“Can I take the bike?”
Ric heads to the Lake District for a little rock’n'roll.
My wifes Uncle Derek’s 60th – that’s the reason behind our little spin to the Lake District. The motorway-heavy drive is long and dull, a van has overturned on the opposite carriageway closing all three lanes. When we pass it, the cutters have already peeled its roof open like a sardine can. Cardboard boxes lie broken in a pile inside and the faces of the people stuck at a standstill for mile after mile look equally as devastated.
Finally, we arrive in Keswick and there’s no doubting the epic surroundings. Outdoor shops seem to occupy every corner (a taxi driver later tells us that they’re a nightmare as locals can’t actually buy anything ‘of use’ in town any more) and we begin to feel like the youngest people in the area .
Saturday morning and after a heavy night on the beers, I’m 20 minutes late to meet Clive Forth, my old mate from MTBSkills.eu. Going for a ride with Clive is a bit like stepping into the ring with a heavyweight boxer – you know you’re going to take a battering, it’s just a question of how long you can last. As we start the first climb chatting away, he’s more like a bantamweight, dancing along on his Transition Bandit. His eyes always scanning ahead, breathing never laboured, every motion calculated and smooth.
We reach the top of Jenkins Crag and I feel anything but. The hangover I’ve been so doggedly dodging catches up with me and as we level out I stop fearing an oncoming wave of acidic, yeasty vomit. Five minutes later though and it’s under control and we crack on. I still feel horrendous but soft-pedalling along behind Forth seems to get me through it.
The Garburn Pass is our target and after a lot more techy climbing (and some more pushing from me) we get to the top. The views below us our epic and the grey skies seem to think better of raining on our parade. Clive isn’t happy – since he was last here the pass has been filled with deep gravel. It’s technically still a road so we can understand why. The smoother surface just makes the descent faster and there’s still the odd lump of rock to launch from and drainage shelf to clear.
The wide, smooth pass quickly gives way to tight stone wall-lined lanes and coffee jar-sized rocks. It’s loose going and keeping my speed up involves locking on to Clive’s back wheel and delicately shifting my weight around the bike.
We thread our way back up the hill the way we came and after a decent road-spin we’re back at the top of Jenkins Crag. We pelt down and all the time in my head I’m trying to remember just where that really rough section is I clocked on the way up. It arrives. Typically at speed and lined by walkers. Clive is long gone and the rocks are off camber, angled and slick looking. I try and front wheel a gap, tonk into the opposite side, get a swap on and just about pull it together. Phew…
Monday morning arrives and despite consuming the majority of the areas monthly allocation of Guinness in one day, I’m off for a ride with Ka’s cousin, Jonty. His Specialized FSR, by his reckoning, hadn’t left the shed for ‘easily’ 10 years. The Judy’s could be heard streets away and the freehub was as slippery as a Vaselined-up eel but that didn’t seem to concern Jonty.
Thanks to a cheeky spot of uplifting we managed to ride Lattrigg down to Keswick then back up to tackle Watendlath down to Rosthwaite. The first was flat-out death-gripping and popping off humped over drains whilst the second was typically steep, loose, rock carnage.
Cheers to both Clive and Jonty for showing me around, James for the lifts back up again, Charlie from the pub who was dead sound and good old Arthur Guinness for keeping everything lubricated along the way!
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