“You don’t happen to know where we are, do you?” I asked the wrinkly faced group of friendly old men (the only other human beings I’d seen for hours) as I feebly held out my utterly useless map of the Angelzarke Loop.
After much discussion reminiscing about the time they missed the turn, the time they stopped for a butty, the confusion over which time was which or whether indeed they stopped for a butty the same time they missed the turn, we eventually decided I was nowhere (and I mean NOWHERE) near where I thought / hoped I might be on the map.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: What am I doing talking to wrinkly old men up in t’ hills on a Monday morning when I should really be chained to my desk
pretending to do doing whatever it is I do for a living. Well, despite the almost total certainty that the world will collapse without me being there, I’ve FINALLY managed to bag a week off work and (fingers crossed) I haven’t been struck down with anything!
I’m sure there is a list of chores somewhere I’m supposed to be doing but this week has been very clearly earmarked for mountain biking. At the weekend, I stripped every bit of superfluous weight from my Surly Troll, whipped out my Fox F100 suspension forks and threw on a set of veratibly skinny 26 x 2.1″ Continental Speed King off-road tyres.
This morning, I threw it in the back of the car and drove up to Rivington and set of in search of bridleways my so-called-map claimed made up the Anglezarke Loop. I should’ve known better. I should’ve learnt from all the other times I’ve been rubbish at map reading. I should’ve remembered my experience of the Diggle Jiggle where I even had turn-by-turn instructions and still got lost!
Hours passed. I climbed. I descended. I rode on sand. I rode through mud. I carried the Troll through a bog. I tiptoed over a 30ft rotten bridge with the Troll on my shoulder. I shook myself to bits hammering downhill at ridiculous speeds over horribly rocky terrain. I missed hitting that wall by an inch… I barely caught the front wheel when it snatched in a rut and threatened to hurl me down the hillside. I ignored the huge ‘No cycling’ sign (to my peril). I got lost. Hopelessly, hopelessly lost.
It was brilliant.
Later in the week, I shall go back with a better map and ride the whole thing. But for today, I am content with making it up to Rivington Pike and (perhaps more impressively) finding my way back to the car, man & Troll both unscathed.