Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fremington, Pinseat & Old Gang

It's been a couple of months months since I was last out in the Dales and almost 4 since I was last at Reeth. A combination of bad weather, other commitments and the odd ailment conspiring to make me miss every ride that's been over there within that time, so I was really looking forward to today's ride.
The weather was pretty iffy when I left home, pouring with rain and just looking miserable, so I put on my full waterproofs. Within about 15 minutes of setting off from Reeth village green this proved to be a mistake. The weather was turning brighter by the minute and by the time we hit the climb up to Fremington Edge I was overheating big style. This led to an enforced stop to shed the waterproof trousers and let the legs breathe and cool a bit!

Barely 200m further up the hill I was forced to make another stop, this time for mechanical reasons. My rear brake had gone and the spring clip was clicking against the rotor as I pedaled. Barely 5 minutes were needed to change the pads over and I was off again, thankful that I'd found out about that brake on this climb, and not on the descent through the old quarry later on!
Once at the top of Fremmy Edge it's David's turn to be bike mechanic, as he discovers that his brake rotor is loose. A quick application of the torx driver on my multitool is all that it needs, and once that's sorted we continue over Marrick Moor to Hurst, enjoying the fast, stoney blast down to the road.

Left at the road and a short while later we're back offroad and onto the track that leads through Hind Rake and on to Fell End Lead Mine. The descent through the old mine workings/quarry is one of my favourite, fairly loose to start with with some decent step downs and good little hairpin, then getting a bit firmer and faster as the track becomes more grassy. Unfortunately the grassy bit had become a bit sodden, especially near a braking point where the track darts between a couple of walls. A total lack of traction led to two offs from other riders and in me taking it sideways, speedway style, and lucky to stay on.
At the bottom we hit the river and track along it to Langthwaite village, where the pub always looks very tempting - but never quite tempting enough!

From Langthwaite we took a route we'd never done before, turning left onto the main road then right onto the first bridleway off it, just before Arkle Town. This proved to be a right royal slog, steep and soft, not soft enough to make riding impossible but enough to make it feel like the brakes had locked on. I plodded on up it in granny gear all the way, happy to make it to the top and look back at the rest of the gang straggled out behind. I was more than a little surprised to see Doug right behind me!

A short but very welcome bit of tarmac now, down to the ford crossing at Fore Gill. This was the first of very many ford crossings we'd make today, all of which Tony wanted to video - "Sealskinz in action". This meant we all splashed through it as fast as possible, spraying as much water as we could. Most of it ended up all over us, and a good deal on Tony too.

We spent a good while after this messing about with Tony's forks. I made the mistake of "trying his bike" and found that the forks didn't seem to compress at all, like riding with lockout on. Somehow he hadn't noticed... We oiled them, let air out, put air in, nothing seemed to really work. We put it back to how it was - if he hadn't noticed anything was wrong, perhaps he still wouldn't...

Further on down the tarmac then off to the right up the track to Surrender Ground and Great Pinseat, another slog of a climb, but easier for being on stone track rather than grass. As we started the climb the sun was out good and proper and it was a real glorious day. Great, because this is one of my favourite areas and it looks way better in sunshine.

Half an hour later we were at the summit, the lunar-landscape looking pretty spectacular, and the promise of a good descent just over the rise.

The descent through Forefield Rake is one of my favourites. Steep enough to give you a good blast of speed and not technical enough to make you have to take undue care, the greatest danger comes from the looseness of the surface as the track snakes its way down the hill. The rear end twitched once or twice as loose corners were taken at high speed. The downhill fun ends at a gate, beyond which was yet another ford that Tony wanted to video us through.

By now my socks were quite wet enough - one thing about waterproof socks is that when water DOES get in, it doesn't get out again! And it's only a couple of hundred meters to the next, but still by no means the final, ford of the day, beyond which the downhill fun begins again with the very high speed descent down the course of Flincher Gill, Hard Level Gill and Old Gang Beck. There's usually nothing more than a bit of loose stone and your own lack of skill or courage to deter you from going flat out down here, but today extra excitement was added in the way of some washed out gullies that have appeared, running left to right across the trail at regular intervals. A bit of high speed jumping is all that is required to clear them and in no time (about 2 1/2 minutes) we're at Old Gang Smelt Mills for the requisite photo stop.

Downwards still for the final dash to the road then it's straight over and past the smelting mill, except that in my excitement I've gone and picked up the footpath rather than the bridleway so we have to track back across the moor a bit to get back on course. That course takes us to the difficult crossing of Bleaberry Gill. Coming east to west it's at least rideable down to the gill, with a difficult push up the other side. Coming west to east, as we were now, it was just a difficult push both down and up - and crossing the gill presented its own challenges too.

.. all of which pales into insignificance compared to the stile-in-the-wall at the top of the bank, requiring us to team up and shuttle the bikes over the top one by one.

Not much left to do now. We cross a damp and muddy moor and head for Thiernswood Hall, descending across moorland that we've climbed several times and thought "this would be a better downhill". While that is true, it's actually not a very exciting or rewarding downhill and pretty soon we're out at the road, with what used to be my least favourite road slog, the 1 1/2 miles back to Reeth from Helaugh. I didn't mind it today, my legs felt empowered and the distance passed in no time.

Afters, as usual, at The Dales Bike Centre where Bren has baked a double batch of scones for us. Not one to pass up scones Tony has one there and takes two home with him. Most of the rest of us have one each, and the baked bean toasties go down well too.

Reeth - Fremington Edge, Hurst, Langthwaite, Pinseat, Old Gang, Helaugh: 17 miles, 2946' of climb in 4 hours dead, with a whole hour and a half stood still fixing bikes, videoing puddles and shuttling bikes over walls.

Full stats and GPX download available on GarminConnect.

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