Bike Week 2017 Day Four, Lady Bower

Who was Lady Bower anyway?

Today was really difficult. I woke up and my headache felt really bad, and I felt extra, extra exhausted. I really felt a couldn’t ride. But. I know that even when I feel like that, I can ride, so I ploughed on. Hoping that at some point, I’d find that confidence and energy.

In truth, it took a long time coming. About an hour into the ride in fact. The first bit of the ride was flat, on fire roads–so easy that I didn’t need my full concentration. And that was the hardest bit of the ride. My mind wandered and I thought about the pain I was feeling. I just wanted to give up.

And then… Lockerbrook descent. A nice rocky, rooty, long descent, not crazy technical, but needing all your focus. It was so much fun! When I have to completely tune into riding, using my skill, and easing off the breaks, that’s when my headache recedes. It ceases to be the focus of my thoughts.

We had some lunch and then, as I loved it so much, we pushed up Lockerbrook and went down again. I managed to go down quite fast too, in something like the top third of female riders down the track (looking at Strava). And Jedi smashed it–I think he whizzed past me like lightening, I think he’s in the top 5%.

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We completed a circuit of the lake, and I paddled at Slippery Stones.

The day was, therefore, a success, but it was on a knife-edge with the pain I was feeling. I’ve been really pleased how much I’ve been able to accomplish this week. That’s without any fitness and not much practice. But rather, it has to do with mindset, and applying the skills I have. The headache even seems to help that–the headache forces me to tune in to what I want to tune in to, to drown it out.

I had a few comedy fall-offs, technical ascents where I got into ruts and toppled over. But I ended the day, on a road descent, with my arms off the handlebars for aaaaaages–a really long time. Jedi only witnessed the end. When I started to ride my bike and have fun, I used to practice aeroplane arms, but I haven’t recently. I’m not very good at taking my hands off the handlebars. But look! I did it! (You have to look really hard, I’m just a smudge in the distance).



Bike Week 2017, Day Three

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A brief ride compared to the long days in the saddle we’ve had. My focus was on improving and getting faster. We started with my recently conquered drop into berm near the Wharncliffe car par, then went into the Greno Woods for the Pub Run and Steel City. I even had a go on the chicken line rollable drop at the end. This means I can do a full run (chicken lines) which means I could enter the Steel City Race. We decided to concentrate on this trail more than the Pub Run which I’m pretty quick on now, as Steel City is longer and tougher. It is busier, more people around, more nobheads, but perhaps I’m just about confident enough now not to be intimidated by that.

We rounded off with a pint of lager shandy at the Norfolk Arms, where they were doing Nether Edge Pizzas too–so we had our tea early. And by coincidence, that’s what Jedi’s sister and her family were doing so we joined them.


Bike Week 2017 Day 2, Tissington & High Peak Trail



Riding with a constant headache is difficult. I need to wear sunglasses as the light–anylight–hurts my eyes. I feel a bit daft in them. And I start my rides exhausted and feel exhausted as I ride. Still, even as my inner monologue is one long moan, the miles pass by, I move forward, I’m in motion. It takes a great deal of discipline and effort to tell myself I am happy, this is happiness. But it is true. Today we rode the Tissington Trail–a reclaimed train line in the Peaks. For lunch, we stopped at a pub off the trail–the Old Dog. Last year, we rode this, and came to this pub, on a day that was much colder than we expected, in layers not robust enough to keep the cold out. We laughed about that today.

The route was lovely–pretty chill. The most interesting bit was the link between the Tissington Trail to the High Peak trail–through villages and estates I’d never seen. It’s really interesting riding–you see your own landscape much closer than by car, and see so much more than you could walking.

The last section, of the High Peak route, felt arduous and never ending. The sky was grey, and the temperate a little chill. I felt soooo tired.

However, it was the first outing of our Thermos flasks, we bought a year or two again, and we had steaming hot tea in the car afterwards.

Bike Week 2017, Day 1, Wharncliffe Crags

I started riding bikes four years ago. Jedi gave me his old, heavy Kona Stuff bike and a few lessons in the woods. After the lessons in the woods–and I look back now and think how much I needed to learn, and about his patience in getting me to understand the brakes and gears and technique–even the tiniest challenge back then was fear-inducing.

After a couple days, I bought my very first bike-related purchase. I went our then local bike shop–the now closed Bike Tree, and bought a pair of Reflex Fox Gloves. At the time, we were starting to watch Game of Thrones, and we’d recently seen an episode were Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly took their Night’s Watch vows at a an old god’s tree. I absent mindedly mentioned I wanted to take my bike-rider’s vows at the bike tree, without realising the implied link to the shop. Then I realised I could take the purchase of my gloves as my vow-taking at the bike tree.

That was a long for years ago. Since then, little by little I gain mountain bike handling skills. I gain fitness. I lose fitness. Those four years have been long and bumpy for me. I never got any purchase on what I wanted in life, always feeling outside of my own desires–for a job, an art career, for anything to flow really. But riding has been there. It’s been a valve. A release. But I’ve not had the time or brain space to shift it up the priorities. And sometimes I’ve not been well either. I had digestion problems, anxiety and panic problems and this year has been defined by a headache that started in February and continues now. I still need the valve. But I’ve put on weight and lost my fitness.

After less than a year of riding, in 2014, we went to Le Deux Alpes for our summer holiday–end of June / early July. Since then, we’ve settled into a pattern of bike-holidaying, around Jedi’s birthday, 31st August–Bike Week we call it. This year finances limited us to a staycation Bike Week. And that’s no sacrifice. We now live in Grenoside near the Greno Woods and Wharncliffe, sitting on the Trans Pennine Trail, the Peak District only a short drive away.

Day 1 of Bike Week–overcoming my psychological obstacles in Wharny. Near the car park is an old downhill track–it’s called that, but it’s not downhill by today’s standards. The trail starts with a drop into a steep berm. It’s not a steep drop, but it does look it on approach. I’ve bottled it before. Today though, I practiced on a nearby drop and then pedalled up to it and straight down it. The berm takes a bit of concentration to get the turn. That’s work in progress, to carry some speed around it. But it was fun.

From there we followed the technical single-track further into Wharncliffe. Last year I made a mess of this trail–despite it being completely within my capabilities, it freaked me out. It was not long after a scary panic attack incident and fear permeated everything I did, everything I touched, taking the fun out of riding. Today though I smashed it and it was fun.

We rode up and over the crags. They are so technical! I had to get off at various points–it’s hard to keep your flow and on one side there is a sheer drop that is scary. The ride home was long and arduous and I was wishing for new lungs. But I was happy. I have to remind myself when I ride–I am happy.

Birthday Ride

My birthday was a strange one this year. I’ve still got a constant headache. I turned 39. I’m giving myself a year to sort my shit out. There are glimmers–it looks likely I can get my life together. And perhaps I’ll have a big 40th birthday party.

However, this birthday, I went into my studio at S1 Artspace, and all my cameras were stolen. We were broken into and I lost the most. My Mamiya RZ67, spare back, viewing prism, the first camera I got when I was 18–a Chinon SLR and a G12 Canon digital camera. Also a borrowed Canon 5D Mark 2. All gone. Not insured. I am absolutely gutted.

My present from Jedi this year, which was what I asked for–he took the day off work on the Friday after my birthday and we spent the day riding on the Trans Pennine Trail from our house. Out all day. On our mountain bikes as some of the terrain we knew would be rough.

It was brilliant having a full day to ride. And we stopped at the Elsecar Heritage Centre for a nice cup of tea, a sandwich and I got a cheese scone for later and Jedi got a pork pie.

I find it so interesting, exploring the region–not the glamorous side–the Peaks and posh areas, but the post-industrial landscape. The pockets of beauty and nature that sits behind the suburbs. The landscape we all use to relax.

I didn’t take a picture, but early on in the ride we passed the castle type ruins where Kes was filmed–real Kes country.

Trans Penine Trail from Leeds

The long trip of our Bike Week 2016. We caught the train to Leeds and got on to the Trans Pennine Trail to ride home. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day! And thank goodness, because it was a looong day too.

The route started along canal paths, we seemed to be always close to water.

And then the route seemed to run along the edges of fields, til eventually we came to a village on a posh country estate of some kind. In the village there, was a nice cafe where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we realised how far we were from home–the journey so far had zigged and zagged and took more miles than we had anticipated. Enough of our leisurely pace! We had to get a wriggle on. The terrain changed too. Less country idylls, more post-industrial landscape.

The final section, in Sheffield, was a killer. I felt completely drained and exhausted. We stopped outside a supermarket petrol station more supplies–Lucozade. The weather now was mundane, grey, turning into a chill evening. As though our holiday was over. I was knackered. (My knee is strapped up as I’m getting twinges of pain and I’m nursing it in preparation for my Iyengar Yoga Introductory Teaching exam next month).

Riding on the roads through the city we were aware of what little space cars and buses gave us. After the open free paths and country roads, this was a dull jolt back to city riding. Still, even though I felt so drained, I managed to PR on some of the ride back. I had something left at least!