To Arncliffe & back – a micro adventure.

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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.

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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.

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Fjords Tour (SfSS) – 7th (final) day

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

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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:

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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…

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fjords Tour (SfSS) – Day 4

Day 4 –Ortnevik to Forde– 33 miles

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Packing up was quick and easy after a night in a cabin, and the ride to the Ferry was all downhill. The morning started dry, but seemed very windy. Just how much so became obvious when we reached the shore and saw the white horses out on the Fjord, showing it was blowing at force 6. Thankfully the ferry was a hydrofoil which not only meant it was fast but also meant a totally smooth crossing over to Nordeide on the North shore. We passed a hamlet on other shore which could only be reached by boat.  Fascinating.

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The rain started on the way over and was our companion until our mid morning shopping stop at Vadheim. Mrs W slipstreamed me all the way, which brings me to mention something odd. On a suitably laid back recumbent (even at my modest 33 degrees, rather than the radical 22 degrees of others, of which the Metabike is also capable) headwinds do not seem to make any noticeable difference. But still someone can ride behind me and benefit from my slipstream. Somehow this feels like getting ‘one up’ on nature with both of us winning.

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Vadheim saw us turn onto the busier E39 and start the climb up to Ykslandsvatnet. There were extensive roadworks on the way up, with the road due to be straightened and having a tunnel added, seemingly to allow some dual carriageway. The road alongside the lake was very attractive, those going through the new tunnel will have drawn the short straw. Lunchtime in Sande was chilly but dry. I have no photos of the climb, but the ride was on a easy gradient and graced with very pleasant countryside. We continued to climb to Langelandsvatnet, which is apparently a popular swimming lake the summer. You would have needed a hammer and chisel to break the ice to get in though! Now at ca. 650 m we were exactly on the snow line.

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Langelandsvatnet – A bit chilly for a dip.

The sun was now out and as we whizzed down the long and exhilarating downhill into Forde, our final destination for the day, the temperature started to climb again. Forde sat inside a bowl of hills, so it was clear how tomorrow ride would start.  It was a surprise to be in such a busy town with so much traffic. After failing to find signs to the campsite a little playing with the Garmin allowed us to navigate to the street on which the campsite was located. Once again we were the only tent on the site, so we could pitch where we liked. What I should point out now is that this was my birthday. Being in a large town meant access to a large supermarket – just a very short walk from the campsite which was handy. This meant the luxury of deciding what we wanted for dinner and buying the ingredients rather than seeing what was available and deciding what we could make from it.

Smoked salmon, cheese, broccoli, pasta and milk were obtained and over a starter of green olives dinner was prepared. This was my first time trying this truly one pan recipe and it worked out really well. In short the pasta was cooked in 1/3 milk, 2/3 water and then the liquor used as the basis of the sauce. Fine dining in the sunshine.

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Continue to Day 5

Fjords Tour (SfSS) – Day 3

Day 3 – Botn to Ortnevik – 48 miles

Day3Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! Today was a day which we have been anticipating for many months. We prayed that today we would have sunshine, and God did not disappoint us. Our route would take us along the shore of Sognefjord for the whole day. Once fuelled with porridge we set off. After less than an hour we were on the quiet road which would have almost to ourselves all day. We were heading for Ortnevik which was at the very end of the road. We only saw around a car an hour, the road surface was excellent and the route had no significant climb on it all day. Ideal for lying back (as one does on a recumbent) peddling away and enjoying the view. The best way to describe the route is with pictures not words, so here goes:

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IMG_6941Upon arrival in Ortnevik there were no signs to the ‘cabins’ we planned to stay in and the chap in the shop couldn’t help either. However a quick phone call brought forth the girlfriend of the couple who have the cabins who turned out to be English, paired with a local chap. Now we did face a steep climb as their farm and cabins were a little way up, up, up the valley. But when we got there the cabin was excellent as was the view.

Ortevik Cabin

The next morning it turned out the price was pretty reasonable too (we were too tired to ask the night before, and anyway had no other option). It offered great walk options too, so well worth considering.

Continue to Day 4

HPV CommuteMachine

It always seems a shame to put up a post without a photo or two within it. Perhaps I’ll have chance to add one later. What follows is likely to bear relation to many people who have been bitten by the recumbent bug. One is never enough. I think the reason is clear and normally unspoken….   For all the advantages of riding recumbent, the challenge is which design of bike or trike to choose.   When you have a choice with anything in life you have to play the pluses against the minuses – but with ‘bents the designs we have today, I am not aware of a machine out there which has the breadth of utility of a conventional diamond-frame design. With my 531 steel tourer, a little gentle off road is OK, riding with a group of roadies is OK and it’s good for commuting to work, pulling a kiddy trailer and of course it excels at touring. But if such true versatility exists in a ‘bent I have yet to see the design to achieve this. I would however be delighted to be corrected on this, dear reader.

My recumbent journey started with a trike. I opted for full suspension as it had 20” wheels and being a ‘bent I could not hitch myself out of the saddle for pot holes. It was supremely comfortable and an enormous amount of fun. It was fabulous for commuting and OK for short local day rides. However for longer day rides or touring the mechanical inefficiency of having three wheels on the road, the losses into the suspension / chain tubes and the weight meant that 40 miles felt like 60, especially when hauling panniers or a baby trailer. I did take it on a tour  which I really enjoyed, but it was too hard work up hills with a load. As I say, 40 miles felt like 60. It was however great in the snow and I think it is this capability that I will miss most, but probably only for one week every five years. She is now sold.

My downfall was looking for the most efficient long distance, hill climbing machine on the market. There seemed to be two designs considered to contend for this prize. The Lightning P38  and the Metabike.   I did get to sit on a P38 thanks to a kind young lady in Edinburgh who dropped into Laid Back Bikes (LBB) when I was there for a test ride. But in that short time I simply could master riding it. Also, it had a 20” unsuspended front wheel which from my experience is just not practical on British roads where we don’t so much ride on the left of the road as ride on what is left of the road!  Whilst I was at LBB I tried a Nazca Fuego (20” unsuspended front wheel) and whilst this was great in many ways, on Edinburgh cobbles it did seek to shake out all my fillings! So having tried a few designs I opted for the Metabike, where the 28” wheels take the edge off the British roads without having the inherent inefficiency of mechanical suspension. It was and is great, but as I said it was also my downfall. This showed me just how fast and efficient a ‘bent could be.  It doesn’t have suspension or chain tube losses, it isn’t heavy and yet the frame is braced and stiff. It allows me average speeds, over the same route, some 2 mph faster than my standard touring bike. So I found I did not need to compromise efficiency to enjoy the laid back posture of ‘bent riding, from then on the days were numbered for the trike.

However, whilst the Metabike is truly fabulous for day rides and touring, and if you are a regular reader you’ll know I rode along the Pennines / Spine of the England in the summer, it is not ideal for commuting in stop / start commuter traffic.   So what to do if I want to keep my ‘bent muscles working between tours, have the pleasure of a laid back commute into work but not be peddling something I know is far harder (less efficient) that I know it could be? It was time to research a compromise machine. Something easier to balance in stop/start traffic, good over potholes and yet not as inefficient as the trike… I guess it should be no surprise that my choice was to be the recumbent which is the most popular in the UK. Others also must have been looking for a versatile machine, and perhaps it is what I should have started with too. That said, hindsight is always 20:20!

So three weeks ago I went for a long drive to test ride, then purchase and bring home a second hand HPV Streetmachine GTe.   The first thing it needed was a change of drive chain to lose the grip shifts and 8 speed rear mech. My thanks to the ever helpful Richard at ATR Cycles for his advice and speedy work upgrading me to bar end shifters, cable oilers (ready for the winter) and rear cassette. She is now a great ride. Not as efficient as the Metabike, but on the spectrum from suspended trike to High Racer I know I am far closer to the High Racer end of the range. And for me efficiency really matters, not just as a concept but because my commute home involves picking up my son in his trailer and then cycling up hill to get home.

‘bent over the Pennines 5th and Final Day : Holmfirth to Ilam – 60 miles

Life has rather got in the way of blogging, so the conclusion of my tour notes has been somewhat delayed. For this, dear reader, I apologise. However the distractions have all been good ones! When I left off I had just reached Holmfirth, stopping some 10-12 miles before my planned end point because day four had proved to be the meanest stretch that the Pennines would have to offer. The Holme Valley Campsite proved to be very good. That it was so quiet was not be expected from the map, falling as it does between two busy A roads. However not only was it a haven of peace, the staff were fabulous and hospitable too. Also their new shower block was nothing short of the state of the art – and no coin slots for the showers. What a welcome change compared to our time in Barnoldswick.

early_LOTSW_5Rolling back into the town centre was an easy start, but Holme Moss was there waiting for me. Once again the initial climb was very steep, but soon settled out to a manageable 1:7. The TDF went this way, but took the A6024 over the fell which was (once again) a slightly easier route than NCN 68. If I were to do it again, I’d follow the A road, as the support van reported that this was a pretty quiet road even at around 5 pm. On top of the fell it was a little misty, the first less than perfect weather of the trip. However I was soon down from height and barrelling down towards the Woodhead Pass (A628). Luckily I joined this on a downhill section (heading West) and so was able to keep up a respectable 38-40 mph and was thus not so much slower than the trucks. There were plenty of those and I was glad to get to the Torside Resovoir and onto the B road on the other side. The ride down into Glossop was both glorious and all but traffic free. I didn’t stop in the town, nothing invited me to do so and it was busy with traffic as usual. The really steep hills were now behind me, but there were still a couple of significant climbs ahead. The countryside rolled and swayed as I entered Derbyshire and apart from one navigational error it was an easy ride to my lunch spot. The wind had built up, and whilst this is not a big issue peddling a ‘bent, it did mean seeking cover for my lunch. The Pack Horse Inn filled my beer stomach nicely, and after a rest it was time to hit the road again. My hope (which turned out to be realized) was that this should turn out to be the easiest afternoon of the trip.   In terms of what I had seen up until this point, really there was only one more ‘real hill’ to get over that day. This was just outside Buxton. I deviated away from NCN 68 as my advice had told me that ‘off road’ section was far too rough for me. Sticking to the A5004 I thought I had ‘hit the wall’. Instead it turns out that Long Hill is aptly named. I could see that I was on the side of a hill, but not until the road snaked back on itself did I get to see where I had come from… And this told me that I was not running out of steam, I was instead battling up a very long [if gentle] climb. This was finally rewarded by a sweeping decent into Buxton and a trip to Gregg’s to try out a couple of their Danish Pastries. Two for the price of one, it would have been rude not to! Mrs W and the support van arrived in town just after me and together we had a fun conversation with a cycling cleric who wanted to know more about my Metabike. What a great chap he was and I was buoyed up for the final leg with the assurance that ‘there are no more big hills South of here.’

The Quiet Woman PH

10 miles outside of Buxton I joined the Monsal Trail. The surface was much better than I remembered from my last trip here in 2005. Perhaps it had been improved? The dry weather will have helped. Now the challenge was on; would I be able to complete the final 20 miles before dinner time / my own personal energy store ran low? A nice flat level trail really is ‘bent country, and apart from negotiating around dawdling grockels I was managing 20-22 mph all the way. This suggested that I would get to Ilam, my end destination within the hour. This is in fact exactly what happened. Whilst lacking in geological drama, the rail-bed route made up for this with bucolic views seen at high speed, or at least what is high speed for a long distance tourist at the end of a long day.

Our final campsite proved to be the delight we hoped it would be. The NT site at Ilam Hall. A little luxury and the chance for a couple of days family time at the end of the tour.

Ilam HallSo would I recommend NCN 68? A qualified yes… …the scenery was outstanding, the route quiet (apart from the Woodhead Pass!) and the sense of achievement massive. I’m glad I got the chance to do it ‘supported’ however and did not have the weight of touring gear. Given the hills on days three and four, very short days would have been in order had I had this weight with me. I would have added a day. However I had no weight, so for me it as an excellent route.  Pleasingly also, I can counter the misconception that ‘bents cannot climb.   It is true that a lot of ‘bents are built more for comfort rather than speed, but there are at least two designs out there which have the same / very similar mechanical efficiency to the standard diamond frame design and the Metabike is one of those. So it was a great route for a great bike – luckily I was on just such a machine and had great weather thrown in for good measure.

‘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

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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.

‘bent over the Pennines Day 3 – Castle Bolton to Salterforth – 45 miles

IMG_6412The start of the day took me along Wensleydale; fast riding with gentle undulations. Soon however, the climb up into Coverdale began along with the wonderful views which this affords. For most of the ride up this Dale the gradients are gentle, but you know you are heading ever upwards. Finally the string of settlements come to an end and the real climbing, up the Flank of Great Whernside, begins. Once above the treeline, the views stretch a long way and you really feel a sense of exhilarating isolation. The final stretch of climb saw me walking on two occasions, but thanks to a quick prayer, the clouds depositing their blessings into the next valley and not onto me. A climb like this, in summer, in Goretex would have been very warm indeed. The view from Park Rash Pass made me feel I was looking down on the whole of the Dales.

The descent towards Kettlewell was steep and winding, the 25% sections reminding me why I’ve always ridden this from NE to SW and not in reverse. Descending a 25% gradient on a recumbent is an odd sensation as it almost feels as if you are standing upright.

I was feeling tired as I headed along Wharfedale towards Grassington and glad to be following the valley floor. Lunchtime would see me all but on the edge of the Dales and about to leave Yorkshire for Lancashire. My support crew met me Hetton for lunch and I was able to shelter from the lunchtime shower in the van, Barm cake in hand.

I was now back on familiar ground with my route criss-crossing the Leeds to Liverpool Canal through Gargrave and Barnoldswick and finishing in Salterforth. I was now on the route I took when I first took the Metabike out for a long ride. Finishing mid-afternoon gave time for Nathan to enjoy an a bath ‘al fresco…

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…and then for the whole family to take a walk along the canal, albeit in the rain which I had managed to miss seeing close up all day.

The Spine of England Cycle Tour – or ‘bent over the Pennines!

Day 1 – Haltwhistle to Appleby-in-Westmorland – 57 miles

 When pondering what to do for our next holiday, Mrs W came up with an interesting and very generous idea. ‘Why don’t you find a route you want to ride, and Junior and I will drive along in the [camper] van as your support vehicle, meeting you for lunch and each evening.’ So I found a topographical map of the UK with all the long distance Sustrans trails overlaid on it – Route 68, or the ‘Pennine Cycleway’ jumped out as being an ideal length and also, given the terrain, a good route to ride supported rather when hauling panniers.  Ideal for the Metabike.

A long stretch of the Northern end of route 68 is on ‘non road’ cycle routes. A helpful blog account of someone else’s experience of the ride told me this would be far from ideal on my very rigid recumbent, so I started on the Northumbria border at Haltwhilstle.

The start of the ride

The start of the ride

The initial cycle-route was tarmac paved and a pleasure to ride along. However after a few miles the surface changed to cinder track – OK – and then to crude hogging and then ran mostly in tree lined cuttings. The surface required a a good deal of concentration meaning I could not look at the view, and then in the cuttings there was nothing to see but trees anyway. Luckily my GPS Map told me I was about to come alongside the A689 which also went to my next waypoint of Alston. Normally I’d avoid A roads, but it seemed a better option so I hopped off onto it. In fact it was quiet, and for anyone wishing to ride this route who wants to see the gorgeous Northern Pennines rather than tree lined cuttings I would recommend it. It runs all the way from Haltwhistle to Alston.

 The route then continued on the road and took me towards the infamous Hartside. I had memories of climbing over this 1900’ hill from two years previously as it also features on the C2C route. Last time we had approached it from the West and into a headwind blowing at a bracing Force 7 (I did see one lad blown over backwards – akin to a wheelie going to far – by the wind last time…). Ironically I found myself facing a headwind again despite now approaching from the East! However, not only was it only very modest, I experienced the benefit of riding recumbent and it had very little impact on me at all. Hartside, I’ve now come to learn, is an easier prospect from the East. It is a longer, more gentle and more consistent gradient.   Nevertheless getting to the top felt good.

Hartside Summit

Hartside Summit

The route then took me on flatter ground with the hills to my right. Lovely views tracked me all the way to Dufton. This was were I was ‘due’ to stop for the day. But it was only 1430, I felt good and the campsite looked less than inviting so after a call to the support crew we decided to meet up for the night in a campsite just outside Appleby. The final sweep into Appleby was glorious, with a slight downward slope following a very pretty stream into the outskirts of the town. Ideal ‘bent terrain which I enjoyed to its best employing the ‘big cog’ and getting up a good speed until reaching the town itself. A close look at the map suggested that it would be possible to bypass the town and cut a couple of miles off of my ‘extended’ day by taking advantage of a footbridge across the River Eden. After then a total of 57 miles I met up with the family and the van for the night.

Coming soon – ‘bent over the Pennines Day 2 : Appleby to Castle Bolton via Tan Hill…