Younger, fitter, faster.
Monday 17th February 2020
It is a while since Howard dipped his toes into the (muddy) water of mountain biking, now the three weeks straight, two weeks gay lifestyle of rig work has been put behind him in favour of joining the formicary of the day people. Limited to sharing a mere brace of days off with all the other montofris (Monday to Fridays) is definitely a cruel and unusual punishment. We met at Lordstones, cold and windy, just the usual fifty miles per hour gusts, which have become the norm this month; isobars like contours on a map of the Lake District, creaking trees, flying branches and sneaky Strava PR’s on tailwind sections. It will take more than a tailwind for me to keep up with Howard, his failure to embrace the Terra Trailblazers’ pies and lager ethos means he can shift a bit, although using training and nutrition can only be classed as cheating from our point of view. He might be younger, fitter and faster but he is still unfortunate enough to be employed, paying his dues to life’s biggest time thief.
Pedalling up the same backside as Friday’s ride, we found the elusive track, it turned out Howard had previously ridden it, worth repeating though. A couple of more tracks and we were at Sheepshagger Bank, named years ago from an incident involving a trapped sheep and some inappropriate posing as we freed it from the fence it had tangled itself in. It’s probably just as well there are no photographs. To avoid the mud on the track which passes Cold Moor and Hasty Bank, we continued down Broughton Bank, now ‘improved’ with extra width and extra gravel, the midpoint climb is always forgotten until it appears like a bad dream. Why is it that minds blank out these bits? The Carr Ridge steps came next, beyond even Howard’s capabilities, not helped by buffeting wind and greasy rocks.
At Round Hill, we turned into the wind for the descent to Medd Crag, usually a brisk cruise down the wide, sandy track, today pedalled all the way as the wind attempted to push us back uphill. Medd Crag to Bilsdale Hall is still a fun descent, steep and lumpy grass, rutted shale, finishing with a muddy double track, mud-splattered we arrived at the gate, a few miles of tarmac ahead of us from this point.
We rode through Chop Gate, up the Raisdale Road to Beak Hills, then through waterlogged fields, returning to Sheepshagger Bank from where we retraced our outward route, enjoying a last section of enduro track down to the road. The few hundred metres back to Lordstones proved the windiest of the day, a vicious sidewind, blasting up the valley from the south pushed us across the road like curling stones. For a ride where it never actually rained, we had gained enough filth to do a passable impression of eighteenth century mudlarks, fresh from picking through tidal detritus. After a quick change, we went into the cafe only to find KFP (Kentucky Fried Pheasant) wraps are no longer on the menu. Devastating, especially for Howard, who never had the pleasure.