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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lightning crashes

 

Sometimes, I write about products that work well (like the Surly Tuggnut or Schwalbe Kojak tyres).

Sometimes, I write about things that go wrong (like when I dropped my Troll before it was even built).

Sometimes, I write about bike rides I’ve been on; some have been great (like the Diggle Jiggle) and some have been not so great (like the White Peak Loop).

Sometimes, I just get a man in to do the pesky writing for me.

In any event, I’ve always tried to stay away from controversy and I hope I don’t ever come across with a holier-than-thou attitude. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion (no matter how wrong they may be). There is, however, one area of cycling life where I am fiercly opinionated and that is safety.

You may recall I was recently quite shook up by a near miss a good friend had on the road; his bike was completely toast but happily, he suffered nothing worse than a badly cut face and badly bruised pride. The cause of said crash isn’t completely clear but the fault certainly lies with the cyclist on this occasion.

So yes, we do make mistakes. And yes, we admit to them.

Listening to the radio one morning this week as I snaffled my eggs, I was horrified to hear that the sideburn wearing British Cycling legend that is Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be appearing as Chris Evans’s guest as he’d been knocked off his bike the day before. With little information other than he was recovering in hospital with minor injuries ringing in my ears, I threw my leg over the Troll and took off for my daily 7.5 mile (each way) commute into Manchester.

Ask any regular cyclist and they’ll no doubt regale you with 1) tales of incident free rides, 2) near misses with idiotic homicidal drivers and 3) (not all will admit to this last one) self inflicted crashes brought about by a moment of stupidity or simple lapse in concentration; I’m sorry to report that my ride in to work that very same day was brought to you by option 2.

About a mile out of Manchester City Centre on the dual carriageway A62 Oldham Road, I was in the middle of the inside lane blowing through some traffic lights (yes, they were on green) with an articulated lorry shadowing me in the lane to my right. Parked in a bus stop to the left (and the reason I was in the middle of the lane) was a large white van displaying learner driver plates.

Thinking nothing much of it, I changed up a gear and pushed on pacing the truck at around 25mph. At the very moment I’d satisfied myself the truck driver had seen me and was going to stay in his lane, I saw the driver of the large van drop the hammer and, without looking or indicating, pull out into my lane.

I don’t think I managed to form any real words but whatever noise I was making was loud enough to make the van driver look out of his window just in time to see me getting squeezed closer and closer to the truck and the trailer wheels which were about to make me into a Troll kebab.

Somehow, I managed to stay upright and a few hundred metres down the road, I pulled up to have a quiet chat with the van driver who was suspiciously hanging well back. Eventually, he decided I wasn’t going away and, with the fear of god in his eyes, rolled down the window. And that’s when I saw it.

Carefully embroided on the chest of what was unmistakably a stab vest was “Greater Manchester Police”.

“What the hell was that?”, I asked.

“WELL?”

“I… I… have no comment I wish to make at this time…”

Addressing a less shellshocked officer in the passenger seat I rhetorically asked “This is a Police vehicle? Under instruction? Are you being serious?”; the slow, resigned nods from the instructor told me this young officer’s professional driving career was already over so I decided not to press the issue any further save for a few choice parting phrases including “astonished” and “disappointed”.

That evening, even closer to work, I was nearly t-boned by a woman in a van to whom checking her hair in the mirror was more important than checking the road she was pulling into. Unlike the young officer, she was more than happy to comment with several choice phrases I shan’t repeat here and several finger gestures you can no doubt imagine.

So, she nearly kills me but I’m in the wrong for telling her to look where she’s going… Seriously?

The next day and I’m almost all the way home; literally within 200m of my house with all 700 lumens of my front lights shining into the face of another driver who decided it was perfectly acceptable to pull out in front of me.

What astonished me most about this one was the sheer impossibility that he couldn’t have seen me. Unless, like our blonde haired friend from earlier, he was too f-ing busy looking at something else to even bother checking for other road users.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, I wasn’t feeling in the least bit charitable so I gave him all kinds of hell despite the pathetic ‘sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ look he painted on his face. Lucky he drove away when I told him to really; I’m not sure what would’ve happened if he’d tried arguing he was in the right…

 

Now, Wiggo and Co. have undoubtedly done the sport and recreation of cycling a great service this year with so much success in the Olympics, the Tour de France and other events with the resulting publicity. There are certainly more people enjoying cycling and organisations such as Sky, British Cycling and Sustrans are certainly playing a big part in making that happen.

I read today that the woman who allegedly knocked Wiggo off his bike voluntarily went to the police who promptly reported her for summons although there is an ongoing investigation into the crash. Naturally, I wait for the full details to come out but it would in itially appear that the driver was at least partially at fault.

The silver lining I’m hoping for here is that Wiggo can do cycling another great service as a result of this crash. Will this raise awareness amongst cyclists and drivers alike that accidents are all too easy to cause (on both sides) and oh so easy to avoid? Will the courts decide to make an example of this case? Will Wiggo come out and openly criticise the driver’s actions? Or, is the story not as it first appears and was Wiggo at fault? Are we to listen to the tabloids and believe the crash was caused by the shaving off of the world’s most famous sideburns?

Whatever happens, the few of you I’m able to reach (whether you’re a cyclist, a driver or both), please please please remember:

Open your eyes and look, open your ears and listen.

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!

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.