Monday, February 24, 2020

Februarbivi 2020

Before ramblings

Mojo is weird.  It can be absent one minute then wholly present the next.  A mountain bike leaning against a kitchen radiator, once loaded, suddenly becomes motivation.

After the January ride 6 weeks ago I recovered a little then did a few little rides. We went out to watch a fell race then the week after, set off up a local bridleway near home.  It's a sustained climb but not difficult.  I usually find an excuse to sit on some steps as I leave the woodland that demarks leaving "town" - even though it's already countryside - and starts off "moorland".  I eat a butty or faff with my cleats.

This time those steps broke all resolve.  I sat in the grass in the shelter of the trees and faffed with my feet as a sqally shower passed by and, friends, I retreated.  Dropping down to the bottom of the valley, I was ashamed of myself so I diverted up the next bridleway - starts off as an HAB - and forced myself to ride over Stanage in a hooley.  It was hard and I had to get off and push to avoid being blown over to Holme Moss.

The descent into Bamford wasn't an issue as the wind hit Stanage Edge full-on then went vertically up so a bit of sailor's tacking got me off the hill.

I don't often use the garden centre caf in Bamford but it's a great place.  The waitress even empathised with my sigh as I pondered going back out.  I pretty much rode home a different way and got into bed.  The highland trail was no longer looking good.

With that kind of history, I wasn't looking forwards to going out again and I've put it off and put it off - with the weather.  I changed a saddle on the bike to try something new and fixed the forks after Welsh mud got in the lockout in October and I've been thinking of replacing the final elements of my old bike - frame and forks with something more pliable than Aluminium (frame) and shite (forks).

Don't get me wrong - plenty of effort has gone in to my training.  My weakness is my weakness - literally.  So gym weights are the order of the day to strengthen my legs and back to ensure I can carry my bike more often and for longer than I currently can. This is a challenge as I only lift just over half of its laden weight right now.  My rides to work have been more intense, giving me insights into the potential gains from what I am doing in the gym and finally I'm more comfortable on my bikes than I have been in a long time so some work that my physio has had me doing on flexibility are paying off.

So it has come to pass that February nearly disappeared.

After loading my bike this morning and other general faffs - including sewing my club jersey one last time.  It got to 12:54.  I'm not a person who takes well to missing lunch so with a half-packed bicycle, I dressed in civvys and walked over to my local cafe to lunch nearby instead of some over-priced peak caf.

I sat in the window contemplating the outcomes of my hard work and actually looking forwards to a night out.  All of a sudden, places I haven't wanted to go for a while feel like places I want to be on a bike - even in the dark.  After weeks of events or trialling kit for events, this time I was going to load up properly with my brew kit and food.  I scoffed my lunch and headed home.


It was gone 3pm when I finally rolled the bike out.  TSK had been for his ride and got home.

I took my usual route out of the valley, a series of bridleways up and down the side, culminating in Wyming Brook where I was joined by an evening rider.  A rare person who totally "got it" that I was going out for a cheeky pre-work bivi but warned me that the forecast was for snow.  Bugger, I forgot to check the weather!  Still, I had packed heavy so it didn't really bother me.

He rode on ahead when we hit the steeps before the car park then a ride around the reservoir gave me the best view of the evening - the fringes of sunset falling on the reservoir.

I headed over to Stanage where I rode on past the pole before dropping down to the Yorkshire Bridge in dusk. 

The light went on as I set off up the trail around the shoulder of Win Hill - a regular unofficial trail centre, I tried to stick to the main routes but inevitably ended up on a footpath where a surprising, smiling dog walker warned me of the slick mud.  She was right.

When I left the trees my dynamo light illuminated just enough heathery tussocks to see my way towards the summit of Win Hill.  I wouldn't have gone this way in daylight.  I wouldn't have gone this way in the dark except for knowing that the alternative route was a clamber under low-slung trees over baby-head sized boulders that are impossible to ride.  So I thought I'd see where the path took me.

The path took me direct over the top of Win Hill.  A place I haven't been since my Forestman training in 2013.  Mainly due to me quitting running and hiking in place of full time riding.  The approach was hard but grassy and heathery and then we were there, clambering up the boulders to the top and facing a descent of boulder fields on the other side.  I don't seem able to make it through highland trail training without lifting my laden bike off the occasional cliff.  To hell with the instructions not to pick my bike up by the dropper post.  Oops.

Through the darkness we snaked down the other side, our shame of riding on paths eased by some bastard that's been up on the moors in a 4x4 and ripped the hillside to pieces.  It was practically unrideable, unwalkable and I took to the thin line of footfall by the edge of the 8 inch deep trenched tyre ruts and rejoined the bridleway over to hope cross.

There I turned right, dropped down towards the A57 and paused at the Boundary for my first outdoor pee of the evening, watching the red and white lights passing by in the valley below.  It seemed like the first time the wind had dropped in weeks and I felt lucky to be out there, alone in the darkness, slightly illegal and exhilarated.

Nailed the descent to the bottom (thanks dropper) but ran out of gas on the way up to the road and had another sit down to scoff a bag of brazil nuts.  It was dinner time but it would have to wait till I reached my hut for the night.  Just the one stop, thanks, it was getting chilly.  As I remounted the bike and nudged the Garmin screen, it brightly told me it was 0 degrees C, though I actually didn't believe it because until I had stopped, I hadn't felt the cold at all.

The A57 crossing feels like an uncomfortable brush with civilisation that I'm happy to get over and then the push up to the outdoor centre where no-one was home, the weekenders all gone back to their normal lives.

The Beast darkened, was ridden with occasional dabbing and I spat out the bottom, reassured of a water top up for my dinner at the Fairholmes cafe.  The security lights came on to illuminate my bottle fill as I sprayed clear water into the dog bowl to flush out any spiders before I filled the camelbak.

We pottered along the road, observing a vehicle coming the other way, way across the reservoir.  They slowed as if watching me back and as they drove back again 3 minutes later, I wondered if someone is actually paid to go and check the place out every time some dehydrated cyclist sets the security light off at 9:45pm.

Still, it was time for my push up to the hut which I did.  In the slippery smear on the limestone slabs, I couldn't be bothered faffing for trying to ride it and my bike was heavy with stove, fuel and food.  At this precise moment it occurred to me that my sleeping bag might not have enough warm to see me through a night at minus *Whatever* 4-ish?  New bag: can't remember rating... -4? Zero.  Bollocks, try it out and see, you can always just go home.

I brewed up chicken curry - actually too much food since my earlier binge on Brazils.  I couldn't find my tea bag for the hot water brewed on the last of the fuel so I dropped my Nalgene bottle of whisky in the hot water to heat up and enjoyed a warm dram of Jura 10yo for desert, swiftly followed by the plain hot water.

With the luxury of the hut I completely changed into dry comfy clothes: new tights to try which were excellent paired with my dry waterproof trousers; synthetic down, an extra wool top, hat, gloves.

I slept on and off till 1am when I just shivered.  I contemplated just going home but couldn't face packing up so got up for another wild pee and then settled down again to try sleeping some more with my waterproof jacket added to my legs and feet and a reduction in the number of socks I was wearing so that my thermal socks were loosened - so more efficient.

I woke up again at 3:55, four minutes before my alarm clock for getting into work on time.  I was chilly again but not surprised, since the wind had shifted, was blowing in the doorway and a sloppy layer of snow was laid on the ground outside my hut.  Spatters of icy water had been dropping through the roof onto EmVee.  I packed straight up rather than brew coffee.

I contemplated retracing my tracks into the valley and riding home up the road climb in preference to slopping through the puddles on the climb back to Devil's bridge.  No, though.  I love that climb far too much.  Sure, I couldn't be arsed to slide about trying to ride it but how could I resist the snowy hike out, the view across the moors as the sky lightened (no chance of a sunrise in the grey slop that coated the earth).

And so I trudged.  The familiar puddles and gates marking my progress up the hill in  the thin light of my dynamo and the headtorch dangling around my neck after my main spare bike light died hours ago (that headtorch is my new best friend).

At the top of Derwent edges I set EmVee down and climbed over the edge of the footpath to dig into my waterproof trousers and hitch up my leg warmers after the long hike out.  There was still no sunrise, just a steady stream of aeroplanes making their queued descent into the airport and the grey-white lumps of the peak stretching as far as the cloud allowed me to see.  I turned tail and slithered through the remaining boulderfield to the track out.

Joining the traffic on the A57 for the down-lift was a trial of will as I ground slowly through the pouring rain towards home, a shower and a warm bed.  There was no way I was going into work in the morning but it was fine - I've done enough days recently that they owe me some back.

A van drenched me head to toe driving through a stream (now crossing the road) at full speed as he overtook.  I just laughed.  I was already drenched through and my waterproofs took it remarkably well.  I walked through the door with still-dry feet under the trousers, gaiters, goretex boots and waterproof socks.  Clearly I hadn't tried hard enough.

It wasn't long (57km).  For what it was, it was quite hard (1500m) but I was out and sticking to something and that felt like all that mattered as I slumped into bed till 11am.  Not the greatest day out but it had its moments and it's done for February.