This stuff doesn’t happen by accident, you know. The
hours minutes of dedication that go into thinking up an appropriate song title, drafting a blog entry, taking amateur photographs… Yes, yes, I know it’s harder work to read this rubbish but still.
Choosing the right song for today’s post started out as they all do. I was pedalling along, letting my mind wander and hoping some kind of inspiration would strike. Alas, it did not.
Oddly enough, despite being in the saddle for all of 10 hours, I didn’t even get a song stuck in my head (another excellent method). Yep, I was starting to get worried. And then, a few miles from home, my riding companion came alongside complaining that his day-long earworm had been Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell.
Now, I happen to love that song but poor old Matt hates it.
Naturally, it was the perfect… nay, the only choice.
Behold, dear readers. BEHOLD…
TROLLFEST, THE THIRD
Oh, I should point out: Trollfest, the third was an 80ish mile ride from York to Hadfield on the Trans Pennine Trail, about 80% of which is off-road. And, of course, we were doing it on a pair of Surly Trolls. And, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, we decided to do it in one day. All of this didn’t leave us much time for photographs, let alone good quality ones.
It was still dark as we boarded the train from Manchester, clutching our coffees and nervously joking about “what could possibly go wrong”. Shortly after arriving in York just before 08:30, we took the obligatory dodgy start line photo and immediately set off in what turned out to be the wrong direction.
Luckily enough, this was about the worst thing that happened all day.
Once again Matt had been sent with a bag of dodgy looking jelly sweets, this time in the shape of ‘Percy Pig’. My initial reaction was polite yet abject horror, which didn’t stop me nomming one.
As I feared, it was a weird bubblegum crossed with cheap sofabed foam kind of chewy textured mouthful of instantly regrettable sweetness with a flavour unlike anything occurring in nature… which didn’t stop me nomming the rest of my handful with the enthusiasm of a one-eyed starving dog let loose in a meat factory.
I disappeared into the woods to …ahem… water the flowers while Matt polished off almost the rest of the delicious, delicious bag.
It wasn’t until we reached Aldham near Barnsley that we allowed ourselves a brief photo opportunity and a moment to drop the pace a little. Since leaving York, we’d been maintaining a ridiculous pace, not stopping for anything (especially the crazy women on horseback who referred to us as “Boys… BOYS!” as we rode past).
At Selby, the plan was to come off NCN route 65 and onto route 62 (or the other way around, I forget which) but both trails were randomly closed and diverted around the back of a factory straight out of The X-Files (or so we thought)… It took us a few miles and quite a bit of backtracking to realise we (and another pair of cyclists) were hopelessly heading in the wrong direction.
We got back on track and continued tearing through some beautiful roads and trails in North Yorkshire, scaring the bejesus out of small animals, children and roadies on their oh-so-shiny carbon bikes.
“Was. That. A. Fat. Bloke. Time. Trialling. On. A. Surly. Troll?”
Yes, yes it was.
Maybe it was the 5am start. Maybe it was the extra pressure of the unplanned diversion on our already tight schedule. Maybe it was just my desire to change body position on the bike. Who knows what it was but something just told me to trust myself, kick it into the highest gear I could find, rest my forearms on the bars, dangle my hands over the front of the bike in that frighteningly unsafe way you see the pros doing it on Le Tour.
With the wind whipping through my beard, I glanced back and saw the gap increasing. Looking up again, I was greeted with a mixture of respect, revulsion and bewilderment from the lycra louts heading in the opposite direction.
Matt later remarked he wished he’d been able to get a picture of it. I wish he had too.
Who says you can’t fit a water bladder into a small Carradice bag? Probably the same people who say you can’t go time trialling on a cargo bike without time trial bars, that’s who.
Anyhoo… with over 50 miles taken care of in about 4 hours, spirits were high but I was starting to feel the effects and my lingering knee problems were starting to flare up.
Also, the climb out from the end of the Dove Valley Trail past Winscar Reservoir up to Dunford Bridge at the highest point on the Trans Pennine Trail was looming ever closer. Or so I thought.
My mind was about 30 miles further into the ride than my body was. The miles through Silkstone Common, Penistone and Oxspring were awful.
To add insult to injury, as we neared the bottom of the climb we’d been dreading all day and we were at the very lowest of our lowest ebb, the heavens opened and the hail came down.
Cowering in a random bus shelter, we layered up and ate almost every piece of food we had left between us. All too soon there was nothing left to do but attempt the climb. At least the rain had eased off a little.
I’d already resigned myself to the fact I’d be walking at some point, I was staggered to find myself out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals for the initial steep section. As the incline eased slightly, I sat back down, found a sweet spot in the gearing and just enjoyed the climb. Glancing back, I saw Matt gazing off into the distance as he too found his rhythm.
All too soon we were punching the air, whooping in delight and sliding the bikes sideways on the slippery tarmac of the Woodhead Pass road.
Hepped up on a cocktail of adrenaline and whatever energy products we’d eaten, we stormed across the Woodhead Pass trail, worrying the sheep and taking celebratory pictures. I believe one of these is what the Young People call ‘a selfie’.
More time trollin’ ensued and we simply didn’t relent until we piled into the pub.
Total mileage for the day: probably close to 90 – by far the biggest ride I’ve ever done in a single day.