My belly full of great food and great beer, my head full of great memories from day one of our Way of the Roses trip; at some point in the wee small hours I had to peel myself out of my sleeping bag, which I’d rolled out onto my YHA bunk bed in some kind of protest to the freezing wind outside that’d spoiled our camping plans.
Like the exploded diagram of the inner workings of a Sturmey Archer hub, equations calculated in quantum physics, and how they put those little plastic things on the end of your laces; temperature ratings on sleeping bags have long been an utter mystery to me. My OEX Helios EV Hydrodown 300 Sleeping Bag has a ‘comfort temperature’ of 3°C. The ‘limit temperature’ is -3°C, and the ‘extreme temperature’ is -19°C. All I know is, it was far too good to use in a nice warm youth hostel bedroom; very much unlike every other sleeping bag I’ve ever owned.
Opening the curtains to blue skies and sunshine, we didn’t linger too long at the breakfast buffet. It was a cold and crisp morning, and the previous day’s abuse was all too apparent in the awful noises my brakes were making. I’d brought along spare pads, but not spare discs; a trip to the nearest bike shop was in order. But first, a whole load of climbing and descending awaited in what remained of the Yorkshire Dales.
Matt was still Contadoring, whilst I was content to sit and grind out the climbs. You get to see more of the scenery and wildlife that way.
The less said about the descents in this section, the better. Let’s just say I wasn’t using my brakes very much at all. The roads were mercifully quiet, which helped immensely.
It wasn’t until we had left the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and entered Nidderdale, that we approached anywhere with the potential to have a bike shop. And, wouldn’t you know it, there was a descent to rival that into Malham to tackle first. This one actually had a number of oversized road signs specifically warning cyclists of the length, gradient and sharp turns to come. One can only assume people have come unstuck here in the past.
With minor trepidation, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I put my bike in the centre of the lane, and went for it. At least this was a two-lane road, with dividing lines, and crash barriers in all the right places. The switchbacks came thick and fast, just as promised, and my Garmin later reported I was again pushing 40mph at times.
There was one moment when, cresting a mid-corner camber change, the whole bike became weightless and I was completely out of control. In that split-second, I thought it was all over, but the tyres grabbed hold once more, and we arrived in Pateley Bridge; shaken, but not interred.
We wandered around town, in search of new brakes, and lunch. We found the latter in the form of slightly disappointing chicken soup and lashing of Yorkshire Tea. The former would, again, have to wait. Matt’s excellent Sustrans map suggested the next available bike shop was in Ripon, so we made that our objective for the day.
We were soon back onto fabulously deserted lanes, and the weather, whilst chilly and grey, remained dry. Riding side by side, we discussed everything and nothing; sometimes saying nothing at all, lost in our own thoughts.
At some point, we managed to take a wrong turn. It was likely our fault, as the entire route is so thoroughly signed. As it was, we’d started heading for Ripley, not Ripon. Matt was furious with himself for making such a schoolboy error, but I was in front when we turned right instead of left.
As we retraced our wheel tracks, that pursuing gigantic black cloud filled the sky and released its vengeance with horizontal hail blinding us, making forward progress impossible. Perhaps god had been napping before, and now was smiting us for sneaking into his house back in Wray.
No, wait. He’s fictional. Maybe it was just a hailstorm.
Anyway. The road was lined only with ditches, and nowhere safe to stop. Traffic (where the hell had that come from???) was lining up behind us as we weaved blindly across the road. Finally, a driveway came into view and I ducked behind the relative safety of a garage wall.
“We’ve gotta get out of this hail! Wait. This is somebody’s house! We can’t stop here!”
Matt’s uncharacteristic sense of humour failure was quite spectacular, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Sorry, but it was funny. You should’ve seen him trying to put his gloves back on.
As quick as it started, the hail stopped and we soon found ourselves pulling into the rather grand Studley Royal Deer Park. (Note the 20mph limit).
Much joviality followed as we barrelled down that arrow-straight road, chasing the horizon, letting the sun defrost our fingers.
Ripon was within touching distance, and I was feeling really positive about it, given our grand surroundings. Matt was however recalling being there once before, and not finding it the nicest place on the planet.
Since Morecambe, it was the biggest place we’d been to, and I was just happy to know there wasn’t one, but two, bike shops in town to choose from. Earlier in the day, we’d again checked the weather forecast and made the decision not to camp.
Matt had booked us into the Ship Inn, which has a decidedly unwelcoming facade. In fact, we couldn’t tell if the place was even open. We nervously enchanged glances, I stayed with the bikes, and Matt went inside…
We were welcomed with open arms, and the bikes took over the pool room! Our twin room was clean and functional, if a little pricey, and we set off once more in search of brakes. The nice lady at our B&B recommended a shop called Moonglu, which was full of nice things. I instantly knew we’d come to the right place.
As soon as I asked for a 203mm, 6-bolt brake disc rotor, the guy went straight for the parts box out back. After much rummaging, he didn’t find one. A final check of the new stock hanging on the wall confirmed our worst fears; they didn’t have one.
A bit more rummaging in a few more places, and he pulled out an old Ashima brake disc they’d had “for years”.
“It might get you 10 miles, it might get you farther…”
He refused to take any money for it. Much love, Moonglu. Much love.
We spent the night in traditional fashion, drinking great beer, eating great food, and setting the world to rights, like only two drunk friends can.
Staggering back to our B&B above a pub, we fully expected the place to be full of revellers, but it was in darkness. All locked up, well before closing time. We let ourselves in with the key we’d been given, and crept upstairs; nervously joking about being murdered in our beds.
Would we live to see day 3…?