sexy boy

It’s OK. You can all breathe again. No need to sit on the edge of your seats anymore. I know you’ve probably all got the shakes from missing out on a whole week’s instalment of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ but worry ye not, dear readers, lifeinthecyclelane is still alive and kicking; we’re just broadcasting to you from a new undisclosed location somewhere to the West of Manchester.

So, with the madness of the move out of the way, whatever passes for normal service around here has resumed.

The usual suspects have been out in force this week…

…all of which is very interesting, I’m sure you’ll agree but the one which really caught my eye was:

“Route 54 porn”

One can only assume this person was referring to National Cycle Network Route 54 which is well known for being quite literally littered with por… no, wait. That’d be weird…

Well, whatever they happened to be searching for, it kinda got me to thinking about the time I spent on NCN Route 54 and, more specifically, the off road stretch of it known as the White Peak Loop – you can read a quick report here.

Route 54 sceneryHome to some of Derbyshire’s finest scenery which, on the day in question, was bathed in glorious sunshine, it’s fair to say the White Peak Loop is a beautiful place to be and you could certainly do worse than spend an afternoon there with a nice picnic and a loved one (or two, if you’re lucky). As per my initial report though, you are hereby officially warned against heading there with heavily laden touring bikes.

Whim AlesHead just off the trail and you’ll (eventually) stumble across Whim Ales; a very small brewery at the top of a very large hill. As we were on ‘The Brewery Tour’, visiting as many breweries as possible (and bagging as much free booze as possible), we stuck our heads around the door and were given an impromptu tour by the poor unsuspecting folks we met inside. Considering they’re not open to the public, don’t do tastings or sales and we were filthy, sweaty and wild-eyed, we received a warm welcome and a cold wine bottle full of one of their beers (for free). It almost made the hideous climb all worth it. Almost.

HartleburyHead off the trail again (free beer safely stashed in the trailer) and you’ll find yourself feeding the ducks in the delightful little village of Hartington.

OK, so there weren’t actually any ducks but the duck pond itself was very pretty and it made for a lovely little lunch spot. Oh, don’t be deceived by this rare patch of flat road, by the way; being Derbyshire, you’re never far from some kind of climb and / or descent… there’s one just down there around the corner as it goes.

TissingtonSo, head just down there around the corner and climb the hill (it’s a beautiful road cut into the hillside) and you’ll soon find yourself turning onto the traffic free (mostly) flat and extremely pretty (so pretty I didn’t take any pictures of it) Tissington Trail; so named because it runs through the equally pretty little village of Tissington which just happens to be an excellent spot to stop and nom some malt loaf.

Me & GC @ Ashbourne TunnelFollow it all the way to the Southern tip like we did and you’ll find yourself posing in front of the Ashbourne Tunnel for a rather questionable picture in your rather questionable shorts.

What’s not to like?

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mr. writer

Bald, bearded and (in this picture) berating me for not getting his wheels fixed as I’d allegedly promised to, my very good friend and preferred cycling buddy Geordie Clarke is Deputy editor at Money Management magazine (part of the Financial Times Group). He also happens to be a wine aficionado and is mainly to blame for my interest in all things cycling related; you can read his wine blog here.

Anyway, I happen to be going away for a much needed holiday in the sun for a week so in the meantime, I am entrusting my blog to Geordie in the vain hope that he’ll post a guest entry or two about his collection of bikes which includes a full carbon Condor, a titanium Planet X, a steel Surly Long Haul Trucker and a couple of other bikes in various stages of being built / taken apart.

Also on our list of shared interests (along with bikes, food and redheads) is a penchant for really good beer. Incidentally, sweet talking your way into the Ironbridge Brewery doesn’t make their beer any cheaper or better… It’s OK, but I’m not sure it’s good enough to warrant the hideous climb back out of Ironbridge Gorge. So, maybe GC here will regale us with tales of his beer drinking adventures instead?

Well, whatever he ends up writing about, I’m sure it’ll keep you entertained whilst I’m sitting in the sun, sipping a Sangria… unless he starts writing about pension plans and the such… zzzzzzzz

he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

 

“Do not exceed 25mph” is written alongside “Do not carry humans or animals” on the back of my BOB Yak; for the record, I’ve never carried any humans or animals in it (despite being tempted once or twice) but I have broken the first rule on several occasions, the most memorable of which was in the middle of the 2011 brewery tour, somewhere on the Tissington Trail.

From our campsite in Leek, we’d planned an ‘easy’ day down to Ashbourne but instead of just heading straight there, we went East and headed for NCN Route 54 and a stop off at the Whim Ales brewery; you can read more about that part of the trip here. After bagging our free booze, my brakes falling apart, getting a pinch flat after hitting a large pothole too hard and going the wrong way down a short stretch of the Manifold Trail, we eventually tied up with NCN Route 68 and the famous Tissington Trail which runs off road all the way into Ashbourne where our next campsite was located.

Lunching at a lovely spot in Hartlebury, we were starting to recover from the horror that was the White Peak Loop, the relentless hill climb up to Whim Ales and the roadside running repairs I needed to make in the equally relentless heat. A few miles up the road, through some very pretty cuttings in the hillside and we reached Hartington and one of the many access points to the Tissington Trail; it’s well put together too: Here at the old railway station, there are clean and well appointed public toilets, a tap to refill your bidons (that’s water bottles, by the way), an ample car park and the surface of the trail is just excellent all the way South. It actually continues North for quite a way too where it joins up with the High Peaks Trail but I haven’t explored that one yet.

We stopped for a malt loaf break in the beautiful little village at Tissington where we sat for a while, soaking up the scenery, the sunshine and the new found feeling of happiness we’d gained from riding side by side down the trail which, because it was slightly downhill, we managed to maintain one hell of a pace despite the trailside foliage slapping into our legs and small children occasionally getting in our way.

Incidentally, if you wanted to jump on the trail at Tissington, there are equally good facilities and car parking here along with lots of other things to see and do in the local area; it’s one of my favourite little corners of the world, Derbyshire.

At the end of the trail is the Ashbourne Tunnel, recently reopened to the public and surprisingly good fun to cycle through! Oddly, the trail comes to something of an anticlimactic end in a Sainsbury’s car park just outside Ashbourne town centre but, again, if this is your entry point of choice, it’s very accessible indeed. So, if you’re looking for somewhere really nice and safe to get back on your bike or you’re wanting to get your kids into cycling or perhaps you just want to defy the health & safety types over at BOB, the Tissington Trail comes highly recommended.

Incidentally, my riding buddy on the left here actually isn’t my brother but he also ain’t heavy… his Surly Long Haul Trucker is though!

i drove all night

 

OK, so technically we didn’t drive all night; we rode for an hour or so in the morning but let us not split hairs over such things.

It was June 2011, the height of the summer and we were on a bike tour around the midlands, planning to visit a few breweries along the way. For months I’d been training, loading up my BOB Yak with all my camping gear, riding a 20 mile route every night after work and spending my weekends searching out every hill I could find, pushing the training mileage up to ~40 miles.

After the physical, mental, mechanical disaster that was the 2010 tour, I’d learnt my lesson and bought new, lighter camping gear and had a new wheel custom built for the Yak in an attempt to make the whole thing go a lot more smoothly.

Yep, you could say we were in pretty good shape as we set off from Birmingham and headed for a rather pleasant 40ish miles on and off road to our first stop in Bewdley.

Day 2 was the long planned for, eagerly anticipated ride from Bewdley to Ironbridge via our first brewery at Cleobury Mortimer. To say that it rained that day would be like saying the Sahara Desert has some sand in it. We packed up the tents (in the rain) and enjoyed a hot breakfast (in the rain) at the rather pleasant Hopley’s campsite before jumping on the bikes (in the rain) and heading off for the short 7.5 miles (in the rain) to Hobson’s Brewery in Cleobury Mortimer.

We were shown around by a lovely guy whose name escapes me but I do remember he didn’t mind us dripping all over the floor! We got the full VIP treatment and learnt all about the brewing process, smelt and tasted various roasted grains and hops and took lots of pictures of large pieces of machinery; a good time was had by all. Then, we were asked “Would you like to try some?” to which I responded with something like “Is it raining outside?” or “Does the pope wear a silly hat?”. So, we tried some. And then, we tried some more. It rained outside. We tried a little more. It rained some more.

Originally, we’d gone there to try Postman’s Knock which makes a well deserved appearance in my ‘1001 beers you must try before you die’ book but we actually fell in love with their very understated mild which is simply sublime. We tried a little more and it rained a little more. A bottle of Twisted Spire was opened so, against our will, we tried some of that too.

Eventually, realising it simply wasn’t going to stop raining anytime soon (or perhaps just ever!) we bagged 4 bottles at a bargain price (in the rain), loaded up the bikes (in the rain) and headed off (in the rain) towards our next stop in beautiful Ironbridge. I forget why, but Geordie felt the need to whip out the hatchet and wave it around, in the rain.

Heading almost dead North, we managed to piece together a beautiful route through country lanes and even an off road stretch of NCN route 45 which is very well signposted, surfaced and nice and wide almost everywhere.

This is the rather beautiful Mercure Madeley Court Hotel, just outside Ironbridge where we eventually got out of the rain, wrung out our gloves, washed our luggage off in the bathtub and drank our Hobson’s ales whilst watching the grand prix which, through some bizarre twist of fate, was severely delayed due to heavy rainfall.

Despite it all, this remains one of my favourite cycling days, ever.

the road to hell

 

“What could possibly go wrong?” I remember asking my riding buddy when I was planning our 2011 bike tour; we’d planned to tour the midlands, visiting a few breweries along the way, camping every night and taking in as many National Cycle Network routes as possible.

This is a stretch of NCN Route 54, specifically the off road section of the White Peak Trail which follows a bridleway near Hartington, Derbyshire. This is officially the first (and probably only) picture taken of my cycling buddy, Geordie, having to get off his bike and push.The reason? Well, what this picture doesn’t do justice to is the insane gradient here which was easily 17% and possibly more. Now, we’ve ridden up 17% (and steeper) climbs before with luggage but what made this one impossible was the surface: it was loose, deep sand peppered with sharp rocks, widly undulating and it never got wider than 3 feet (a lot of it was barely bike width).

Kojak (my BOB Yak trailer) and I somehow made it to the top ahead of Geordie and his heavily laden Surly Long Haul Trucker; I think partly because my overall setup is slightly narrower so I was able to blaze a trail through the undergrowth with slightly less hassle.

From here, we found some tarmac but things didn’t improve much… the gradient just kept increasing and so did the pot holes.

Just up the road from here is the rather obscure and very out of the way Whim Ales which really isn’t the kind of brewery you just turn up at on your bike, pouring sweat and totally exhausted; they’re just not set up for visitors, tastings, sales or anything like that. Bless them though, they did take the time to show us around and even gave us an old wine bottle full of one of their beers, Flower Power, which we drank with earnest at the campsite several hours later.

Most of what we rode on route 54 was just lovely and, as you can see, the scenery is some of Derbyshire’s finest but that Bridleway just shouldn’t be signposted as part of a cycle route. I wouldn’t like to ride it in reverse on a proper mountain bike… For shame, Sustrans; for shame.