The Point of Ayre is the northern tip of the Isle of Man. That is all.
The Point of Ayre is the northern tip of the Isle of Man. That is all.
The ultimate in adventure expeditioning…taking my little girl for a ride along Bournemouth seafront (Sandbanks to Boscombe) and back yesterday, along with a friend and her little one. The gear shifts on our mountain bikes did not get much use….
The End to End Race is a mountain bike race held every year on the isle of Man, with up to a thousand entrants. We tried our own End to End, following a convoluted and indirect route which stayed off-road and followed the high ground as much as possible. We started from the Calf of Man at the southern point, and finished seven hours later at the northern point, the Point of Ayre Lighthouse.
It was a great ride, with great hill and sea views at all points. We covered over forty miles, and climbed over 500 feet. However, we would have finished an hour earlier if it wasn’t for an error on the OS Map; one trail we selected was clearly marked as an ‘all-vehicle byway’. Amusingly, it turned out in reality to be a rather marginal footpath, located in a deep gully following the bed of a steep mountain stream.
The caption above the names is, “With courage, nothing is impossible”; this is a quote from Sir William Hillary, founder of the RNLI.
A stroll at Studland with my little girl.
It’s always possible to have a true adventure (or indeed, a full ’epic’) within a few hours of your home. Our ride across Wales this summer was one such adventure…and it did indeed include one ‘epic’ where pretty well everything went wrong.
On the third day of riding, I took a hard tumble on the Cli-Machx Trail, north of Machynlleth. The trail is pictured below, but embarrassingly it was actually a fast and non-technical section where I wiped out. I blew out the front suspension on my forks, broke a rib or two and also a thumb. After I’d picked myself up off the floor, we limped into Machynlleth hoping that the bike shop there would be able to revive my dead mountain bike…but they were closed. Battered, bruised and demoralised, I was not exactly feeling the love at this point.
Plan #B was for me to take a three hour train to a friend’s house in Telford, borrow the forks from his spare bike, collect my car from outside his house and then drive back to Wales to meet my friends at Devil’s Bridge…having missed a days’ riding. I headed back towards Telford, but had half a mind to jack the whole thing in; not completing the ride really grated, and I was pretty beaten up. As it happened, once I reached my car I retrieved my shock pump…to my surprise, using this I found that I was able to revive my bike’s suspension. I decided that I was back in the game, and that there was no way I was going to miss out a section of our coast-to-coast ride.
I drove back speedily to Machynlleth, pausing only to buy a chicken kebab which actually proved to be rotten (thanks, Welshpool). When I arrived back at the last point I’d ridden to, it was 7.30 pm and I had 90 minutes of daylight left…in which to cross the central spine of mid-Wales, a very large area of absolutely nothing.
After a frantic ascent, I reached the summit at the exact point the sun disappeared (top pic) and descended through bogs and forestry plantation in encroaching darkness, with only a small headtorch to light the way. I didn’t see sight nor sound of another person for four hours, until I finally reached the main road and pedaled to Devil’s Bridge…where there was no sign of my friends.
I had an uncomfortable bivvy in the rain, with my sore ribs encroaching on sleep somewhat. It subsequently turned out that I’d passed the others a few miles back, sleeping in a lovely warm hotel (no sniggering, please). We were all united after a bit of searching in the morning – it was emotional – and our cross-Wales mission was back on. With a vengeance.
When a friend (an actual real cyclist) asked if I wanted to go to an Enduro MTB event with him, I happily agreed and entered, without the slightest clue what an ‘Enduro’ might be. It turns out that in this context at least, it means a long drive to North Wales, a crawling mass start of 650 riders, 60 km of distance, seemingly endless technical downhill riding on superb singletrack and about 7000 feet of lung-busting uphill ascent, mostly on soul-crushing forest roads.
I’m certainly not very good at this stuff, basically being a pretend cyclist; I have no idea (or desire to know) what the various fiddly bits on my bike do, I have a daunting habit of crashing into perfectly obvious trees at speed, I’m hopeless on the downhill singletrack (I always get overtaken by half a dozen riders who weren’t even in view at the top) and I simply cannot be bothered to pedal up steep hills; I simply push, much to the bemusement of purist riders.
Regardless, the photo above tells you all you need to know; I’m still smiling after five hours of this sort of thing. I was about a hundred places off a podium position, but a nice man took pity on me and handed me a spot prize of a £50 gift voucher. I now have some shiny new MTB shorts needing use; time to go riding again…
The Long Mynd is a huge flat-topped hill in Shropshire, close to the Welsh border. We were on our way to an MTB Enduro race in Wales…it seemed rude not to stop off en route for an evening ride.
Minton Batch is perhaps the best descent off the plateau, a narrow valley with a classic section of singletrack squeezing down it. Start at the gliding school (watch out for the gliders continually being launched by cable tow), drop off the edge and swoop down the narrow path, descending 1000 feet. When you reach the bottom, pedal 1000 feet uphill on nearby forest tracks and repeat the whole thing again. And again. Ad infinitum.
This morning I completed the splendid DRRT Mountain Bike Challenge, a c35 mile bimble around the hills of North Dorset.
Dodgy quality mobile phone pic, taken at 11 pm on Friday night. We were off to paddle around the Needles as the first part of a paddle around the Isle of Wight.
The white rock of the Needles and the 500 foot cliffs behind are quite a sight, viewed by the glare of a full moon. Likewise, the multi-coloured beams of the Needles Lighthouse are something to behold, close up at midnight. But you’ll have to take my word for it, as the camera stayed packed away.
A wet and windy stroll up on St Alban’s Head, this evening. Autumn has arrived.
Taken a few weeks back in Andalucía, Spain. I was visiting family and needed to squeeze a few runs in before the big one. Runs had to be early, as the temperature tended to creep towards the high 30s and beyond, once the sun was up. Unfortunately, in that part of the world they don’t seem to have discovered the concept of footpaths or trails. The only off-road running available was to follow vague tracks through olive groves, which tended to be near-vertical, before petering out in painfully sharp stony scrub or deep overgrown ravines. The photo above was taken after a 1500 foot direct climb!
The good news was that there are at least worse places to be having a lousy run. The mountain in the background is La Tinosa in the Sierra de la Horconera, the highest point in Cordoba Province. Mrs R and I found our way up it some years back, on a day where the temperature wasn’t 40 degrees C. It’s a lovely part of the world.