Sunday, 8 November 2009

Osmotherley: Gloopfest

"Mostly hard track so not too much mud" read the invite to this ride. Great, after the last couple of rides the chance to stay largely mud-free would be very welcome.

We set off from Square Corner and headed off across to Stilton Forest. A nice, but wet, bit of forest singletrack brought us out onto fire roads and the fast drop down to Over Silton. All that loss of height meant just one thing - a tough climb coming up in the shape of my least favourite hill, Kepwick Bank. I don't know what it is about that hill - probably the fact that it levels out at a gate part way up, making you think it's all over when the reality is there's still a fair slog left! The new Trailraker tyres didn't make this climb any easier, but then what do you want? Grip when it gets gloopy or fast rolling on the roads, you can't have it all ways.

With Kepwick Bank out of the way it was obvious there was only one way we could go now - back down. We headed along the Drove Road a short way then cut off right down towards Boltby Forest on a fast, rutted and fairly muddy doubletrack. Thankfully this didn't lose us all our height, I wouldn't fancy another climb like Kepwick Bank so soon after the last one. A little meandering through Boltby Forest and we were back up onto the Drove Road and heading for Noddle End.

A long, uneventful grassy track eventually ends at an almost vertical plummet down a grassy/rocky bank. Some walkers informed us that we couldn't ride it - "it's too steep". Steep wasn't an issue. What was an issue was rain and cows, never a good mix. The bank had been churned into a sodden mess of potholes, ruts, mud and cow shit that made riding difficult on the upper section and impossible on the lower.

Descending At Noddle End

We left Noddle End via our least favorite natural obstacle - a muddy field full of cows with their calves. One of them got a bit frisky and took a shine to Neil, galloping off after him, jumping and high-kicking as it went. I think it was better that Neil hadn't realised what was happening, it would only have paniced him.

This was the lowest point of the ride (in terms of elevation) so now there was 6 1/2 miles of continuous uphill. Some of it steep, some of it gradual, all of it a right slog in the mud and wheel-deep puddles. The promise of a mud-free ride was ringing very hollow. All of the gloop had stripped our chains of lube too, and chain suck was affecting most of us. The shit had even killed Neil's rear mech, reducing him to a three speeder. That drag up the hill from Arden Hall has never seemed so long!

Mud Mud Glorious Mud
The new mud tyres were put to good use

6 miles and an hour's hard slog later we were at the top of The Mad Mile. Thankfully now the only way is down. (Has this suffered some erosion at the top? It was a lot less rocky but a lot more loose than I remembered it). Down we flew, passing a good few of our second-least favourite natural obstacles - walkers. Most of them were good enough to shift out of the way, though some were quite slow to do so. I've never passed so many people as I did here, and it was impossible to let the brakes off and fly down - there would have been a very nasty accident.

So back at the cars and no one had stolen the knee and elbow pads that Neil had left on the boot of his car. This probably says more about the quality of the product than the honesty of the people around ;-)

This ride knackered me more than anything I've done in the last few months, and I was very glad of that. I'd been needing a hard workout and pushing the pace on that 6 mile drag to The Mad Mile was just what my legs and lungs were needing.

Square Corner - Silton - Boltby - Noddle End . 
19 miles; 2475ft of climb; 3hrs46mins.

Probably the muddiest ride since the last time we passed through Kepwick, but fun and a good workout.

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