Walna Scar mtb ride

This was part of a Lakes camping trip.

The Walna Scar is a well known Lakes route that some of the party had done before. As you might notice from the photographs it was a wet day.

Road climnb Walna Scar.

We parked near Torver and followed the main road south before turning right up a lane and some arrowed hills. The bridleway through the woods offered some good rooty sections and these were obviously ideal for wet days.

Rooty section on MTB ride.

Back onto open ground the route traversed some hills and then climbed to Stickle Pike. We followed our noses a bit here and ended up with a bit of an excursion before we spotted the bridleway.

Stickle Pike descent

A great descent delivered us onto the road where we hurried to the Newfield Inn at Seathwaite. We attempted to dry out here over lunch. I remember doing a similar route here in the early 2000s when I used to drink a few beers at lunch time to enhance my riding performance. Not any more though. You can’t enhance perfection.

Pub!
Newfield Inn Seathwaite.

I really enjoyed the big climb up to Walna Scar itself. Visibility was low, rain was lashing us but it wasn’t really cold and it was quite an experience. The camera wasn’t too happy about it though.

Walna Scar low visibility.
Having fun are we?
Walna Scar mist.
Great views.

The weather had focussed our minds on getting down so we all made short work of the descent. I remember one really good rock drop and lots of loose rocks. It’s certainly worth a proper look on a dry day.

Walna Scar descent mtb.
Poor camera.

Walna Scar mtb route map.
We finished off with a simultaneous bike wash and road ride back to the parked cars.

Verdict: great route. Not that long. Worth doing on a dry day when you can see.

Stats: 29km (18 miles), approx 900m. gpx file.

Back to the Lakes camping trip.

The Borrowdale bash

View over Derwent Water

This was part of a Lakes camping trip.

The Borrowdale bash is a well know mountain biking route (route guide on Keswick.org, Singletrack forum, Westmorland Gazette). It does a clockwise loop round Derwent water near Keswick, home of the world famous Pencil Museum….. I need to sharpen up my comedy skills….what was the point of this? The museum was featured in the dark comedy “Sightseers“. That is worth seeing.

We knocked this route off in a few hours over the afternoon. The photographs show that we had some sun for once. Flat road from Keswick, then a steep climb up a lane, then a steep track track that eventually leads to a really good descent down tricky rocks. Just keep moving and stop thinking.

Borrowdale bash descent

Borrowdale bash descent.

The rocks dump you back at ground level in Rosthwaite from which there’s another road climb, in our case some route faffing and then another great rocky descent back to the edge of the lake. Joe had an off down here – too much speed.

The final hill leads to a much smoother track descent. This one has a load of drainage bumps which also work as tidy jumps. Win win.

Rocky descent in Lake District
Second descent.

Borrowdale Bash MapOverall I’d rate this a route that’s well worth doing and it stays near civilisation the whole time too.

28km (17 miles), 900m of ascent.

Gpx file.

Back to the Lakes camping trip.

Keswick pencil museum.
Pencil museum.

Lake District MTB trip

Lake District camp site
Camp site.

This was a trip to the Lake District organised by MBSwindon. We stayed at Baysbrown farm camp site. I’d ridden past this years ago and remember nothing apart from an empty field. That’s pretty much what it is. I suppose that’s pretty much what any camp site is. There was a farm at the end with pretty good washing facilities and inquisitive hens that wandered around.

I have a very complicated love-hate relationship with camping. I think I hate it. Then when I do it I quite enjoy it. If the weather is really bad then it starts to appeal to my determination to survive, so even though I should be hating it I enjoy it. So, I actually quite like it. But I hate it in principle. I resent the amount of exertion that’s required before you can even start doing anything like riding. I’d much rather stay in B&B. This time Kate told us that we should camp, so we did.

I’d bought myself an exciting new tent to try out – a Wild Country Aspect 2.5. My old tent was knackered and people were tiring of me saying that I was about to replace it. I bought it because the reviews said it was light, had good head room and it could withstand high winds. Remember that last point.

Inquisitive chickens.
Inquisitive chickens.

Now, one thing I really noticed about our camping trip was that the wind blew strongly pretty much the whole time I was there. Oh, and it rained a bit too and then hail stones. We’d brought the club gazebo along as a group tent. We had a lot of trouble with the wind pulling the guy ropes out of the ground and shaking the frame around. Every day we spent time putting rocks on the edges and pushing the pegs back in.

Half of our party went home after the first night because they broke their bike and there were no spares in the county. I suspect that the weather might have had something to do with it.

Camp site view.
Camp site view.

Now, this post might appear to be a big downbeat about the trip. But that would be wrong. We did three great rides before abandoning the area and the sun shone on one of them. Pretty much every bridleway we rode had something to offer. Rocks, steps, drops and ramps, wooden boards. The Lake District has some stunning views too.

We did the classic Borrowdale Bash, a very wet Walna Scar ride  and a Grizedale forest extended mix that turned the much criticised trail into something a lot more interesting.

We walked to the Britannia Inn every evening for beer (or sparkling water) and food. We were there one night and thought it would be very amusing to post on Facebook that “we thought the gazebo could probably be fixed with a bit of luck”. Oh how we laughed.

Camp site disaster.
Camp site disaster.

We awoke on the final morning to find that the wind had ripped the gazebo out of the ground and dumped it upside down in the next field. It had pulled a peg out of the ground along with a lump of mud the size of a football. The gazebo has an complicated Aluminium frame to support it and the impact had twisted that. It was pretty clear that it was now scrap. Our little joke post didn’t seem quite so amusing now. That’s pubs for you.

Broken gazebo.
Broken gazebo.

Now, I’m knocking the camp site. It’s more the weather and that endless wind. Blame the Lake Disctrict for that and camping in general. I have a very amusing photograph of Kate in the gazebo but I’ve been banned from ever posting it up. If you saw it you would definitely laugh. It captures perfectly the cold, wet, miserable part of camping. The good news is that for our next trip the word is “let’s not camp”.

Route summary:

Red Kite Events Devil’s MTB

Mountain bike event start

The Red Kite Events Devil’s MTB was an off road event with a choice of 30, 60 and 80km routes. There was a road sportive and a cross country run happening on the same day.

Water splash on an MTB event.The recently thawed snow made the ground heavy going in places but on the plus side the week of sun had dried other areas to summer levels. I’ve ridden this area quite a bit over the years so I knew a lot of it and the route was a greatest hits package. There was also some new riding in the Cynant valley.

It took me 7.5 hours to complete the route and as I signed back in I thought “that’s got to be at least 2000m of ascent”. After I drew the route the stats came in as 2300m of ascent. That’s pretty much double what is considered a challenging day ride for reasonably fit riders. That explains the back ache.

I was feeling really good on the first half of the ride; the sun was shining, it was vaguely warm and the route took in some familiar and some new parts. After the food stop at the Crychan forest and being cheerily told that I was at the 40km mark then the effort required to complete the challenge became apparent. Setting off into the Crychan for another greatest hits package I found riders pushing their bikes up hills and after passing the 60/80km split I didn’t really see another soul for several hours. I recognised some of the route from the 2012 Devil’s Challenge.

Rickety bridge in WalesTaking in a long track climb I started to focus on how much my back hurt and began wondering just how much more hill could be left in Wales. I also wondered just who the handful of riders were whose tracks I was following. I’m pretty tough and can cope with epic rides, but I was in pain and this lot were ahead of me. I had stopped for a few photos and video and done a bit of a motorbike enduro route (red and orange arrow mix up). Maybe that would account for 20 minutes or so.

Those who know me might have occasionally heard me mention yoga in passing. I don’t make a big thing of it, but yoga has clear benefits for fitness and strength and I’d really been noticing it recently.  By two thirds round this ride any benefits of yoga were out of my mind and felt truly like my pre-yoga self (check out mountain bike yoga breaks).

Not only was the climbing relentless but I felt short changed and resentful of Red Kite Events and Wales for not giving me back all of the altitude that I’d worked so hard on gaining. That’s the only way I can explain it -they were accumulating from each rider and hoping that we wouldn’t notice.

Crychan Forest in Wales

After passing the food stop for the second time I was told that it was only 10km left to go. I prefer to think of that as 6 miles. A short cut into some fields looked good but it turned out that the field had an energy absorbing grass surface combined with a steep climb. The gears on my bike were knackered by this stage too – muddy dust and worn jockey wheels meant that the chain clicked and clacked when in the bottom few gears. I was beyond caring and just grateful that the chain wasn’t actually jumping gear. I might have shouted out something like “How much more f**king hill is left in Wales?” at about this time.

A quick descent down the Roman road was followed by one last painful climb and I knew that it was all down from this point. Which was a relief.

When I made it back to Llanwrtyd Wells at around 6pm I found out that  lot of the 60km riders did the 30km route  and a lot of the 80km riders did the 60km route. With that in the bag I called round to the Neudd Arms  and had a long lie down. The stats below show 72km and almost 2300m of ascent!

See another write up on the Red Kite Events blog.

GPX File. Use www.bikehike.co.uk for a great way to create and view maps.

Red Kite Devil's MTB map

Also see the Ale Wobble history – it takes place in the same area.

MTB skills course with Matt Page at Mudtrek

Mudtrek Logo

This was a three day mountain bike skills course with endurance racer Matt Page at one of our favourite holiday venues:  Mudtrek MTB breaks  in Wales. We’ve stayed there several times before (link to my compilation guide). A few weeks after this event we helped build the skills park at Mudtrek.

A Cycling Matt PageMatt Page is a pro-endurance racer, famous for his underground steps video on Youtube. He’s also won a load of events such the 2010 and 2011 24hours of exposure race and Transwales 2011 . See this interview from Singletrack magazine. A Cycling offer guided rides, coaching and cycling events.

Jumping a tabletop at Brechfa

Our group of 12 met on Thursday evening at Mudtrek. We were formed out of a mixture of twos and threes of friends and a few solo riders. Things got off to a good start with the universally approved Mudtrek food courtesy of Nikki. A fair amount of beer was consumed too.

MTB cornering skills with Matt PageOn the Friday some time was spent working on track stands and some braking trials on the steep track next to Mudtrek. This showed clearly how front brakes are far more effective at stopping a bike (providing the front wheel can grip). The group then split into two with each group spending half a day with Matt and the other half riding around a bit with Jay and Richard from Mudtrek.

I ended up in the morning group and we rode off to a rocky obstacle to practice descending. The training was a mixture of demonstration from Matt, having several goes, watching others and listening to feedback from Matt. It was all conducted in non-pressured way with each rider free to have as many goes as they felt like, or not. All riders showed a clear improvement after half an hour or so of practice. The other group then rode down the obstacle for us to observe.

Matt Page MTB skills course.

We then moved onto the quarry area to build confidence descending – no brakes allowed on the steep ramp. I was quite chuffed to ride up the ramp twice (to prove it wasn’t a fluke) and then fluked a third. Talking of riding up, we then spent a good while working on the best technique to ride up another ramp. When this was too easy Matt added a slimy trunk to lift over.

In the afternoon it was our turn to ride around a bit, this time being observed by the other group on the rocky descent. Jay introduced us to a new descent and it’s one of the best in the woods in my opinion. It was re-used at the MBSwindon trip “greatest hits ride” a few weeks later.

The Raven trail at Brechfa.

On Saturday we headed for the Brechfa trails. We were offered the chance of a lift down in the Mudtrek Land Rover. It would be wrong drive down right? So Matt and about half of us rode down.

At the trails we rode round the blue (brilliant trail) to a point near the start where we worked on pump technique. I’m not talking about fixing punctures either. This is using the upper body to keep the bike in contact with the ground over bumps to maintain speed. We had a bit of a challenge to see how far we could roll though we caught Huw cheating by using his pedals.

Mountain bike trail bermNext we moved onto cornering on large berms again via a mixture of instruction, practice, observing and feedback.

Then it was time to go airbourne with some tabletops. We practiced on the bottom tabletop on the blue route first, gradually building confidence on the steep entrance ramp. Once we were happy with that we rode to the top of the section and attacked the whole blue descent. This proved, once again, that the blue route really is a blast. It’s excellent for carrying speed and gaining air off the bumps. I’ve got video evidence of clearing the last tabletop. Whoop whoop.

We continued along the blue route past the bus stop and stopped at the table with a view for lunch. We nipped down the black run back to our berm practice area. This includes the root of doom which, as usual, required two attempts before riding.

We nipped up a main track to the top of the black skills area and spent the afternoon working on bigger tabletops and steps. Sarah and Jay had a go on the rock jump too…Jay said it was easy. It’s obviously all in the mind.

Brechfa rock jump

We followed the black route round and then finished with the final blue section. Once again the blue route proved to be a lot of fun. As speeds built up then air time was inevitable. As the last optional challenge Matt proved that we could ride down steep steps near the car park.

I was hoping that no one else would want to ride back to Mudtrek, leaving me to ride up the steep hill at whatever pace I felt like. Not so! About five of us rode back to finish off another great day.

The training ended with the skills course prize giving and there was a social ride on Sunday

See Matt’s blog post about the skills weekend.

Riding down steps at Brechfa

Mudtrek MTB breaks

Mountain biking, yoga, music. Probably in that order.