no pressure over cappuccino

Week #6 of the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is upon us and I’m right on schedule, having bagged a very wet ride #6 this Saturday.

I was once again joined by our friend of Northern Walker fame and, given the unmitigated disaster that was his choice of coffee shop on our last ride together, he insisted I choose the location this time.

“No pressure, then…?” I joked.

We met at our favourite bike shop, Keep Pedalling in Manchester (other inferior bike shops are available) where we spent some time nattering about bikes and drooling over a brand new Tangerine Dream Surly Crosscheck being picked up. Whilst I was there, they recommended a new coffee place that has recently opened up on the other side of the city; we set out riding in no particular direction as the first few spots of rain landed on the lenses of my glasses.

coffeeneuring6 surly troll ecr grindsmith manchesterWe rode north on NCN route 66 along the Rochdale canal until we reached Middleton then looped through Heaton Park into Prestwich and down towards Pendelbury before heading back into the city along the banks of the River Irwell – if you know the area, this can be a pleasant route but it was pouring rain for the entire ride and, by the time we reached Greengate Square in Salford, every single item of clothing we had on was soaked through.

  1. Where I went: Grindsmith Espresso & Brewbar, Greengate Square, Victoria Bridge Street, Manchester, UK, M3 5AS.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 8th November 2014.
  3. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccinoWhat I drank: Standing there, dripping on the floor with my glasses steaming up, I asked what they might recommend for a freezing cold, soaking wet cyclist, especially as I couldn’t read the menu. “Cappuccino” was the response and, despite me not really liking any cappuccino I’ve had in the past, I went with it anyway.
    The friendly staff invited us to take a seat in the nice warm interior which, whilst incredibly tempting, would’ve resulted in us getting mud all over everything so we declined, deciding to sit outside as the rain had finally eased off.
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: Along with my cappuccino I ordered a bakewell slice which was lovingly presented to me on a custom made wooden plank – fancy, eh?
    Despite my previous forays into the world of cappuccino drinking, I’m pleased to say what I had was really quite pleasant; it’ll never be my favourite coffee but it was nice all the same. The bakewell slice was ooey-gooey and easily lived up to its billing as being “spectacular”.
  5. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bike racksBike friendliness of the locale: Finally, FINALLY! A place with bike racks! As per bleeding usual, there wasn’t a single public bike rack anywhere in sight but the good folks at Grindsmith had solved this problem by simply bolting one to the side of the place! There’s even a vintage chopper there to reinforce the hipster vibe (happily, there’s no requirement to wear tight trousers and a checked shirt or have a carefully trimmed beard).
  6. Mileage: As usual, we didn’t keep track but it was probably somewhere between 30 and 40. In. The. Pouring. Rain.
  7. Must visit: As I say, there’s a definite hipster vibe here, what with the old cable reels and wooden crates to sit on, the trendy people coming and going, extravagantly swiping their iPhones (other, non-knobbish mobile phones ARE available) and, with 2 coffees and 2 small pieces of cake costing over a tenner, it’s hardly cheap but the surroundings are lovely, the staff are friendly and welcoming and the quality of the product commands the price tag. Oh, and we didn’t feel out of place at all, despite my dishevelled appearance of which I am so proud.

We enjoyed our coffees as we sat watching the strangely relaxing fountains dance.

Later on, we childishly zig-zagged our way through the fountains on our bikes, much to our own soggy amusement.

coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccino fountains

getting away with murder

I’ve got a list of jobs to do as long as my arm. And, I’ve got long arms.

So, when an exhausted Karen fell asleep on the couch this Saturday I was faced with a dilemma: do I risk waking her up by getting the vacuum out or by putting the washing machine on?

Being the problem solver I am, I decided to let her get some much needed rest, tiptoed out to the garage and snuck off on the bike for a bit of coffeeneuring.

I expect my ‘Boyfriend of the year’ award is in the post.

  1. coffeeneuring5 surly troll jubilee parkWhere I went: For coffeeneuring ride #5, I went with another coffee shop sans walls in the shape of Jubilee Park in Middleton, North Manchester.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 27th October 2014.
  3. What I drank: Nothing terribly exciting, just a small flask of strong, sweet coffee. Oh, and I grabbed a KitKat on my way out.
  4. coffeeneuring5 coffee kitkatA detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: So far, almost all of my coffeeneuring rides have followed a theme of having no predetermined destination and no sense of direction. This weekend’s ride was no exception. I went down the road to drop off a parcel, turned around, rode up the hill a bit, changed my mind, turned left, changed my mind again, explored a trail I’ve been meaning to ride down for months, found it went nowhere, turned around, rode through the park a bit, changed my mind, rode around the park a bit more, rode down the river for a few miles, rode into the city centre (on a Saturday evening!), rode along the canal for about an hour and then finally settled on a spot in a surprisingly nice little park. I found myself a good spot where I could lean the bike, sit on the wall, drink my coffee, eat my KitKat and wonder why nobody else was out enjoying the park.
  5. Bike friendliness of the locale: Well, like all public places in the UK, there was the usual lack of ANYTHING to lock one’s bike to and, as I rode down the hill out of the park, I was surprised by the lack of smooth ramps – naturally, I just rode down the steps.
  6. Mileage: *shrug* 25 maybe?
  7. Must visit: Yes. Well, it’s not necessary for you to visit Jubilee Park (although you can if you wish), but I am highly recommending you head out to your local park and just sit, enjoying a coffee and the quiet… until your phone rings and you have to sheepishly explain where you’ve escaped to.

Oh, by the way, I’ve recently been testing out my awesome new Luxos front light… more on that soon.coffeeneuring5 Surly Troll Luxos front light

state of the art

 

Luckily enough, there wasn’t much traffic on the streets when I set out for a ride this morning in thick fog. Through a slightly dangerous combination of peering over my glasses and through the layer of condensation that built up immediately, I did manage to spot quite a large number of cyclists out there… I’m fairly sure I even saw a tandem at one point.

By the time I arrived in the city centre, I’d managed to clear my lenses enough to make out the shivering figure of my friend who’d decided that short finger gloves and a lightweight jacket would be sufficient to keep him warm on this chilly October morning.

Wardrobe choice was not the only mistake he made… but we’ll come back to that a little later.

If you’re a follower of the Northern Walker, you’ll know he’s recently finished building up a rather beautiful new road bike so we spent some time drooling over the details, discussing tube size and other such important matters before he had a quick spin to test out my cafe racer bars on the Ogre and eventually we set off in search of Coffeeneuring based adventure.

Pootling out of Manchester City Centre, we set off down Oxford Road in the general direction of Didsbury and The Art of Tea which Matt had recommended after reading good things about on t’ interweb. I was excited.

The ride down there was great, we continued chatting about nonsense and Matt got all nostalgic about how the place had changed since he’d lived there some years ago… something about “Ey, when I were a lad, it were all fields ’round ‘ere!” and “Ah, good to see Akbar’s is still there…” as we rolled through Kebab Alley.

  1. coffeneuring3 the art of tea coffeeWhere I went: The Art of Tea, 47 Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6TW.
  2. Date I went there: Sunday 12th October 2014.
  3. What I drank: We both had white coffee which I ordered alongside a couple of simple toasted teacakes.
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: The coffee arrived after a short delay but there was no sign of teacakes. As time went by and we drank the coffee cups dry, still no teacakes. By which point we accepted the fact we’d been largely forgotten about, despite there being a sum total of 4 (count ’em, 4) other customers in the entire place.
    When I went in to pay, I was told by one of the 2 waiting staff (that’s 3 customers or 1.5 tables per member of staff) that the chef was “having a crisis” and asked whether I still wanted my teacakes. I did not.
    I spent a penny before leaving and cut my finger on the broken hot water tap… what a shambles. There are some simple basics I expect: if your so-called-chef is having a meltdown because he either can’t find the teackes, can’t get them out of the packet or can’t work the toaster, TELL ME. If something is damaged (and clearly has been for a long time) and is likely to cause injury to your customers, FIX IT. I’m sorry to say that you got the basics all kinds of wrong today, Art of Tea. And, because of that, I’ll NEVER be coming back again.
  5. Bike friendliness of the locale: Again, The Art of Tea scores extremely poorly here. Not a single bike rack in sight and outside tables crammed in so much that there’s nowhere there to leave your bike. Being a Sunday, the shop next door was closed so we leaned our bikes there and kept a close eye out.
  6. Mileage: Up to this point, around 12ish probably.
  7. Must visit?: For all the reasons above, and despite the clear potential of the place, I have no option but to recommend you don’t even bother going there in the first place, let alone going back time and again.

Well, with that unpleasantness out of the way, we set off in search of more adventure and somehow ended up heading back the way we came and then going on a bit of a tour around Eccles, Monton, Worsley, Swinton and a few other places.

At Worsley, we spotted a small shopfront and an intriguing alleyway running alongside it. We tentatively pushed the bikes down there and found ourselves in The Secret Garden – my official entry as Coffeeneuring ride #3:

 

  1. coffeneuring3 secret garden worsleyWhere I went: The Secret Garden Tea Room, 11, Barton Road
    Worsley, Manchester, M28 2PD.
  2. Date I went there: Sunday 12th October 2014.
  3. coffeneuring3 asparagus soup and teaWhat I drank: This time we ordered tea for 2 which arrived in rather dainty little bone china cups and a bowl of asparagus soup each.
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: Asparagus soup is DELICIOUS! Service was quick, friendly and efficient. Surroundings were very pleasant and I could’ve quite easily sat there all day.
  5. coffeneuring3 matt eating soupBike friendliness of the locale: We just piled into the place with our bikes and leant them against the gazebo in the corner – nobody batted an eyelid. Oh, and they didn’t seem to mind us nomming our soup like we hadn’t eaten in 2 days either.
  6. Mileage: By this point (we continued riding for a while after this), probably about 20.
  7. Must visit?: Oh hell yes. Get yourself down there RIGHT NOW.

 

bicycle race

Heaton Park Surly Big DummyA few days ago, I read somewhere that a cyclocross race was going on in a big park not far from where I live so I made plans to head down there with a flask of something hot and watch a bit of the action.

By pure coincidence, my friends from the bike shop were also planning to go down and heckle support some of their customers who were taking part. When they mentioned they’d be bringing hot chocolate and beer, I was completely sold.

Heaton Park Surly Ogre BOB YakFor no particular reason, I hitched my BOB Yak up to the Ogre and loaded it up with little folding stools, a box of cake and a flask of tea.

“Did you really need to bring the trailer?” Rich asked me. “Of course not!”, I responded. But hey, I’ve never let common sense get in the way of having fun before and I’m certainly not going to start now!

What with it being Sunday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to squeeze in Coffeeneuring trip 2:

  1. Where I went: My first ‘coffee shop without walls’ of the challenge – Heaton Park, Manchester.
  2. Date I went there: Sunday 5th October 2014.
  3. What I drank: Well, therein lies a tale.
    Coffeeneuring2 hot chocolate and cakeFirst, I had an instant hot chocolate made by Rich on his jet boil stove with a blueberry & lemon cake made by Karen – it was a surprisingly good combo and I’m glad I resisted the repeated offers of a shot of Whisky in my hot chocolate. Some of the others were not so strong and ended up with more whiskey than hot chocolate…
    Coffeeneuring2 Duvel beerSoon enough, however, I caved and had a bottle of Duvel. IT. WAS. DELCIOUS. A little later, I caved a little more and had a bottle of Sol. IT. WAS. ALSO. DELICIOUS. All around me, people were supping assorted beers and taking swigs from the ever-present flask of whiskey. Still, I resisted.
    Coffeeneuring2 teaIn between beers, I had some of the tea I’d brought with me. It was tea. It was not especially delicious. I continued to resist the whiskey, largely because I can’t abide the taste of the stuff but mostly because I wanted to make it home in one piece.
  4. Heaton Park Surly Big DummyA detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: My left knee started hurting during yesterday’s ride and is really quite painful today. I stopped at the supermarket on the way to buy marshmallows but they didn’t have any. The road to the park was randomly closed for resurfacing so I had to take a huge diversion. My trailer has developed an odd noise. There was a lot to be grumpy about but, do you know what? I think I’m starting to understand this whole Coffeeneuring business… When you force yourself to ride slowly and then you just spend some time hanging out with good friends, sharing the contents of your assorted panniers / trailers / frame bags in nice surroundings, soaking up what remains of the day’s warmth as you heckle those crazy enough to actually partake in the racing, there’s all of a sudden nothing at all to feel grumpy about.
  5. Bike friendliness of the locale: Well, it’s a public park with plenty of nice wide paths and some really nice scenery so it scores very well on bike friendliness initally. But, if you want to leave your bike somewhere and go for a walk in the woods or pop into the coffee shop or even just take a leak, there is absolutely NOWHERE to lock your bike up. That’s fine if you have someone to watch it or you’re a risk taker but I think it again shows how little thought goes into the needs of your average bike rider when public places in England are being put together. Is this a problem in other countries, I wonder?
  6. Mileage: Probably 10 – 15, especially with the unplanned diversion.
  7. Must visit?: Meh.

So, there you have it. 2 of my 7 coffeeneuring rides completed on the first weekend of the challenge – tune in next week for more of the same!

Oh, and because I know you love ’em and we didn’t see anyone riding one in the race, here’s a few pictures of our collection of Surly bikes.

Surly Big Dummy Surly Crosscheck Surly Steamroller single speed CrosscheckSurly just because sticker

people just love to play with words

 

You may recall, back in March, I had an absolute blast taking part in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge. I even managed to complete the challenge with the help of a snow day (even though it didn’t snow) and some rather creative bending of the rules.

Now, I’m a bit of a sucker for a challenge and if it involves even more questionable word-play on “Randonneur”, all the better.

Happily, our friends over at Chasing Mailboxes are putting on the fourth annual incarnation of the now world famous Coffeeneuring Challenge! Don’t ask me how to pronounce it.

The rules are delightfully simple: all I have to do is drink 7 cups of coffee in 7 different places over 7 weekends, riding a minimum of 2 miles for each trip. There are a few more details but essentially that’s it!

So, without further ado, here are the details of my first Coffeeneuring outing of 2014:

  1. Where I went: Deli-Lama Cafe-Bar, 22 Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5LE
  2. Date I went there: Saturday, 4th October 2014
  3. coffeeneuring1 - coffeeWhat I drank: A simple (but very delicious) white coffee with brown sugar (it’s SO nice to find a place with brown sugar)
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: I sat outside and was quickly joined by a rather eccentric Scot who instantly starting swearing at me in that charming way only Billy Connolly can get away with.Wait. Now I come to think of it, this guy looked and sounded almost exactly like the Big Yin… nah, can’t have been.Anyhoo, in the 20 minutes or so we spent together, we discussed all sorts of important things like “Where the f*&k is Islington?”, “What f*&king noise are they compaining about?”, how good his bacon & egg sandwich was, whether it’s illegal to cycle through red lights and why it’s harder to play golf when it’s below freezing outside.

    Normally I hate it when random strangers come and talk to me but I liked this guy instantly. I think this might be the magic of Coffeeneuring… on any other ride, I would never have stopped for a coffee and, therefore, wouldn’t have met my foul-mouthed new friend and experienced his unique (and highly cynical) outlook on life.

  5. coffeeneuring1 - bike racksBike friendliness of the locale: Unfortunately, Deli-Lama suffers from an acute lack of bicycle racks, or anything else you can chain your bike to… I blame Salford Council, not the cafe. You can just make out the Ogre chained to some railings across the street… not somewhere I’d like to leave it unattended for very long, I’m sorry to say.
  6. Mileage: I dunno… I went for a bit of a ride around North Manchester on the way… Maybe 20 miles? Whatever, it was more than the requisite 2.
  7. Must visit?: Despite living only 5 or 6 miles away, I almost never go to Deli-Lama despite it very much being my kind of place – the food is excellent and the menu varied, the welcome is warm and the surroundings comforting. So, is it a ‘must visit’? I think so.

Surly Ogre River IrwellI rode home via the banks of the River Irwell which was looking rather pretty bathed in surprisingly warm sunlight on this beautiful autumn day.

Oh, if anyone’s still keeping count, I think the Ogre is now sporting its fourth or fifth set of handlebars… In the Coffeeneuring spirit, it’s now gone all cafe racer style for… you know, racing to and from cafes.

Surly Ogre cafe racer bars

bat out of hell

 

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

Surly Troll York town wall gateOh, 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.

Percy Pig sweets 1Apart from some of the food we took with us…

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.

Percy Pig sweets 2As 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.

2x Surly Troll Aldham Trans Pennine Trail TPTIt 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.

Surly Open Bars Carradice bag hydration packOh, I almost forgot! If you’re planning to go time trollin’ yourself, you’re going to want a Heath Robinson solution to your hydration needs.

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’.

Surly Troll Woodhead Pass 2 2 Surly Troll Woodhead Pass purple heather Woodhead Pass Trollfest 3 Woodhead Pass selfieFrom here, it was all wild downhill with more whooping until we hit the Longdendale Trail which I attacked like a Bat out of Hell (see what I did there?).

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.

Spectacular.

Beer & peanuts

down by the sea

 

Sometimes when I’m out cycling, I get a song stuck in my head. More often than not, it’s one of those hideously annoying songs I somehow know all the words to but will never freely admit to recognizing and would certainly never buy a CD of, not in a million years.

My most recent earworm was the unfortunately apt Ferry cross the Mersey.

Surly Troll Mersey Silver Jubilee bridgeWhy was this song going through my mind over and over and OVER AND OVER? Well, it just so happens I was cycling along the banks of the River Mersey and, like a bleeding tourist, stopping to take photographs like these ones of the Silver Jubilee Bridge in the Mersey Estuary.

2 Surly Troll Mersey Estuary Silver Jubilee BridgeWhat was I doing in Merseyside being a bleeding tourist? Well, I was making my way back to Manchester via the starting point of the Trans Pennine Trail at Southport.

BEHOLD: Trollfest #2:

2 Surly Troll Southport TPT Trans Pennine Trail startYes, the Northern Walker and I had somehow managed to convince our respective other halves to let us escape for the day so we hopped on a train at Manchester Piccadilly to the somewhat underwhelming start point at Southport. We decided not to dip our wheels in the sea (what with it being about 5 miles out), much to the relief of the RNLI guy who looked like he’d had to rescue far too many cyclists from the mudflats.

Instead, we set off into a relentless headwind on the exposed coastline which, coupled with the dull route, made the initial part of the ride a bit of a chore.

Trans Pennine Trail Liverpool Loop Line blockedEventually, we turned slighty inland and enjoyed miles of deserted trails and country lanes as the early morning sun started peeking through the grey clouds overhead… until we reached the start of the Liverpool Loop Line which was closed apparently due to asbestos being removed from a bridge.

994460_10152927169679863_3908862782886263258_nWe were not amused. Not least because the diversion was poorly signed but when we could navigate our way through it, we increasingly found ourselves riding through some of the worst neighbourhoods and decrepit industrial estates in Liverpool.

Just when we were at our grumpiest, we happened across a HUGE supply of the plumpest, sweetest wild blackberries which we scrumped until our bellies were full and our moods improved.

2 Surly Troll Liverpool Loop LineBack on track and after a couple of unplanned diversions (thanks to whoever turned the sign around), we eventually made our way onto the Liverpool Loop Line proper which is an old railway bed carved directly out of the sandstone. Purty.

We paused for an apple and some questionable yet strangely morish jelly sweets and discussed the pros and cons of Surly Open Bars vs Jeff Jones Loop Bars.

Last time we rode, Matt’s Troll was sporting some el cheapo riser bars and I had a set of Jones. This time, Matt had a brand new set of the Loop Bars and I’d switched to the Open Bars.

Surly Troll Open Bars Carradice bagWhich is better? Well, I still love the Jones bars but, boy are they expensive. Sure, I got a killer deal on my Surly bars but even at full price they’re considerably cheaper and I still have plenty of hand positions. Plus, a small Carradice bag sits neatly underneath, giving me ample room to stash a spare tube, some tools and whatever strange munchies I can lay my hands on.

We pushed on through Merseyside, wondering if we’d ever make it Warrington and starting to question the advertised mileage on the map as time marched on and our curfew approached.

The bullet holes in the TPT signs in Halewood helped motivate us to pick up the speed until the thatched cottages in the beautiful Hale Village almost stopped us in our tracks. The wild plums I found at the roadside were enough to stop us completely for a few delicious minutes.

Apple scrumpingWe finally made it to Warrington, now convinced the mileage on the maps was pure fantasy so we stopped for that oh-so-traditional cycling nutrition: beer & peanuts.

A little further on and I spotted yet more trail side foraging and set about grabbing myself an apple.

Matt wasn’t convinced they’d be ripe just yet.

Apple scrumping 2Matt was right.

We neared home via the Bollin Valley Way, stopping only to avoid mowing down small children, double check the route and eat a huge slice of fruit cake.

At Sale, we decided to skip off the TPT in favour of the Bridgewater Way which I knew would take us home to yet more cake. What I didn’t know was that just about everyone else had the same idea which meant the trail was uber busy, hampering our progress.

Even worse, the trail was blocked in places and rough all the way which slowed us down even more. At Salford we realised just how late it had gotten and agreed it was better to part ways than face the inevitable “where are you?” phone calls from the bosses.

I checked the mileage when I got home, almost 70 miles total for the day. The maps suggested it’d be a little over 50 miles… Ah well, at least we know why it took so long!

2 Surly Troll TPT Trans Pennine Trail Bollin Valley