Cut Gate: bright lights, big city, northerners

It’s not every day you find yourself in the Houses of Parliament. But today, me and Si from Ride Sheffield went along to the official launch of the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign – representing the Cut Gate project alongside the Peak District National Park.

With talks from the BMC and Alan Hinkes OBE – the only Briton to have climbed all 14 mountains over 8000 metres – the campaign kicked off with great support from the hundred or so present, under the watchful eyes of Cromwell and Churchill.

It was amusing to hear “we’ve even got some mountain bikers here” at one point, but said in good humour it was recognition of where we are as a group now – getting a fair say in decisions that affect us.

Take a look at the vid I’ve quickly put together featuring Sarah Fowler, Chief Exec of the Peak District National Park Authority , the ever erudite Si and some fella from Peak District MTB talking about Bob Geldof.

What a start to the campaign – thanks to everyone for your support so far. Now it’s over to you!

#cutgate

#mendourmountains

Mendmountains.thebmc.co.uk

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Mend Our Mountains: Cut Gate Path

219 BMC MOM PARTNERSHIP LOGO FINAL SMALL BLACK V4

Today we launch our Cut Gate campaign.

Cut Gate is one of the those paths that comes up time and time again on @KoftheP. Normally it’s a “what’s Cut Gate like?” question. Pretty regularly, it’s a conditions update. Very, very rarely it’s an update which says “Cut Gate’s great, ride it”. Perhaps only after a baking few days, or in a deep freeze.

So it’s a great, great privilege to be in the position to do something about it.

Cut Gate has been adopted by the BMC as one of its primary projects in the Mend Our Mountains campaign Conversations were kicked off by Ride Sheffield, and working with Peak District MTB, the “Cut Gate thing” was first picked up by the Peak District National Park Authority, supported by the horse riding and walking groups locally and eventually selected as one of the primary Mend Our Mountains projects. It’s fair to say we didn’t expect that!

It’s fantastic recognition for this collaborative project and is something I’ve been proud to be heavily involved in from the early days.

So what’s going on?

Well working with Moors for the Future – the PDNPA supported conservation group – we’ve pulled together a plan to sensitively patch up the various boggy bits up top while maintaining the character of the trail. Every one of us involved in the project loves Cut Gate for the same reasons you do – so to be leading the conversation on how it should be sorted is exactly where we need to be. Even better; very influential groups are willing to support us both financially and in every other way.

But enough of this. WE NEED YOUR HELP.

Tomorrow our pages will be live so get over to cutgate.org to get the full details on the ‘Cut Gate thing’.

Second, tell everyone you know about it. And get them to support it however they can! We need just about everything people, groups and businesses can do: pure cash, sponsorship, promotion, moral support, everything. But mainly money. Please chip in what you can. You’ll find a range of information on cutgate.org

So, shamelessly, Cut Gate will form a big part of what I’m bonging on about for the next few months. And I see no shame in that. You want to ride Cut Gate. I want to ride Cut Gate. Let’s sort it so we can.

Press release| Posters | Flyer | Business

*Thanks to supporters so far: Magic Rock Brewery for Bike Day, Paul Testa Architecture for printing and Radventure for the awesome photos.

A step in the right direction

It’s fair to say that in the last few years, the relationship between the local mountain biking community and Derbyshire County Council has not been where anybody would like it to be. We all know the history and ongoing tussles, but we keep on keeping on, hoping that as we continue to demonstrate how well a relationship can work that things may just improve.

With the local elections this summer came a change of leadership at Derbyshire County Council. With new people at the top, could we do something to reset the relationship and change the way we work together. Worth a try eh?

 

Following the election I* contacted the leader of the council – via Twitter – to see if we could look at how we work together and try to improve things. He responded positively and, following a few weeks of trying to line up diaries, yesterday I headed off to the council offices for a chat with the acting cabinet member for Highways at Derbyshire County Council.

And it was a good meeting.

I can’t go into too much detail about what we discussed – nor would I want to over promise anything – but rest assured that I’m confident that we’ll begin seeing some positive changes in how DCC works with us.

No cards were left off the table, nothing was glossed over. I had an incredibly frank and open discussion about how we’ve found ourselves in this situation, how we think things can be better, how we’d like to see things improve and what we as a community can do to help.

And yes, we did talk about Chapel-en-le-Frith BOAT 144 aka Rushup.

So, watch this space. I came out of the meeting feeling very positive about what we can do and in the coming weeks I should be able to share more. I’ll also be at the Peak District MTB AGM next week, so if you’d like to talk to me about it, join up and come along.

Oh, and it’s the third anniversary of the Rushup debacle on Monday – what a birthday present eh?

 

*To clear up any confusion – KoftheP (me) got in touch with DCC, but I happen to be on the PDMTB committee too so could draw on the strength of both groups in the conversation. It’s all pulling in the same direction! 

 

Tipping point

There are some very exciting things happening in the advocacy world at the minute. 

Firstly, the Cycling UK campaign to open up the trails across Wales. It feels like we’re on the cusp of another huge step forward that’s right up there with the Land Reform Act which opened Scotland up and – dare I say it – the Kinder Mass Trespass of 1932, which gave us the access to moors we cherish today. 

If it turns out as we hope, the trails of Wales  will open to riders, bar a few exemptions. 

What a coup that would be. 

Secondly, Open MTB. They are a uniting force for the various MTB groups out there and provide a single, coordinated voice for our efforts.

And finally, those efforts themselves. Up and down the country more and more riders are getting involved in stuff that puts mountain biking in a really positive light – from big projects like the Wales campaign down to even the simplest thing like picking up litter on a trail. Join your local advocacy group to get involved. 

I don’t know about you, but it feels like it’s working. I’ve had far fewer difficult conversations with other users out on the trails; the conversations with authorities are much easier and they’re open to us leading thinking on things; the support we’re getting is increasing in formally opposed places. Am I being overly optimistic? Naive? Maybe, but as the popularity of mountain biking increases and the Be Nice Say Hi/Don’t be a d***/rider responsibility ethos gets out there more and more, it really feels to me that things are looking good for the years ahead. 

What do you think? 

A vote for you

21442924_10159219520050587_1814290550_nToday I had the brilliant news that I was nominated for a Singletrack Magazine Reader Award for Best Online Service. Though I knew a couple of people were intending on nominating me (thank you!), I never thought I’d be shortlisted as a finalist. And to be nominated alongside such brilliant services as the Ordnance Survey and SixthElement is astounding. Thank you.

But it’s not really a vote for me. It’s a vote for you. KoftheP is you – every single one of you who takes that few moments to drop me an update on your ride. That little update you send in has a massive impact, not only for the places you ride or your fellow riders who use your update to decide where to go for a pedal; but also for mountain bikers as a whole.

Your tweet shows that we care about where we ride, that we’re responsible, and that we will play a part in looking after it. That has helped to unlock a huge load of positive responses from formerly challenging groups.

There’s more to do of course, but that’s all part of the fun. And what can you do to help? Just keep on tweeting to KoftheP.

Thank you all – it really means a lot.

Oh, and vote!!!!! Go and vote for Keeper of the Peak in the Singletrack Reader Awards.

 

Thanks as always to Peak District MTB, Ride Sheffield and the Peak District National Park Authority for your support.

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