Four days later Blackie and myself are still recovering. Did we really do all of that in one trip? For me the day can be clearly divided into 7 separate rides...
The radio wakes me up. Look at the clock, I must be dreaming, it's only 04:30. Roll over, plenty of time. Then I remember the plans for the day. The train leaves Nottingham for Sheffield in 50 minutes and I need to be on it.
The next few hours are lost to early morning funk. I soon find myself at Sheffield station with Simon, Jon and Amy. A sense of anticipation and over priced coffee flowed through me. Our chosen mission was to ride out from the station, take in some of the highlights of the Dark Peak trails and return, hopefully, before the last train home. Distance, approximately 100km.
Into the cold morning air we rode, snaking our way through Sheffield's sleepy streets. Our backpacks bulging with supplies, we certainly looked ready for adventure.
A thick mist still clung to the hillside when we hit our first bridleway. We made good time towards Stanage Edge. As a group we hadn't all meet before but the easy spinning helped the conversation. The sun began to burn through and the mist turned to a warm haze. A game of 'Strip Biking' soon followed. Bamford Clough-remove knee warmers, descend into Hope-peel off long tights, climb Rushup Edge-pull the buffs from our heads. It was promising to be a great day out.
The fifth and final member of our elite squad of 'slowly but surely' was Rich. We were due to meet somewhere along Rushup Edge. Our timings were perfect, as we reached to the first gate there he was basking in the morning sun. Our group was now complete. Between us we had big wheels, fixed wheels, no gears, carbon forks, ti frames, ridged as you like with v-brakes and strangest of all a bike with gears and bouncy forks!
We continued along and down Rushup. It was at this point my riding skills deserted me. An over the bars moment left me with matching grazed knees and lumpy shins. For the rest of the days I'd always be the last down the hill.
I stood jealously at the top of Jacobs Ladder watching the others skillfully negotiate their way down. Not only had I pushed my bike up to this point I was now going to have to push it down. I was ready for a lunch stop.
I couldn't wait to get to the station cafe at Edale. Tea and cake would sooth my bruise pride. We arrived to find a very closed cafe. Never mind the pub must be open. A quick fuel stop soon turned into a 2 hour lunch break as we waited for food and booze to do their magic. Disappointingly no tea or cake was consumed.
With heavy stomachs we made our way to 'The Beast'. More pushing for me but the others were in their element. Then towards the bottom of Cutgate where it was decision time for Rich. Continue with us to Sheffield or head home via Hope. With no lights and a lunch delay he decided the later. A wise choice we would later find out.
The bikes were now on our shoulders as we gained height at a steady rate Finally we reached the plateau and we could ride again. There was a quiet stillness in the warm air, dusk wasn't far away and we had the trails to ourselves. We had earned our very own trials course. Now lost in a world of intense concentration, we picked our way through boulders and peat bog.
I had a few moments of clarity where I could actually get my bike to go where I wanted. These glimpses of returned mojo were fleeting but that whole section of the ride stands out as being the tricksy-est, testing-est and most grin inducing-est time on bike for while.
Yes, we're still riding. Lights on now and reliant on Amy and her GPS skills to get us back to the station. The peat bogs seems so long ago. I have distant memories of sun drenched grit stone trails. Surely that ride was last week, not just a few hours ago.
We peddled on into darkness. An endless cycle route along a disused railway line. At least it was flat. Unconsciously we took turns at the front and soon we arrived at Warncliffe woods. We thought we were nearly home.
This proved to be the toughest section. Technically undemanding, it's a national cycle route, but the undulating terrain was relentless.
Eventually we made it back to Sheffield station. Empty stomachs, empty camel backs, tired legs, numb hands and massive satisfied smiles. Jon headed for the car park and the three of us headed for trains via salty snacks and chocolate.
I don't remember much of the about the journey back to Nottingham or the short ride from the station to home. I was on auto pilot and have never been so pleased to see my front door.
The first BIG ride of the year and we cheated the weather gods. 14 hours of outdoor fun and not a spot of rain. Trails in near perfect conditions and excellent company made it easier than it could have been. I am eternally grateful to the rest of the group who helped get me round.
Jon is a much better athlete than he'll ever admit too and a really considerate rider too. Simon can happily talk positive nonsense whilst sprinting for hills and racing down them. Rich rode with his usual understated and relaxed style, inspiring us all with his fixie descent of The Beast and Jacobs. Amy was the mastermind behind the adventure and for that the crazy genius gets my highest praise! She rode consistently all day, her skills never faltering and when all we could think about was bed, she navigated us through the dark city streets to the finish line.
An epic post for an epic ride. Thanks guys for a grand day out!
112km 9776ft climbed