Shakedown Part 3 + Taper

2 May

On the Monday Mark and I climbed Ilkley Moor before I left to retrace my steps back to Hebden Bridge.  After a good feed I hit the Pennine Bridleway which would take me all the way back to Middleton Top.  I had considered that I could try and do it all in one hit but time was moving on after my leisurely lunch and I had my bivvy packed again so it didn’t matter anyway.  I was starting to like riding in this way; with no curfew and no set end to the ride, it put me at ease and I was afforded a great freedom, rare for me these days, to just enjoy the ride.

My legs enjoyed the ride too as it happens – I was really starting to feel confidence in my endurance ability coming back.  The start was stiff but as the day wore on my legs just seemed to stop reporting pain and quietly did whatever was asked of them.  After around 30 miles I’d settled into a groove and the ground just rolled beneath my wheels in a steady tempo with the minimum of fuss or resistance.   I was calm and happy.

Eventually the bubble burst though.  Signage in the Greater Manchester area was a bit poor and I messed about a bit finding the way through before running out of water, ironically by three massive reservoirs.  By the time I reached Tintwhistle I was fully dry and stopped at a pub to refuel.

Go on then – I may as well have a chicken Jalfrezi too.

In order to make a good night of it I decided I should bivvy in the dark Peak area and give myself a decent ride the next day so I opted to make for Roych Clough by dark and then find somewhere fun to sleep.  Friday night’s bivvy was great but really from the point of view of testing my kit, it was far too good.  Fortunately the weather had become a little less clement though not too bad.  The temperature at least would drop a bit more so I could get a better idea if I had the right balance of weight and warmth.  Topping out above highgate and approaching Roych Clough I spotted the biggest lump of ground in the immediate vicinity, a peak called south head, and pushed to the top.  The wind getting up a bit by now and as I reached the cairn at the top there was no cover whatsoever.  Perfect I thought; this will give me a good chance to see how comfortable my sleeping kit could be in less than ideal conditions.  The temperature was about 5degC and with the wind chill it was doing a good impression of being quite a bit colder.  If I stuck really close to the ground in the little depression I found then the wind wasn’t so bad.  I weighed down the bivvy bag with my remaining kit, inflated my thermarest and slipped inside.

For a minute there I almost drifted off too but then the needle of the wind-o-meter swung from ‘not that bad actually’ all the way through ‘quite unpleasant now’ and on to ‘everything is going to blow away very soon’.  The covers that were gently flapping under my chin were now battering me in the face.  I tried everything to keep the bag from blowing about but the wind kept upping the stakes.  Eventually it was time to get off the hill.

Somewhat lower and more sheltered I nodded off and woke early morning.  I was happy enough that I could keep warm in my bag without trying that again.

The 50 miles home were fairly un-eventful, my legs kept grinding it out without a hint of complaint.  I climbed out of Cheedale like had been flattened out for me.  It wasn’t fast but pedaling somehow felt as automatic and incidental as breathing and my mind wandered.  A stop for a sausage butty at Parsley Hay and I was still home before lunch.  All in all a cracking few days riding and a good little adventure.  I’ve learnt a lot about my bikepacking set up – a few tweaks and bits and pieces and I reckon i’ll be sorted – plus the constant days in the saddle and the effort of and XC race in the middle have given me the last big training effort I wanted 2 weeks before the UK and European 24hr Champs.  With any luck it might not be so bad after all…

P.s. Another little race…

As its taken me so long to finish this little story the Wiggle Enduro 6 has come and gone too.  A chap at my local cycling club, the Derby Mercury was looking for a pairs partner so I thought why not.  My legs had been stiff all week from last weekends excursions and even gentle road ride Saturday morning was a struggle so I was apprehensive about the night time trial but I went and did it anyway.  I could have done better but it was fun and by the end of it I felt like I had burnt through the sluggishness I had been feeling the last couple of days.  Sunday came and I felt much more on it with consistent and respectable lap times.  The harder I rode the better I felt and though we didn’t trouble the top 10 the whole weekend felt like a success.

I can’t wait for the Solo champs next week.

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