Bikepacking

Bach to Bach


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Getting motivated to head out into the wilds of Wales can be difficult at the best of times. Like much of the rest of the country, the weather lately has been particularly appalling;  the number of days without rain over the past two months could be counted on one hand. My coping strategy in these conditions was to head out infrequently and for short periods and spend the rest of my time indoors dreaming about all places I’d like to go on my bike when the weather was nice.

But… (more…)

Just Riding, Photos, Trails

Around Cairngorm


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The inner part of the Cairngorm Loop is but a small part of a longer 300 km self-sufficient mountain bike route.

At just over 100km for the part I rode, I discovered it’s not to be under estimated; the solitude of the Cairngorm mountains, the magnitude of the hills that surrounded me, the depth of the glens through which I rode, the beauty of the rivers, the colour of the trees and texture of the heather – they all far exceeded my expectations.

Here is a collection of ten photos from the ride. (more…)

Bikepacking, Races

5th Bear Bones 200


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When I was doing the 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race last month, somewhere around the top of Whernside, a chap said to me

“We must be mad!”.

“It depends”, I replied, before asking him how many times he’d done the event.

“Ten”, he said.

“Ah, well, this is my first time, so you’re the one who’s mad; I’m just exercising my right to try anything once…”

Fast forward three weeks and I’m stood in a car park in Llanbrynmair with too little gear strapped to my bike ready to embark on my fifth Bear Bones 200. Indeed, nobody has ever done all five, so where that puts me on the sanity scale, I’ve no idea. (more…)

Races

Three Peaks Cyclocross Race


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This time last week, if you asked me to write a list of the things that appealed about the Three Peaks Cyclocross Race, I’m not sure it would be a very long list. I hardly ever ride road, I’m built more for long distance than I am for speed, I’m not really a fan of carrying my bike and I’m not much of a runner. I guess it appealed because it looked hard, and it’s been running for over 50 years, so it’s got heritage. Anything that old has to be good, right?

The race is described as “the toughest and biggest cyclocross event in the UK”. Benedict Campbell titles it as “The Epic” in his film Love of Mud, and various winners and former entrants describe the punishing terrain and sometimes harsh weather conditions that take their toll on bike and body. But then, a distance of 38 miles, of which 34 is rideable and 18 is on tarmac doesn’t sound that bad, all things considered?

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Bikepacking, Races

Yorkshire Dales 300


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The sweat poured off me as I pushed my bike up the narrow lane to Fremington Edge. I heard a vehicle approaching quickly as I reached a gate across the road. I held it open as an old chap in a 4×4 roared through. Just 20 yards beyond the gate he screeched to a halt in a cloud of dust. He jumped out and without any introduction said

Would you like a cup of tea?

I was in Yorkshire. I don’t think I’ve ever been offered a cup of tea by a complete stranger while in the middle of nowhere, but if it was going to happen anywhere, you might suppose it would be Yorkshire. (more…)

Just Riding, Video

Welsh Ride Thing 2015


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Modern day bikepacking in the UK – as version of traditional touring for people who prefer their riding off road – had to begin somewhere. Just maybe that “somewhere” was a small farm in Mid Wales, which hosted the first Welsh Ride Thing seven years ago.

Not concerned with scoring points, beating the clock or riding an obscene amount of miles,  the “WRT” draws in both hardened and aspiring bikepackers alike to a field in Wales before sending them off into the wilderness for three days in search of “points of interest”. Getting stuck in a bog, falling in a stream, maybe having a pub meal, sleeping in a bothy or perhaps under a hedge are all optional activities along the way. Life could not be more simple.

Here’s a video of how a wet and windy weekend in Wales unfolded for Beth and I on this years Welsh Ride Thing

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Bikes

Going Custom


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In 2013 I got my first proper look at custom hand made bikes. The Bespoked Hand-built Bike Show in Bristol was packed with dozens of unique creations all tailored to the needs and desires of their owners, and each reflecting an immense depth of skill, passion and outright devotion from their creator. Expensive? Yes. Desirable? Very much so. To be in possession of something that is one of a kind, made for you, your specification in terms of geometry but injected with a creative flair that sets it apart from everything else was very compelling.

At that 2013 show, one bike caught my eye – a road bike with a paint finish that paid homage to the Lotus JPS Formula 1 car – a car that I could remember from my childhood. It was a very cool bike and I wanted one. But one exactly the same would not be right. That uniqueness would be lost. I needed to find something else like it, but not like it. And so the seed was sown.  (more…)

Bikepacking, Fat Bikes, Video

66 Degrees North


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Two days after the Rovaniemi 150 Arctic Winter Race, I headed back out into the wilderness with two fellow racers: Antti Sintonen & Evan Simula. Legs still tired from the race, we headed north-west out of Rovaniemi on some of the lesser-travelled snow mobile tracks, our ultimate aim to get to a laa-vu (traditional wooden Finnish shelter) beside the frozen lake at Sinettäjärvi.

It was a fantastic ride in an amazing environment, made all the more enjoyable with the company of Antti & Evan – cheers guys!

Music by The Gloaming – “The Old Bush”

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Bikepacking, Fat Bikes, Poems

In Celebration of Fords


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It was but the first month of the year
As I gathered together my bikepacking gear.
Wales in January; it would probably be raining,
But no matter, for this was really for training.
In preparation for Finland I go,
To a land bleak and white and covered in snow.

The Bear Bones Ford Fiesta is that which beckoned;
No finer celebration of fords could be reckoned.
Out from the start, my route headed west,
Riding into the wind was really a test.
Onto Glyndwr’s Way, where new trails await;
Progress would be easier if the wind would abate.

P1010480

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