It was a bit of a last minute panic getting the bike ready for the trip but it was sorted. Thank you as always to the legends at SBC Cycles for helping out. I opted to take my Quirk fully loaded now with Shimano Ultegra/ Dura Ace Hydro mix and a set of custom built carbon Parcours Wheels with a SON Dynamo hub. The bike has a huge range of gears with the 11-52 casette which works in conjunction with the Shimano Ultegra RX mech. The RX mech has a built in clutch system which keeps the chain tight. Perfect for off road!
Anyway back to the riding. The goal was to get to Manchester, off road, by the evening. Using Komoot I planned a route mainly taking in gravel trails all the way up. 320 odd kilometres was going to be a big ask but a fun one. The first leg, London to Market Harborough for lunch. It seemed logical to me to stop around the 150km mark to re-fuel when riding fully loaded on a bike. Getting out of London can always be a bit tricky. But opting to take a path less travelled (so to speak) meant it was surprisingly quicker than I expected. Running along canal paths and footpaths in no time.
The Second Leg- Market Harborough to Manchester
Fed and watered, it was time to start part 2 of the day, Market Harborough to Manchester. This was going to be the tougher part of the day's ride, much more climbing plus the morning in the legs already. Hitting along old train lines, the route was pretty darn quiet with views left, right and centre. One of the parts that I loved was cycling through the old railway tunnels. These are completely pitch black so lights on, shades off going through these!
The route would climb over the Peak District, an area known for its natural beauty and also some incredible gravel trails. Climbing up the Peaks was slow and steady but once up high, the views were spectacular. Parts of the route I created followed the Eroica route which was taking place over the weekend. Doing some of those trails on vintage bikes.. Not too sure I would be wanting to do that one with skinny tyres and crazy gearings! Finally one last climb up and then with the sun setting the long descent into Manchester was coming. My legs needed the rest rolling into the city, some food and some well earned rest.
Day 2: Manchester to The Lakes
Up bright and early for a more casual day than yesterday. Mainly on roads but with a chunk of climbing. The lakes isn't flat after all. My aim was to get to Kirkby Lonsdale to then cycle around a loop to meet my friends who maybe took the more sensible idea of getting a train or driving up. For me avoiding the M6 was always the aim and trains are relatively dull after all. Today I mainly chose to keep to roads after yesterday's off road fun. Rolling through Blackburn I came across what looked like a good bike shop ti grab a bit more food and some supplies.
The chaps at Ewood cycles were incredibly welcoming. I was offered a cup of coffee and a cheese toastie befire I jumped back on the road, suddenly feeling refreshed and content by the kind hospitality I had been shown. I also managed to get some waterproof overshoes... Saturday was looking like it may be a wet one... Once again thanks so much to the chaps at Ewood!
Leaving the Northern cities it started to feel all the more familiar, the Lakes were coming! I finally rolled into Kirkby Lonsdale, feeling pretty empty but also with a few hours to kill before my friends in 10000kmcc would be rolling around. I found a cafe and proceesed to eat my way through their menu.
I've been honoured to ride with the chaps from 10000kmcc for a fair few years now. What Richard has done with that is really create an amazing community of friends that are so special to everyone involved. I thoroughly look forward to our weekends away and the stories that come from it. This weekend in the Lakes we had 17 of us staying in a farm house and riding together. I chose to ride the Friday evening route the opposite way to everyone else to catch them. My tired legs definitely looking forward to seeing some familiar faces. We were then staying in a huge farm house for the rest of the weekend and the bags would be able to be removed from the bike. Chip shop dinner and laughs in the evening
Day 3: The Lakes (In torrential weather)
Theres two different sides to the Lake District, a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. The stunning summery days in contrast with the very cold and very wet days. Both are equally beautiful but also equally challenging. We all woke up in the morning ready to get going, rain already starting. The overshoes were on that I bought on the cycle up and all the layers were on.
My aim was simple. Survive to Lunch. Lunch was Chesters, a stunning little streamside cafe with amazing food options, locally roasted coffee and everything locally sourced. My legs were tired from the last few days. I knew riding in the cold rain was going to take it out on me and I also knew a few people would be stopping at lunch. That was my aim, then to Stay in Chesters for a while and warm up/ dry up and eat. From there I called it for the day. A few brave souls carried on hitting The Struggle.
Day 4: Dales Day
Dales Day! Today we were heading further East to tackle some of the roads in the Yorkshire Dales. The Coal Road being one I've been really excited to cycle up for some time. I've heard such good things from it and I wasn't let down at all. Another long day in the saddle with great company meant for some tired legs and cattle hearding towards the latter end of the ride. Eventually rolling back into the farm house ready to devour all the ice cream we had. Time to pack and get the train back to London. What an amazing weekend of adventures. Now to rest the legs..
Thanks for an amazing weekend 10000kmcc and Cold Dark North. Photos by Ele Suggett, Richard Frazier, Ashley Bard and Toby Cummins