The first ride to share, in early September, was this special Scott Mountain Bike Marathon in honour of Charlie van der Craig, Nick’s 15 year old son. In early in 2017 he tragically just didn’t wake up one morning. Nick and his family have handled this unthinkable loss with dignity and bravery. Fittingly when all were assembled over 1000 folk had turned up to contribute to the Ride for Charlie charity and take part in this ride in his memory.

This mass of riders were all squeezed into a car park in the Hope Valley, ideally as it naturally filtered riders straight from the word go. I was fairly near the front as the horn blew; as always a continual stream of riders overtook me and I continually overtook others. My 2017 year has been a theme of not really getting into specific training, outside of events themselves (apart from the 24hr Mountain Mayhem), so just my road commutes and the odd MTB/road weekend blasts have kept me going. My base fitness allows me to manage them all but without any real oompphhh, and it was same again with this ride. There were good climbs through out, most of which were rideable, but due to no back brake, I was mincing down. There was a particular stretch of loose golf ball sized stones that seemed to last about a mile. Applying only a front brake caused a very weird tail fishing effect. Despite this I LOVED this Scott MTB course. I appreciate in order to get us to the top of great trails some pushing is required and the Hope Valley views were fantastic. The route didn’t seem to have those long wheel-grabbing grassy moorland stretches or tiny singletrack with a severe drop off the left side (Builth Wells I think), elements which elicit squeeky bum moments.

Infact I was enjoying it so much and having a great chat that I, and a large number of other riders, missed the turn off for the last loop of the full marathon. The signage had been poor and the marshal not very effective. We ended up entering the arena to finish a Half Marathon of 50K and only 1300m of climbing, instead of 70K with much more ascending! Many turned around again to complete. For me the choice to go back out, and wonder whether I’d make it down another downhill without crashing with my solo front brake, or having the option of the spending the rest of the day with my family, meant I didn’t u-turn and called it a day. This ride commemoration was about family so it was an apt finish. Phil @spillipe and the girls had easily completed the Mini Marathon, commenting how many more children there were on this ride. Excellent to see a new generation getting the cycling bug. So we set off home for our roast dinner and relaxing Sunday evening, marvelous.

The second organised ride was completely different. Having started off with being in a group of 4 riders on a London Rapha Prestige last year, we have developed an ever-increasing group of ladies looking for a different road-riding landscape/experience. Everyone is full of drive and determination to enjoy biking to the maximum possible so it was a great group to be adventuring with.

Having biked across Northern Scotland in the spring, this time we chose to tackle hills in the Peak District. Bar myself everyone is based around London, making it a logistical challenge to transport multiple riders and their bikes to different UK locations, seamlessly executed by Jo’s @joannafdawes meticulous planning. We therefore rendezvoused in Macclesfield Friday evening. Macclesfield was chosen due to this direct short leap from London and at only 1 hr 40 mins a quick link. I got there by riding to work in the morning and then 35 odd miles from Rochdale to Bollington late Friday afternoon. All the others were successfully deposited by a couple of trains direct from Euston.

Friday night conversations reflected some trepidation about the size and quantity of the hills to come. Saturday’s loop was heavy on the hills to start but then we were to be rewarded with the last section being totally flat. The trepidation was also due to the weather. It was wet, with no real forecast of it lifting and we were routed on some exposed moorlands. On my part hills, although not always fun or fast, are part and parcel of living on the edge of the West Pennines so I was not quite as worried. It’s about just turning those pedals and grinding upwards. My own concern was the chest and ear infection I had just finished. What if I was resurrecting it again, leaving myself floored again for the following week?

So…we set off Saturday morning with our first hill, almost straight out the blocks, being the famous Brickworks. Whether it was the great company or nervous energy, it did not seem to be the brutal climb espoused by others. We all reached to top in reasonable shape and warmed up. Marta @mart_cc_, one of our group, had secured us all with a riding jacket or gilet from a new company Metier @metiercycling. These guys have developed self-powered outerwear, which are not only great looking, but have embedded LED strips front and back to heighten visibility when out on the bike. This is by means of a small re-chargeable battery sits in the back pocket. These were excellent in the rain, windproof for the downhills and also warm when grinding uphill. In the awful conditions we experienced they showed their practicality and quality well.

Our ride became a rhythm of grinding up hills, taking the view from the top, flying down the other side. We looped east towards Buxton, taking in Mam Tor, turning south across the tops of the A54, West to The Cat and the Fiddle Pub territory, all through continual climbs and descents to stop for lunch at Marton. By this time we were soaked and battered by the wind. Our lunch stop, Pesto at the Davenport Arms @PestoRestaurant, Marton, was the most cycle welcoming pub I have ever been too. We took our shoes off and put them on the radiator, and all our wet kit was hung all over the place to dry with nothing but friendly help from the staff. Great food and warm drinks completely revived us. Our last flat blast west, past the very impressive Jodrell Bank Observatory, and north to Bollington seemed a breeze even though the heavens had really opened and it we were riding through shallow streams rather than roads. My Exposure lights complimented the Metier lighting to ensure were were safe in the reduced visibility.

Sunday proved to be much better weather. We had views! The whole reason for the journey into the peaks was justified and sweeping down hills and landscapes were evident around us. My first climb of the day, back up the Brickworks, was hard, harder than the previous day. There was an emerging group split in speed. As everyone is lovely there was resistance to split into two groups however once agreed it made it easier on those of us at the back, and faster for those at the front. Sunday’s loop was a figure of 8 and heading to and then north of Buxton. We took in Long Hill, which was exactly as described and my favourite on the trip. ‘Group A’ found a great café in Chapel-en-le-Frith, and we re-grouped to marvelous flapjacks and coffee. With imminent trains to catch back to London we finished the routes as either one loop and back to the hotel, through Poynton and Disley, or for those who wished, the second smaller flatter loop around Wilmslow. What an absolutely excellent weekend with a group of funny, interesting, committed and enthusiastic riders. Thanks so much Katie and Jo, as the main drivers on these trips and great company of Teresa, Laura, Michaela, Marta, Katie Br and Janine. The next one will be even more awesome.

#teamjmc #preparedtoride #metiercycling #use_exposure #cooksoncycles