In praise of the bimble

I’ve noticed something with my riding in recent years; with the pressures of work, family, jobs….life, the much needed therapy of a ride gets squeezed in when possible. Or squeezed out entirely.

My rides are no longer lazy explorations of the peak, instead they’re highlights packages – a frantic blast to the best descent, bish bash bosh, back to it.

So it’s a refreshing change to take the foot off the accelerator, pick up a map and go out and explore some trails which I’ve not ridden for many years, if at all. And that was tonight.

A few fun descents, some steady climbs, grassy meadows, sheep, deer, cows, tonnes of flies and not another person in sight. It was bliss.

A quick run along the old railway (dodging the army cadets) and I was soon on perfect meadow singletrack. Ignoring the clouds of flies buzzing round my head, the ride couldn’t have been more picturesque. No rush to the descent – just a bimble along in a field, up the farm track and over towards Haddon Hall.

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You notice things when you ride like that, like the single-prop plane sitting in one of the meadows ready for take off. I think the guy who saw me taking a photo thought I was going to nick it. Little sights make for a memorable ride.

More bimbling and Chatsworth soon came into view, the stately home and the tea rooms of Edensor a welcome change from the spin out over Houndkirk. Jumps and dodging sheep on the drop to the road a very different experience to the gritstone rock of the Dark Peak.

Of course, it’s still nice to have a little bit of a blast in a ride and the golf course descent at Bakewell fits the bill nicely, and pops you out just by the railway again for a spin back to the car; satisfied, relaxed, bimbled.

So give it a go. Pick up a map and string some bridleways together. Embrace the bimble.

This post in honour of @grumpytechnoph1 – get well soon old chap. It’s quieter on the twitter without you riding!

 

A Greek Odyssey – Μια ελληνική οδύσσεια

Dusty trails, baking hot weather, big mountains. Absolutely brilliant riding.

I had the joy last week of riding in Crete, being treated to some properly technical off road loveliness in the hills of Kefala, west of Chania. And that’s thanks to Michalis (Mike – my guide) and Tassos at Ride Culture Café* in Chania itself.

The riding was great.

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Sun. Sea. Singletrack.

The mountains of Crete rise up steeply along much of the island. Though it was 35°C at sea level, there was still snow up on the peaks – they regularly do get a dumping through the winter and spring months.

The slopes are covered in olive groves which cling to the shingly mountain sides, and dotted here and there are lemon and orange trees prime for mid ride refreshment. Up on the higher slopes, the olives give way to shrub-land made up of a mix of spiky brush and oregano – the smell of which floods the senses as you ride. It’s a beautiful landscape of high, sun-soaked peaks and deep wooded valleys populated only by the odd farmer, herds of very warm looking sheep and lots of wary goats.

All in all, very different from riding in the UK. But then again, it wasn’t.

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A much needed rest stop.

Stretching across the length of Crete is the E4 path, a European long distance walking route which starts in Portugal and passes through Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. As we rode up the fire forest  er, shepherd tracks up the hills, Mike told me it was expected to bring walkers into the area but as it was so irregularly used it had fallen into disrepair; that there was only one person he knew who looked after it – him. A more perfect bit of singletrack you couldn’t wish for; sinewy, at parts flowy, at parts technical, the path hugged the steep slopes of Kefala. Over time, Mike had applied his skills as a landscape gardener to build in small kickers, bridges, small berms and drops to the trail to add to the already great fun natural features. At the end we quenched our thirst with some fresh, clean mountain stream water. Of course, a lot of his time is spent repairing bits of the the trail that have been washed away by the heavy rains that come through from time to time.

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The path. The distant hill has a 20 minute descent.

It really was a labour of love for him. Mike had also scouted the hills for even more of these singletrack sheep trails he could use to create great loops in the area. And that is all there is up there. Apart from the E4 and the shepherds’ tracks, there are no paths up on the high peaks, no bridleways, footpaths, byways or BOATS. Here in the UK our peaks have to be reinforced to cope with traffic; over in Crete a rainstorm washes the path away and you simply have a mountain side once more. That’s not to say there can’t be though. The farmers in the area were clearly supportive of Mike riding there – a couple we spoke to were concerned that he’d got in trouble in a snowstorm in winter and were all set to search for him. Another farmer insisted we took oranges from him to refresh us at the end of our ride. All talked to Mike like a grandson. It was great to be part of, even though I could only understand a handful of words.

 

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We didn’t ride all the way up

So what’s stopping Mike leading the way and a network of trails emerging? Aside from time and money, there’s simply not enough people to get an effective community going. There’s a small number of races, and of course some riders – but nothing like here in the UK where we even have people riding up DH tracks we’re competing for space that much 😀

Mike estimated a community of perhaps 500 riders in Greece. 500. In the country. Yet he’s building trails and getting access (he’d succeeded in getting a pass from a national park to be able to ride out of hours!).

So let’s look to our shores. We have tens of thousands of riders in this country. Compared to Greece (national wage; €500. A month), we also have money. If we all apply the pressure in the right way, with the right people, we could really – I think – push for far better access for riders across the UK. Yes, it’s a different country, and yes there are different rules and stuff, but there’s way more of us now and if we get organised behind the likes of Peak District MTB , Ride Sheffield and Open MTB our tens-of-thousands-strong voice will be heard.

Maybe I’m still in holiday mode. Maybe the over the bars stack I had thanks to the reversed brakes has mucked up my cynical mind – but then maybe, just maybe, it takes a visit to somewhere that is a few years behind where we are with MTB in this country to make you realise just how far we have come and just how far we can go with a little bit of effort.

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*Fancy a bit of Crete? I flew to Chania for about £150 return from Leeds-Bradford. Ride Culture cafe is in the Old Harbour area of Chania and an Ibis Mojo HD was €50 with a guide. €35 without. The cafe was also brilliant. They live biking. Now, before I get accused of this being simply an advert, it was a paid for ride I’d organised while I was on holiday and Ride don’t know I’m writing this. And it was so good I wanted you lot to consider going too and helping them build their community a bit – even if it’s a bit more global than perhaps they hoped for!

 

Ok – this may not work. Go go Google Translate!

Dusty μονοπάτια, ζεστό καιρό, μεγάλα βουνά. Απόλυτα λαμπρή ιππασία.

Είχα τη χαρά την περασμένη εβδομάδα στην ιππασία στην Κρήτη, αντιμετωπίζοντάς την σε κάποια τεχνικά ομορφιά εκτός δρόμου στους λόφους της Κεφαλά, δυτικά των Χανίων. Και αυτό είναι χάρη στον Μιχάλη (Mike – ο οδηγός μου) και στον Tassos στο Ride Culture Café * στα ίδια τα Χανιά.

Η ιππασία ήταν μεγάλη.

Τα βουνά της Κρήτης ανεβαίνουν απότομα σε μεγάλο μέρος του νησιού. Αν και ήταν 35 ° C σε επίπεδο θάλασσας, εξακολουθεί να υπάρχει χιόνι πάνω στις κορυφές – παίρνουν τακτικά ένα ντάμπινγκ μέσα στους χειμερινούς και τους ανοιξιάτικους μήνες.

Οι πλαγιές είναι καλυμμένες με ελαιώνες που προσκολλώνται στις πλαγιές των βουνών και διακεκομμένες εδώ και υπάρχουν πορτοκαλιές λεμονιού και πορτοκαλιού για πρωινή ανανέωση. Πάνω στις ψηλότερες πλαγιές, οι ελιές δίνουν τη θέση τους σε θάμνους που αποτελούνται από ένα μείγμα ακανθώδους βούρτσας και ρίγανης – η μυρωδιά της οποίας πλημμυρίζει τις αισθήσεις καθώς οδηγείτε. Πρόκειται για ένα πανέμορφο τοπίο ψηλών, ηλιόλουστων κορυφών και βαθέων δασωμένων κοιλάδων που κατοικούνται μόνο από τον περίεργο αγρότη, κοπάδια πολύ ζεστού προβάτου και πολλά επιφυλακτικά αιγοειδή.

Συνολικά, πολύ διαφορετικά από την ιππασία στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο. Αλλά και πάλι, δεν ήταν.

Η διαδρομή που διασχίζει όλη την Κρήτη είναι η διαδρομή E4, μια ευρωπαϊκή διαδρομή μεγάλων αποστάσεων που ξεκινά στην Πορτογαλία και διέρχεται από την Ισπανία, τη Γαλλία, την Ελβετία, τη Γερμανία, την Αυστρία, την Ουγγαρία, τη Ρουμανία, τη Βουλγαρία και την Ελλάδα. Καθώς βρισκόμασταν στο δάσος πυρκαγιών, ο βοσκός έβγαλε τους λόφους, ο Mike μου είπε ότι αναμενόταν να φέρει περιπατητές στην περιοχή αλλά, καθώς ήταν τόσο ακανόνιστα χρησιμοποιημένος, είχε πέσει σε χαλάρωση. Ότι υπήρχε μόνο ένα άτομο που γνώριζε ποιος το φροντίζει – αυτόν. Ένα πιο τέλειο κομμάτι του singletrack που δεν θα μπορούσατε να το επιθυμήσετε. Σθεναρά, σε μέρη ροής, σε τεχνικά μέρη, η διαδρομή αγκάλιασε τις απότομες πλαγιές του Κεφαλά. Με την πάροδο του χρόνου, ο Mike είχε εφαρμόσει τις δεξιότητές του ως κηπουρός τοπίου για να χτίσει μικρά kickers, γέφυρες, μικρά berms και πέφτει στο μονοπάτι για να προσθέσει στα ήδη μεγάλα διασκεδαστικά φυσικά χαρακτηριστικά. Στο τέλος κατακλύσαμε τη δίψα μας με λίγο φρέσκο, καθαρό νερό βουνού. Φυσικά, πολύς χρόνος δαπανάται για την επισκευή κομμάτια του ίχνους που έχουν ξεπλυθεί από τις έντονες βροχές που περνούν από καιρό σε καιρό.

Ήταν πραγματικά ένας αγώνας αγάπης γι ‘αυτόν. Ο Μάικ είχε επίσης ψάξει τους λόφους για ακόμη περισσότερα από αυτά τα μονοπάτια πρόβατα μονόπλευρων που θα μπορούσε να χρησιμοποιήσει για να δημιουργήσει μεγάλους βρόχους στην περιοχή. Και αυτό είναι όλο που υπάρχει εκεί. Εκτός από τις διαδρομές του Ε4 και των βοσκοτόπων, δεν υπάρχουν διαδρομές πάνω στις ψηλές κορυφές, δεν υπάρχουν δρομολόγια, μονοπάτια, διαβάσεις ή ΣΚΑΦΗ. Εδώ στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο οι κορυφές μας πρέπει να ενισχυθούν για να αντιμετωπίσουν την κυκλοφορία. Πάνω στην Κρήτη μια βροχή καταιγίδα ξεπλένει το μονοπάτι και απλά έχετε μια πλευρά βουνού για άλλη μια φορά. Αυτό δεν σημαίνει ότι δεν μπορεί να υπάρξει. Οι αγρότες στην περιοχή υποστήριζαν σαφώς τον Mike που οδήγησε εκεί – ένα ζευγάρι που μιλήσαμε ανησυχούσε ότι είχε πρόβλημα με χιονοθύελλα το χειμώνα και όλοι ήταν έτοιμοι να τον αναζητήσουν. Ένας άλλος αγρότης επέμενε ότι πήραμε πορτοκάλια από αυτόν για να μας αναζωογονήσουν στο τέλος της διαδρομής μας. Όλοι μιλούσαν με τον Μάικ σαν εγγονός. Ήταν υπέροχο να είμαι μέρος, αν και μπορούσα να καταλάβω μόνο μια χούφτα λέξεων.

Τι σημαίνει να σταματάει ο Mike να οδηγεί τον δρόμο και να αναδύεται ένα δίκτυο διαδρομών; Εκτός από το χρόνο και τα χρήματα, απλά δεν υπάρχουν αρκετοί άνθρωποι για να αποκτήσουν μια αποτελεσματική κοινότητα. Υπάρχει ένας μικρός αριθμός αγώνων, και φυσικά μερικοί αναβάτες – αλλά τίποτα όπως εδώ στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο, όπου έχουμε ακόμη και ανθρώπους που οδηγούν σε διαδρομές DH, αγωνιζόμαστε για χώρο τόσο πολύ: D

Ο Mike εκτιμά μια κοινότητα ίσως 500 αναβατών στην Ελλάδα. 500. Στη χώρα. Ωστόσο, κατασκευάζει μονοπάτια και αποκτά πρόσβαση (είχε καταφέρει να περάσει από ένα εθνικό πάρκο για να μπορέσει να βγει εκτός ωρών!).

Ας δούμε λοιπόν τις ακτές μας. Έχουμε δεκάδες χιλιάδες αναβάτες σε αυτή τη χώρα. Σε σύγκριση με την Ελλάδα (εθνικός μισθός, € 500, ένα μήνα), έχουμε και χρήματα. Εάν όλοι εφαρμόσουμε την πίεση με τον σωστό τρόπο, με τους σωστούς ανθρώπους, θα μπορούσαμε – νομίζω – να πιέσουμε για πολύ καλύτερη πρόσβαση για τους αναβάτες σε όλη τη Βρετανία. Ναι, πρόκειται για μια διαφορετική χώρα και ναι υπάρχουν διαφορετικοί κανόνες και πράγματα, αλλά υπάρχει περισσότερος από εμάς τώρα και αν οργανωθούμε πίσω από τους οπαδούς του Peak District MTB, Ride Sheffield και Open MTB, η φωνή μας δεκάδων χιλιάδων Θα ακουστεί.

Ίσως να είμαι ακόμα σε κατάσταση διακοπών. Ίσως το σωρό των ράβδων που είχα χάρη στα αναστρεφόμενα φρένα έχει μολύνει το κυνικό μυαλό μου – αλλά ίσως, ίσως, ίσως να επισκεφθεί κανείς κάπου που είναι μερικά χρόνια πίσω από το σημείο όπου είμαστε με τον ΜΤΒ σε αυτή τη χώρα για να σας φτιάξουμε Συνειδητοποιήστε πόσο μακριά έχουμε έρθει και πόσο μακριά μπορούμε να προχωρήσουμε με λίγη προσπάθεια.

Φανταστείτε λίγο στην Κρήτη; Πέταξα στα Χανιά για επιστροφή περίπου £ 150 από το Leeds-Bradford. Το Ride Culture cafe βρίσκεται στην περιοχή του παλιού λιμανιού των Χανίων και το Ibis Mojo HD ήταν 50 € με οδηγό. € 35 χωρίς. Το καφέ ήταν επίσης λαμπρό. Ζουν ποδηλασία. Τώρα, προτού να κατηγορήσω ότι ήταν απλώς μια αγγελία, ήταν μια πληρωμένη για βόλτα που είχα οργανώσει ενώ ήμουν σε διακοπές. Και ήταν τόσο καλό που ήθελα πολύ να εξετάσετε το ενδεχόμενο να πάτε πάρα πολύ

A duck’s quack doesn’t echo

I’ve been thinking about the whole world of advocacy recently. If you’re reading this, you probably know that I bong on about responsible riding, letter writing, going to meetings and producing things like The Advocacy Files a fair bit. Sorry if it’s tiresome. Not sorry really. 

But is it all wasted effort?

Again, if you’re reading this you probably recognise the value of the work of groups like Peak District MTB, Ride Sheffield, Open MTB and dare I say it, KoftheP. 

You are the echo chamber. 

But does it really make a jot of difference if such a huge proportion of riders either don’t know about the effort being put in, or more worryingly – simply don’t care?

It’s a very fine line; being seen as a trusted guide or the bloody “fun police”. 

And god knows those of us heavily involved in advocacy work hate being called the bloody fun police. 

Folks, we’ve all been there, we’ve all ridden it. We just recognise what can come from some give and take. And we’re the ones in the room finally having the conversations which are making the difference to access. There are, however, shedloads of people online who couldn’t give a monkeys’.

So let’s assume that all of you reading this think that advocacy – the boring stuff – is worthwhile. What can you all do to help? Well, there’s the obvious step of getting involved in a dig day or chipping money into a crowd fund [do it, bloody important and really worthwhile!]. But what about the less obvious stuff? Share the message, advise online, have the argument with the ‘i ride where I like crowd’ and help promote what it’s all about. What do you reckon you can do? Individual? Media folk? What can you  do

It’s not all about ‘the end’. Sometimes it’s about the ‘means to an…’

Do you know what? Screw it, be the bloody fun police, cos the fun police are fighting FOR fun, not against it, and if you join the force you’ll get even better biking sooner than you might think. 

Nee nar, nee nar.

The Advocacy Files – a celebration of effort

coverThere’s some really, really excellent work being done by the mountain biking community right now. From crown jewel projects like Ride Sheffield’s trails in Lady Cannings plantation, to more subtle activity like Peak District MTB’s ongoing dialogue with Severn Trent Water; across the region a small number of dedicated individuals are putting in their time and effort to improve things for the community in the UK.

And they’ve made some huge steps forward. 

The MTB voice is now heard loud and clear in debates around access, trail development and maintenance. And of course we’ve got some brilliant stuff to ride.

Now, Ride Sheffield, Peak District MTB and Keeper of the Peak have joined forces to produce The Advocacy Files, a celebration of just some of that brilliant work that’s being done. More importantly, the booklet gives some key insights into what it took to get those projects off the ground and what lessons the groups have learned from the process.

With pages of individual case studies, it’ll give groups a clear idea of what it takes to get things moving. More than that, it’s clear evidence of the work the mountain biking community puts in to drive forward the responsible and constructive growth of the sport.

Take it. Copy it. Share it. Nick examples, use the content here to inform how you and your groups do stuff.  And if you want to be in it, get in touch.

Below you can see the individual case studies. Over time, as more come in I’ll group them by topic but for now this will do.

 

What do you reckon? Comment below.

Bikes, generally are SILENT KILLERS

18033342_10156015442092802_8392851346326661438_n (1)You might have seen recently a poster online which was up in a Leicestershire bike shop talking about how to pass horses safely when you’re on your bike. It’s all pretty simple stuff and basically suggests that you should make your voice heard so that the horse knows you’re a person sitting on top of something rather than something more dangerous.

Such as a Findus crispy pancake chef.

The writer, after giving this really quite helpful, cooperative advice also wishes riders to “ENJOY YOUR RIDE!!” which is nice.

Good stuff all round and the way our groups should be working together – helping each other understand our respective concerns and support one another’s activity.

Unfortunately, there’s one phrase that’s making a bit more noise in the online two-wheeled world than the overall positive intent of the poster.

“Bicycles, generally, are SILENT KILLERS”. Er?? What? Eh? Come again.

Now, the knee jerk response is to get all wound up and angry. Silent killers??!! SILENT KILLERS??!!! HOW VERY DARE YOU?!

But I just think there’s a bit of context missing to that line. Let’s add it in.

“To a horse, bicycles, generally, are SILENT KILLERS. The horse simply does not understand what a bike is. Your hub sounds like a warning buzz. By announcing you are there, the horse will recognise you’re a friend and relax.”

Makes sense now doesn’t it? Basic common sense too. I once saw a horse panic and sit on a car bonnet. Seeing the mess it made of that Mondeo, I’d really rather #BeNiceSayHi than go all James Herriott on a ride. Even if something has been worded badly.

Riders, be they on wheels or hooves, have a finite network of paths we can use, but together we’re making it bigger. Let’s keep working together. Share the poster. Share this post. Share the trail.

And to quote the horse above, “ENJOY THE RIDE!!”

KoftheP (Natural Born Silent Killer)

Rise to the bait or bite your tongue?

IMAG1135I had a fantastic ride today. 18 miles in one of the quieter corners of the peak, a few muddy puddles, a few drainage channels kicked clear, some excellent descents (one thumping fall)….and two weird, unexpected challenges to us just being out on our bikes.

What do you do? Argue or bite your tongue?

Try the first one. Rocky descent done and dusted, linking two bridleways together on a road stretch. One rider way out in front and off up the turning already, then me and my friend riding two abreast having a chat. On the pavement; a chap walking a dog

“Morning!” I say, “Lovely day for it!”

“Morning!” he says, “It is!”

Then a few seconds later, “RIDE SINGLE FILE”

Rise to it? Ignore it?

The second, get to a gate to find a large group of pensioners sheltering behind the wall having a lovely picnic. Small talk.

“Was it you we saw coming down the other side?”, “Yeah that was us”, “We heard you first”, “Oh”.

Then delivered through a sweet, sweet smile; “Are you going to go and churn it all up some more then?” As we sat at the top of the rocky, resilient, specifically chosen Coldwell Clough.

What do you say? It’s a real Catch 22. Respond with evidence [EXHIBIT ONE, YOUR HONOUR] oh, and [EXHIBIT TWO, TOO, AND THREE, AND FOUR], or just ignore it?

The trouble is, you argue and mountain bikers are seen as argumentative. You don’t and we’re see as effectively in agreement with what we’re being accused of. Catch 22.

I offered a couple of answers but the moment had gone.

How do you approach that kind of thing? Comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut Gate Path – Let’s talk about it

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It’s an outline of a debate….

You’ll have no doubt seen online recently that I’ve been doing a bit of work with Ride Sheffield and Peak District MTB on looking at what can be done (or indeed, needs to be done) on Cut Gate.

It’s time for you to join the debate.

You hear “at this time of year it’s best avoided” quite a lot regarding the path, but over the last few years that “time of year” has seemingly spread for about 11 months with two golden weeks in summer where it’s rideable and two frosty weeks in winter when it’s frozen.

The worry is that the collective effect of riders, walkers, horses and others up there has had an impact on the moorland – it’s just mountain bikers always seem to get the finger pointed at them.

We’ve worked on a document  that looks at the problem and suggests possible actions to take. It’s going to be shared far and wide to get as many thoughts and opinions as we can on what people think needs to happen. It’s certainly going to create a debate – and that can only be a good thing.

Even better, the document has the endorsement and support of the Peak District National Park, Sheffield City Council and The Outdoor City as well as 18 Bikes, Bike Garage and of course RS and PDMTB.

It’s a truly collaborative effort.

It’s going to be shared with the local access forum as well as other interested groups to begin the process of getting feedback. You can see it online from Ride Sheffield or Peak District MTB. Take a look. Share it. Discuss it on the pages.

Join the debate online and keep up your support!

#cutgate