarter of a mile up each climb into something steady and manageable. The tops of the fells were at their very best in the glorious sunshine. Reservoirs were features at the top of each of these fells and they were lovely in each case

 IMG_6425

On one fell top, as I stopped for a drink, I met the only people I was to meet on the tour who were riding the same route as me – NCN 68. They were heading North and were keen to hear which sections of ‘off road’ where OK to tackle and which to avoid. As I said in an earlier post I was indebted to the group from CTC Cambridge whose blog had given me the low down on this and had guided me well on all but the rail bed of day 1.

The next landmark was the M62. Whilst I was doing this ride to enjoy the wild splendor of the hills, there always seems something special about crossing a motorway. Perhaps this is because of my penchant for riding or walking ‘Coast to Coast’ and because the M6 and A1 feel like major milestones on such crossings? Route 68 takes a tunnel under the M62 which was rather fun.

It was time for a rest when I reached bustling Hebden Bridge and time to top of up water. The Metabike turned heads and a number of people were keen to know ‘how do you start off on that thing’ and ‘can we watch you set off?’ It pays not to be too shy if you ride a ‘bent because you are always going to stand out from the crowd. I decided to follow the canal towards Sowerby Bridge but soon found this too slow for my liking. Also I simply didn’t feel confident riding over the cobbles which seemed to be a feature under each bridge so I headed out onto the A646. Route 68 takes you South of the canal on minor roads, but this would have been very up and down. After my climb over the fells from Colne I wanted lunch before I tackled anything too challenging again.

IMG_6426On the outskirts of Sowerby Bridge ‘Friendly Fisheries’ came into view and this looked a good place/plaice to buy lunch. The day was sunny and warm, the hills significant and your truly was good and sweaty. As the lady behind the counter rooted through the Haddock to choose one to fry she seemed to be paying undue attention to the task. I must have looked like I’d done a good mornings work because the result, once cooked, was a very big portion – I must have conveyed the full hunger I was feeling! Once again I had to push the bike up the initial ascent out of Sowerby Bridge– but a bench at the top of the steep section gave me a lunch-spot with a view over the town.

This time the fell had a greater length of elevated section which I enjoyed greatly. Once again there was an attractive reservoir to ride around. Interestingly some of the reservoirs in this area provide water to the high sections of the local canals rather than drinking water. Finally I descended through the attractive and amusingly titled Upper Thong. My schoolboy mind boggled! It had been the toughest day yet by some margin and it was almost dinner time when I peddled into the attractive Holme Valley campsite just outside Holmfirth. I was to save Holm Moss, made famous by day two of the TDF until the morning.

Coming soon – Holmforth to Dovedale, the concluding section of my Spine of England tour.