This was the first ride for our newly formed CogsandCrags group (with a few extra riders thrown in), and what an awesome ride it was as well.
Starting with bacon cobs round at mine in the morning (cooked by Guy) we got everyone together who we thought was coming along, bikes on/in cars/vans we headed off towards Castleton.
We’d not even got to Chesterfield when a phone call from another friend Julian (aka Duracell Bunny) was taken …. “I’m Bored” is all I hear on the Handsfree kit; he was supposed to be doing a parachute jump but it must have been cancelled, either that or he’d chickened out; so I told him to get his bike loaded up and meet us at Castleton. We’d only just got the bikes unloaded when Julian arrived, bouncing out the car all excited ready for the ride.
After a quick roll into Castleton car park first for the obligatory toilet break, we headed up the ‘Broken Road’, that heads out of Castleton and winds it’s way up the side of Mam Tor; over the years I’ve seen this road slowly get pushed further down the hill side, bit by bit crumbling away! I often wonder how much longer we’ll actually be able to use this as a path without needing to use the grassy bank.
Julian decided a jump off a 3ft ledge in the road was in order; smoothly does it he rides over the edge making it looks effortless, this stirred ‘Little Chris’ on to perform the same jump; maybe it was his skinny tyres, maybe he just wasn’t warmed up yet, but the landing was one of those that left the rest of us sucking breath through our front teeth as we expected the wobble to turn into a mass of entangled metal and flesh, luckily for ‘little Chris’ he managed to keep it on both wheels more by luck that judgement though … damn shame really, as it would have been funny to the rest of us !!
The rest of the ride up to Mam Nick was eventless other than Graeme, who was on his first ride for years suddenly realising he wasn’t as cardiovascular fit has he’d hoped; but the fact that he was even riding with a possible broken toe was a fate in itself.
Now, the proper route for bikes is to ascend Mam Tor from around the back, but that path doesn’t get you to the top, so a push up the footpath (we’re not riding so it doesn’t matter) to the top of Mam Tor was the route taken. After group photo and a quick rest at the trig point, we head off along the flag-stoned ridge; these quiet literally shake you to bits as you hammer along them, some riders taking to the grass so they can refocus where they’re going, personally I love this section and with the Shiver forks I descend down there a bit quicker than the rest and with a huge smile on my face. I hold a gate open for everyone, but we’re spread by quite some time, and had to wait for 5 mins+ for the group to be all together again. We carry on and quickly regroup at Hollins Cross; saddles lowered we set off down the left hand path that leads to Backtor Farm, this is mainly a fast route but is quite technical in the need for balance, go too slow and you’ll lose momentum meaning you’re likely to crash and burn.
A quick regroup at the Farm, we wait for a group of horsesriders to pass before setting back off down the tarmac track to Backtor Bridge; this is a steep and narrow track, so I childishly lean way over the front of the bike, unweighting the rear and skid almost the whole way down, just releasing the back brake for a mere 20m of the track.
On to the Edale road we turn right and ride through Nether Booth, before taking a track off left towards Clough Farm. This is a steady climb, and Graeme announces he’s just had a Wake Up call; he often walks this type of terrain but biking is a different kettle of fish. We get to the top just before dropping into Jaggers Clough, Graeme has managed to pick up a puncture, so that gets sorted as people refuel on lumps of chocolate or others things. I take a call from another biking friend; he had his bike nicked from Poole leisure Centre last week so has had to get a new one and has put his name down for a Spec FSR Comp.
Puncture fixed we start riding again, down the path and across the stream at the bottom of Jaggers Clough, the climb out is a challenge to say the least, and I get ¾ of the way up which I’m happy with as it’s that steep and the front of my bike is so high that I was struggling to keep the front wheel on the ground, Julian and Dexter are on a mission not to be outdone by the other, and both clear the climb !!!! it’s Dexters first ride in the Peaks so it’s even more impressive he managed it.
The rest of us reach the top and meet up with Julian, but Dexter has gone ahead, Julian has sent him in the right direction so all will be ok … won’t it !!!
The rest of us set off and meeting the cross paths we bear right past Hope Cross and start the drop towards Hope, this has some interesting and nadgery tracks that again are best tackled with some speed, the first section is rocky but short and I hold the gate open for all, and then ride the next section with Graeme chatting away, then the going gets rocky again, so I pedal faster, passing Ian, then Guy, I catch up with Julian at the head of the group. We eventually get to the bottom gate, well some of us do, we’re waiting for Graeme, and Dexter … yes the very same Dexter who set off 5 mins before us and the same Dexter we hadn’t passed, yep hadn’t passed. The ability to follow a path was proving too complicated for Dexter, but Guy gives him a quick call to get him back in the right direction. We were still waiting for the said 2 riders when we passed by a couple who were walking up where we had just descended, jovial comments between us all, we gave the walkers a little ammunition to fire at Graeme and Dexter. On arrival of them both we set off down the tarmac lane into Hope, we reached the road junction just near the Spar shop, some went ahead to Woodbines Cafe for Tea and Cake, a couple of us waited for the rest to arrive, 1 by 1 they turned up … but not Graeme; there’s no way he could be that far behind in such a short distance so he must have taken the road back towards Edale. We tried calling …no answer, so we just waited and waited and waited .. got the message yet ? .. that right we waited !!! Eventually Graeme turned up, confirming that he’d gone the wrong way, after seeing some helmets over the hedges going that way, thinking it was us lot he followed them until eventually realised it wasn’t us.
We all descended onto Woodbines Café, for a refuel, or overfuel in Dexters case, and after half hour or so we set off again, riding past the Hope Cement Works and riding/walking up Pindale, always a tricky little critter of a climb. I still don’t know whether Julian and Dexter cleared this section but I’m going to guess that they didn’t, although they were some distance ahead of us [edit: I have now heard they didn’t ride to the top and had to push their bike]. As the rest of us reached the top of Pin Dale, Dexters bike was upside down for a bit of tinkering, I’m not sure what the issue was but it wasn’t anything serious. We then started the climb up and over Dirtlow Rake, and to the star decent of the ride …. CAVE DALE … ooh you just have to love it ! Starting on a mellow track across a fairly flat field, it drops off semi-steeply as you reach the edge and go through the first gate. This then starts to get narrower, a lot narrower, single track with 18” to keep your wheels between, another gate, and what starts as a fast grassy descent turns into a fast rocky descent until reaching the best part the Dale has to offer. A you look over the edge at the start of the next section the rocky path drops away steeply into a gulley, water is seeping over the rocks as it often does, line choice is hard enough as it is without the complication of wet rocks. However we had to wait again, Dexter had picked up a double snake bite puncture, so he was further up the Dale fixing it, Graeme decided there was no way he was riding the next section so he started to walk his bike down with the intent of picking up some video footage [see YOUTUBE vids at bottom of thread]. Eventually Dexter arrived, and 1 by 1 we set off down the Gulley, it was proving difficult , some dabbing a foot after literally 2ft of riding, I’d waited till last, I set off, rocks tumbling under the wheels making tracking the front wheel difficult but that’s the fun, I was managing it with no dabbing at all, I got through the gulley and saw ‘Little Chris’ had crashed out, I slowed as I passed him, I was concentrating so much I hadn’t even realising that Graeme was sat there filming us. I carried on, picking a bit of speed up again, I say speed but this is relative to the condition of the surface we were riding on, through the 2nd gulley and the others were all there waiting, I’d managed the whole descent without dabbing a foot, I was really happy with myself about that, as I see it a challenge.
Guy was saying that it must be easier on my bike with all the travel it had got, I was pretty much certain he was right, and suggested we take the bikes up again and swap bikes over, ‘Little Chris’ joined us in the push back up, the others decided one dose of Cave Dale a day was enough, Reaching the steep decent, we headed off again, ‘Little Chris’, Guy and then myself, I was barely 5 metres down the path and was already thinking Guys tyres had no grip as I struggled to keep the front pointing in any kind of direction I wanted it to go in, sliding off of rocks I dabbed more than once, reaching the lower levels of the descent the rest of the group were all stood waiting for me, disaster struck, and I took a tumble in to the side as the 2nd gulley started to close up, back on the bike for quite literally half a second as the lack of momentum grabs the front wheel and jack-knifes, planting me into the otherside of the gulley, I was laughing away, and naturally the others were watching all concerned about my well being, OK maybe not they were there cheering away at my falls and laughing uncontrollably … mates, who needs em ! but to be fair if it had have been one of them I’d have been laughing just as much. Needless to say I had no choice but to take the banter, before we all set off back to finish the descent in to Castleton.
I have a motto “If you don’t draw blood you’ve not had a good ride“ well it was pointed out that my elbow was bleeding, I hadn’t noticed that! my leg had a few cuts from the pedal pins, and it too was bleeding; I think that means that I must have had a great ride; it definitely felt like I had.
We rode back to the cars and packed away, Duracell had gone off early whilst we were re-tackling Cave Dave. Bikes on the car, Dexters wheel again decides to puncture; how do you puncture on a bike rack … it wasn’t even a slow puncture.
When I got back home I noticed my knee was now aching, I must have knocked it in the crash, but it’ll heal, what’s life without a few war wounds to make you realise how alive you are.
YOUTUBE Video’s of Cave Dale Descent