The Peak District

This was a trip I had been looking forward to for a long time. I had to go over to Manchester for a meeting and the next day could just as easily fly back in the evening as the morning, giving me a bit over a half a day to go mountain biking in the Peak District. I had last been cycling there when I was a student in nearby Sheffield, way before mountain bikes were ever heard of, so had only been off-road there on foot. At the beginning of March it would not be so warm, but at least spring should be on the way.

My plans were almost scuppered when I discovered that my day there coincided with the day-off for the local bike hire shop. But fortunately James, of Bike Garage in Bamford was incredibly helpful and arranged for a bike to be delivered to my B&B even though he was closed. And indeed when I arrived on Wednesday evening my landlady (of Thornhill View B&B ; definitely recommended), told me that the bike was there, safely locked up in the garage. The next day I opened the blinds to discover that I could not see though the window. I stuck my head out of the door to discover that everything was white and that it was still snowing.

Thornhill view cottage

What to do?  Plan A was to cycle Kinder Scout via Jacob's Ladder and Plan B was to do a loop to the West of Ladybower. On the basis that Kinder Scout is popular, so there would be people around if anything went wrong, I headed off in that direction. The snow on the road was damp but not slippery and the main hindrance was that as passing vehicles moved around me, they splatted the damp snow and salt mix from the middle of the road into my face, which was not so pleasant. But as I made my way further uphill, along the side of Mam Tor there were soon more hikers and dog walkers than cars and in between the snow showers there were quite spectacular views.

Hope Valley

At the end of the road I turned off onto the track leading West towards Rushup Edge. The snow was deeper there, and there were no more footprints or paw prints to indicate the way. It was also getting more exposed with the wind gusting to speeds in which it was difficult to stand up in and then the cloud came down reducing visibility as well. It was clear that Kinder Scout would have to wait for another day. What now? Plan B was just as exposed, so that was no good. I remembered from my student days that there was an easy track around Ladybower Reservoir, so decided to head that way. Shooting down the road in that direction I realised that the bike I'd hired was not as slow as I thought, but in fact it had been quite a steady climb up to Mam Tor, and so going the other way I was back to my starting point and on towards the reservoir in no time. Fortunately the valley was sheltered from the strong winds (although apparently also from a mobile phone connection, which was less convenient) and there had also been enough snow on the road to make that track a little bit of a challenge in places. And the monochrome views were spectacular.

Ladybower

Bike Garage had rented me a great Trek Remedy full-suspension mountain bike, which certainly helped with the snow, although I was a bit disappointed not to get to try it out on the rougher ground it was designed for. My own bike is only a couple of years old, but this one had some features that have become common since then, showing the technology is still developing quite fast, despite the advanced state of mountain bikes these days. Firstly, it had a dropper post.  Of course, that is completely unnecessary in the relative flat countryside round Wageningen, but after even a couple of hours I could see just how useful it was in the hills. The only thing was that the lever to control it was exactly where one of the gear shifters is on my own bike, so I repeatedly 'changed gear' only to find the saddle sinking down instead. There was also a bit of rotational play in the seat post, which I read is normal, but nevertheless not really what you want. The lever for the dropper post could be where my gear lever is because the bike had the modern configuration of just one cog at the front and a large range at the back.  I can see that it is convenient not to have to shift on the front cogs because indeed there is always the chance of it jamming under load, i.e. just when you need it most when going up a steep hill.  But would the limited range be enough? As I sped down the road between Mam Tor and Ladybower I noticed that the top range indeed seemed a bit limited. However, that was just how it felt and when I got home and saw the gps data, I saw that in fact I was going faster than I can normally pedal, so in fact that reflected the speed of the bike more than a problem with the range. I was less convinced at the lower range, however. The slopes were not that steep, although the snow required a lower gear than normal, but even so I was surprised that occasionally I found myself in the lowest gear. I would need to try it out in more normal conditions, but I must confess I was a bit sceptical.

Trek Remedy

Despite resorting to Plan C, I got back to the B&B at more or less the time planned.  Time enough to get a shower, cup of tea and get to the station. Unfortunately having got there, it became apparent after a bit that Northern railways had cancelled the train (although there was no announcement). The station was unstaffed, but there was a button to press for help and they promised to send a taxi instead. That would have been great service, but unfortunately they sent the taxi to Stockport, 50 km away. By the time that was sorted and I finally got to the airport many hours later, it was ten minutes after the gate closed, so there was no option to stay another night nearby. Plan D.