kiss from a rose

I’m sure I’ve previously written about those little moments of pure nirvana I sometimes experience when I’m on the bike. I had more than a few of those moments when I rode the Way of the Roses with Matt in April 2017.

Day 3 of our trip was, somehow, even better than the previous two days. And, hey, they weren’t too shabby!

In the eerie deserted pool room of our pub / B&B, I flipped the Troll over and finally swapped out my front brake disc. Slotting a new set of pads in, Matt and I remarked on how much meat was still left on the old pads, and the apparently relatively good condition of the disc. On closer inspection, we discovered the friction material on the pads had crazed, which was presumably what was causing the shuddering. How close I was to disaster, we’ll thankfully never know.

Our enthusiastic host (and an equally excitable dog) appeared, and soon we were destroying the biggest breakfast in the world. Truly, it was something else.

Setting off, the wet roads told of the overnight wintery downpours we’d staggered home in. The skies were looking kind, and the sun tentatively poked out, taking the chill off the morning air as we headed South-West towards York.

18056943_10155215346127930_1830839744906454301_nQuickly back onto amazing country lanes, we were back to riding side by side, listening to my gratis brake disc chirruping away, and sharing fond memories of friends and loved ones we’d lost.

We barrelled across a surprisingly bumpy toll bridge (yet another freebie), and before too long, we found ourselves entering yet another grand park which turned out to be home to Beningbrough Hall. I couldn’t resist taking a closer look.

18056833_10155215345892930_769371148642452733_nThe sun was shining down on us in these beautiful surroundings, the birds were singing, our spirits were high, and it’d been a good couple of hours since breakfast. Time for coffee and cake with the rich people.

As we sat sipping our overpriced coffees, pinkies in the air, Matt regaled me the tale of an eccentric old woman he’d scared half to death when she ran into him by the loos.

“She took one look at me, said ‘BAH!’, and then walked off!”

I suppose you had to be there, but that had us in stitches for ages.

18157180_10155215346207930_6979333652444242334_nWe resumed course for York, ticking off seemingly endless picture-postcard villages. The two attractive women sat outside the pub caught my attention, but I rode on regardless. Matt was weaker than I, and stopped to talk to them. By the time I’d turned around, he’d whipped his camera out and was taking pictures of them.

“DUDE! What the hell are you doing? You can’t go around taking pictures of random girls!”

He seemed strangely unconcerned, and we pedalled away with him complaining about their lack of response to his ‘epic’ chat-up lines.

18157120_10155215345362930_207835168746500000_n17990835_10155215345252930_5913759468794490133_nIn York, we stopped for a quick bit of bike-balancing magic, some sightseeing, and a few handfuls of Matt’s Special Trailmix.

Now, the last time we’d cycled out of York, we got horribly lost, having taken a wrong turn down one of the tiny winding streets. This time was no different, and we were spat out onto a 3 lane roundabout, heading in completely the wrong direction. Probably had too many blue M&M’s.

The going had been good, the terrain having flattened out, and the temperature had risen several degress on the previous couple of days. We ate up the miles, and drank in the views as the route took a rare off-road diversion. Talk moved to our objective for the day as we did the maths on the remaining miles.

18058060_10155216036472930_3610454733578781470_nWe’d left the return trip open, with plenty of work-free days still ahead of us. I think we both would’ve liked to ride back home, but the weather forecast for the following several days was solid rain, so we reluctantly planned on getting the train back from Bridlington.

Arriving in the delightful little town of Pocklington, we enjoyed a leisurely late lunch and debated next steps. Matt wanted to push on to Driffield, leaving us a handful of wet miles to Bridlington, and the train home. I was tiring however, and the ‘Col du Pocklington’ stood between us and Driffield; no matter how innocuous the map made it look.

The cafe owners told us about a local campsite that had recently opened. I bought 2 gigantic scotch eggs and a pork pie for the road, and we searched it out.

We were shown around the basic, but perfectly good, ameneties, and charged a full fiver each to pitch our tents on the field we had almost to ourselves. I sheltered my tent out of the strong winds behind an unoccupied caravan, and we deposited the bikes in what our fabulous Yorkshireman of a host described as his ‘shed’. It was actually one of the biggest barns I’ve ever seen, and was filled with everything from a mobility scooter to a 50 foot trailer covered in hay bales.

We listened with pure delight as he talked about Pocky ‘igh stree’, with its collection of pubs and restaurants.

“We’ve got TWO chinese restaurants in Pocky…”

<dramatic pause>

“…and they’re BOTH rubbish.”

Forgetting the name of the indian restaurant he actually did recommend, he drew us a map with his finger on a scrap piece of plywood he found on the floor. Because, without that, we wouldn’t have been able to find the place.

We decided against taking the map with us, and found our way into several pubs where we laughed our heads off before eventually finally finding our way to the indian.

We ate too much. We drank too much. We stumbled back to the campsite in the utter darkness you only get in the countryside. We almost tripped on the map, and no doubt annoyed the miserable guy in the camper whose peace we had shattered by daring to share the field.

I slithered into my excellent sleeping bag and tried to get off to sleep.


That day was perfect.

Everything about it was perfect.

Somebody was looking after us that day.

A kiss from a rose, indeed.

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…


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.


Beer & peanuts