If you're anything like me and a bit anal and like things to be wrapped up nicely let me tell you this way of riding up there is VERY satisfying!!
This past weekend saw me visit Whinlatter Forest to become reacquainted with its fantastic facilities after nearly a year since my last visit. Safe to say I can't remember why I never went back sooner!!
I rode the blue graded "Quercus" trail and both north and south sections of the wonderful "Altura" trail. The blue is great and flowy and you can definitely have plenty of fun on this. It also leads neatly into the South section of the Altura trail leaving the awesome final North side descent to finish up with before heading off.
If you're anything like me and a bit anal and like things to be wrapped up nicely let me tell you this way of riding up there is VERY satisfying!!
Theres nothing I can say that everyone else hasn't already said but if you're looking at this considerin a visit...just go. Get yourself there. It's a great ride and the facilities at the trail head are excellent (the cafe does great cakes 😉) and the bike shop on site is full of super friendly folk who'll do just about anything to make sure you're golden for you're visit!!
After my little tumble last week I decided to just try and get out and ride an easier route and have some fun and so enter, Blawith.
Dont be fooled it's not pronounced blor-ith, like I thought actually, we're oop north remember!! It's Bla-ath...obviously.
Well this is pretty nice little loop to be honest. I can already see the possibilities of using it linked in with other routes and that excites me to be honest. Using the Essential Trails guide book I've mentioned earlier, I set out to conquer the books first route...
Parked outside the church in the village you head up the lane opposite and start climbing. The first 2/3 miles are pretty much climbing. Nothing too strenuous but every now and then a little collection of rocks present a nice little tech addition to wake you up a bit.
It doesn't take long after hitting the bridleway for the trail to start pointing downhill. Oh what fun it is! Seriously I was really impressed with the descent off the fell here. Kind of a mixture of single track and bridleway, tricky sometimes too with the tire tracks being so recessed, so you gotta keep you pedals flat through the sections or risk hitting a rock or other nasty that'll buck you off!
By the time you make it to the road section you've already done more than half the route and most of that was downhill which is great. Problem is that it rewards you now with some pretty steep climbs.
Anyone wanting to to try this route just be aware that after the road section the off-road bits are extremely vague. For this reason it is definitely worth reading the instructions for this route as well as studying the map.
The last couple of miles back to the parked car are pretty fast and straight forward tracks, bridle ways and field tracks. Only downfall of it is that it's very stop start from one gate to the next all the way back to the car.
The views though were incredible, especially on a beautiful clear day like it was today. If you need a quick fix after work or you're just short on time I'd definitely recommend choosing this route. Great fun and quite mentally challenging on the climbs!!
Stay tuned for another ride entry this weekend...
Right now I planned on releasing a ride entry with some thoughts and picks of Grizedale Forest's North Face trail. However as a precursor to that I went up Tiesday night to run the black run with a pal of mine. This did not go well...
Thanks to a rather unimpressive landing I managed to insert the above hole into my arm and add a collection of bruises and gravel rash to myself.
As as an unfortunate by-product of this my leg is somewhat sore and I'be been unable to do much of anything.
My plan this week is to ensure there's no serious or catastrophic damage to the bike, then hit a couple of fresh rides this week/weekend to report on. As well as anything else that bloody well takes my fancy. But for now...
Following on from my last blog about nutrition. It works. I headed out with a buddy last weekend and tried to make more of an effort with food.
NOTE: This worked for me but others might not like it. Try stuff and do a bit of reading but here's what I picked up.
Mostly my rides are weekend outings and as such I don't have time before a ride to eat properly. What I did (and I've done this before) is have a decent bowl of pasta the night before. I, by preference use wholemeal, I used to have it with chicken and mayo but lately I've been eating it dry with a load of veg thrown in with it and some feta cheese. It's not to everyone's taste but I love it.
Mother day of the ride I got up early and ate a bowl of weetabix with semi-skinned milk. Took an apple with me and a mixed berry smoothie. All this set me up well for the first hour and half of riding and I powered up the climbs very comfortably!!
Throughout the Ride
What I took was a couple of apples, and some pre/home made bags of nuts and dried fruit. I stuffed a handful of nuts/fruit every hour which was perfect for me. Then at about the mid-way point of the ride I ate an apple. Then the other at the end.
The he only thing I can say about this was that after 3 hours I had little interest in eating nuts. The dried fruit however still went down REALLY well!!
Like I said I had the remaining Apple. Other than that I didn't bother till we'd drove home where I had one Tesco finest burger with red onion and lettuce topping with a couple of sweet potatoes chopped up like chips.
This was fine for me and I could probably have gone straight out the next day and rode again, bloody work.
And that's it. That's my plan. The rest of the time I eat a lot of veggies and snack on fruit. It's working too...after 4 days I've lost 2 pounds...left it on the counter and Burger King by accident 😞
I bet a lot of people who take up mountain biking, like myself, have a small degree of "This will help me lose a few pounds and get in shape". I certainly thought so (although primarily I just like being outside and walking is dull, no offence) and I was hoping that is be able to carry on eating what I wanted and if I got out ride enough is lose weight and get in shape. Partly right. Mostly, completely wrong. Couldn't be more wrong!
I found riding regularly improved my fitness I could ride longer, faster and not feel as slug-like by the end of a route. But then occasionally during that time I'd find that I couldn't carry on and needed to stop a while after beginning to feel weak and dizzy.
I also found that I wasn't really shifting the pounds as much as I thought I would, although I was slowly losing a bit of weight.
The answer. Nutrition. Bloody food!
The answer is pretty obvious really ain't it. We've all heard that you are what you eat (I'm meat) and that if you eat cleaner you'll lose weight, workout at the same time and buggar me you'll accomplish things! but let's be honest here for a minute...
HOW BLOODY HARD IS IT
Honestly though, how hard is eating clean! Taking the care to look at what you're eating, what's in it, how many micro/macro-nutrients of what category are in what. Calorie counting. Carb loading. Fasting etc...Jesus it's a minefield and everyone has their own opinion on what you should/shouldn't be doing. When you should be eating. When you shouldn't. What you should be eating. Whether you should be vegan or vegetarian. Piss off. I'm sorry but I can't be bloody arsed with all that!
Then you've got companies and "experts" telling you that you should be consuming x grams of carbs an hour and the BEST way to do it is using gels and energy bars that cost £5/6 for a 3 pack out of Tesco. Nope. Piss off. We as a species have lasted for centuries without them. But all of a sudden it's vital that you take in 3 scoops of strawberry-flavoured protein powder and 2 scoops of creatine. Pull the other one!!
I'm not having it. I refuse to believe I need to do all that shite. I'm sure if you're a serious athlete competing in 4 day enduros or triathlons or whatever there could be some advantage to some of the gels. But what's wrong with food?
I love food. All sorts of food. Shit food like take-aways (I love pizza and kebabs) and I love clean veggie dinners and fresh berry smoothies. The problem is that it's too easy to just say oh buggar it lets get a take-away, rather than spend the time you spend waiting, actually cooking something yourself and seeing the ingredients and working with them yourself. I'm guilty of this all the time.
But right now as I write this post I'm beginning to make the moves to try and take a bit of control over it. I want to eat my own cooked food, fresh and clean food. Part of this process is going to be documented in my blog here. I'm going to note down what I try before, during and after rides and try some different things and see what works for me.
And ultimately that's what this post is about. You can read all the nonsense on the internet you want and listen to people or not listen to them, because at the end of it all the person that understands how you work is you and no one else. I've read loads about what is important and where it is found and I'm gonna try to implement that in my own way.
Ill ll be keeping a track of it here for my own usage but who knows someone find use in it. But for now...
Llandegla was the destination. North Wales on a Bank Holiday. What could go wrong. Truthfully nothing actually, I just like exaggeration and trying to set the tone. But it was just a bloody good day out.
Me and a mate headed out nice and early and arrived around mid morning and hit the trails and honestly, although I enjoyed it, I was let down.
The blue route was awesome. So flowy. So swoopy. Fast. I loved it. After a minor 8 mile loop we decided we'd head back up and hit the big stuff. This is where we made a mistake.
We we decided on hitting the black route. Just to test ourselves and really have a day of it. The length is no slouch at around 14 miles. But I was left wanting because of the 14 miles, in my humble opinion, most of it was uphill. Sodding uphill?! I understand you have to go up to come down but it felt like for all the uphill we were doing we didn't get much run down at all.
Dont get me wrong there were descents. They just weren't very bloody hard or challenging, and they were few and far between. The climbs? Dull. I thought they were going to be roots and ruts, but all it was was endless climbing up very well cared for trails.
Im all for trail maintenance but the climbs were difficult they were just plentiful. Which took the fun away from it.
I'll be heading back for sure. The free ride park was a hoot and there's more trails to be ridden around Wales. But for now, I'll just head back out in the Lakes thanks.
M So here's my return to blogging. My first two posts have gone unnoticed in the world. I never actively promoted it, never even really had anything to add to it.
Over the the winter my family has grown, my passion has grown but my miles on Strava have not. So much has been happening that I've failed to have time to leave the house and escape to ride my bike. Gutted.
However things are settling. My job is steady my family life is steady and I'm starting to find time to ride which is absolutely bloody ACE! So I'm kick starting this thing again, with a slightly new approach. Which I'm gonna explain now. Although I don't know why because nobody has read my first two blogs...HA!
Previously for this blog I planned to simply document Lake District rides with maps, directions and guides for people to find and use and have it all in one easy location. That's what I was looking for. I was trying to find local rides but they were simply scattered all over the place with no real guide as to where they were or any of the smaller things you probably don't think about (such as where to park your sodding car!).
However I've decided to change this plan slightly. For Christmas I received a rather excellent book by Richard Staton and Chris Gore "Lake District Mountain Biking: Essential Trails". In it I found the route I attempted in my last blog. Rather than rob these good men of money from their book I decided I'd simply ride these trails and give my honest opinion about them and possibly include some of my own knowledge and ideas, occasionally I will include a more detailed route but it will maybe be an adaptation rather than a direct copy of the lads' route printed.
I'm also going to include some tech posts regarding maintenance and such of bikes as I am quite handy with spanners and hopefully maybe even begin to include reviews and such but this is all a pipe dream at the moment.
For now, I'm going to begin a write up of my first ride of 2016 and post it up sometime in the next few days. Then I might even start to promote this thing. Who knows?!
The first ride of 2016. I decided to pick up where I failed in my early blog posts. A 16-17 mile loop encompassing Grizedale Forest taking in some of the best descents in the area (the Parkamoor descent is rated VERY highly by locals and it's not difficult to understand why to be honest...INSANE!!).
My last attempt at this loop saw me and a mate miss a turn which led to some 10 miles of road riding back to the car park in the rain...not ideal, or the plan. So with my riding buddies expertly avoiding the original plan to visit Whinlatter (We'll save that for another day), I headed out on my own armed with the route guide to ensure I get a solid loop in and really tackle it...
I parked up at the visitors centre at Grizedale and began my journey, standard forestry commission's parking prices here but about half a mile south of the car park is a decent sized lay by that is often used by visitors for parking and usually is host to half a dozen or so cars.
To to begin with you pick up the North Face trail (another one I'll save for later) for the initial climbing. You can use the forest roads if you want to get up a bit quicker but there's plenty of wide tracks and fire roads in the loop already so I suggest picking it up and doing the Elephant's Pass and Great Escape sections.
Its after this that you venture from the man-made sign posted trail and really explore, taking a left and heading up to the Parkamoor descent. But first you're treated to some incredible views overlooking Coniston. As you can see below its worth it just for this!! Incredible!!
Following these awesome views the trail undulates along the valley with some great fast open sections but beware because it is damn rocky, then before you know you're upon the Parkamoor final descent into High Nibthwaite. Crazy rock sections that really are a challenge for anyone and it's all about line choice. Pick the wrong one and you'll be second guessing and probably on your arse in tatters!!
From here the route follows some quite lanes up to Stock Farm, the climb up to which is absolutely brutal to most human beings!! Not ashamed to say it...I got off and walked.
The tracks from the top down to sicken theatre are great fun. Nice and wide, fast and the occasional drop off to keep you on your toes. This is followed by more roads right back to Grizedale Forest where you join a long slog of a fire road climb.
I have to admit at this point that I didn't manage to follow the route exactly. At the top of Breasty Haw (Yeah...I know...) you take some great single track and should shoot across a fire road and into a bad arse descent that's steeper than the drop to hell!
But I got there and the trail was out of bounds...me and several other riders were a bit perplexed at this but I followed the fire roads a bit further and picked up the remainder of the route.
Some really nice single track takes you through the forest and brings you out heading towards a sculpture known locally as "the Fox". It's here at a crossroads you can either head up and explore the northern areas of the forest or, following the route, head back towards the car park...and one final insane descent.
I wasnt expecting this. The track starts smooth and fast but very quickly turns into some frighteningly loose rocks and of various sizes, some small enough that you wouldn't notice whilst others are big enough to scare the shoes right off your feet. If you're heading down this last descent back to the visitors centre you gotta be careful!
In Staton and Gore's book, this route can be found on page 107. It's an incredibly good ride and it will absolutely become a staple ride for me to return to.
Anyone that has time to spare to really take in a good ride I'd definitely recommend this one. The descents alone are incredible, however speaking from my personal tastes I have to say there's far too much fire road and road riding to be done to link all these lines together. However I'm discovering that is simply the nature of the forest. So if you want to experience some hairy, rocky descents and have an absolute BALL, get onto this route!!
I ride bikes, and I live happily in the Lake District, pissing everyone off from my loving wife and kids to complete strangers at times. But I will always be honest and I will not sugar coat it for you.