Sunday 11th January 2015

Hexhamshire Common, starting point: Dipton Mill.

Fiona McGarry
Francis Myers
John Rivers
Colin Davidson
Ian Mundy
Mark Ramsey
Chris Devenney
Terry Kirkup

Was this a good choice for today's ride? In view of the wind - No! In view of the forecast - Why Not?

More-or-less everyone who committed her/himself to this one actually turned up, which must be some sort of record over the last 12 months. It was trying to rain but we were down in the hollow at river level and largely protected from the draught as we unloaded and prepared for the ride, leaving at or near the scheduled 10:00 am start time. Even to an anti-social teatotaller like me the pub just a few metres away seemed a much better bet than the ride option.

I recognised this spot from days of yore and my instant realisation that we were setting off up the adjacent steep tarmac road was met by one of "those grins" and a knowing nod from Mark, the evil bu@@er. So I led off to get the worst out of the way before dying. Good strategy, although I was soon overhauled by the easy-pedalling bunch of youths around me. Took me a very long time to catch them on this steady drag, a real system shock straight out of the car, for me at least.


We were hitting this loop in a clockwise fashion, ideally, but also straight into the now savage westerly puffer which was later to bring sharp rain, hail, light flurries and misery. But that was later. For now we had to first get to the off-road section and then try and ride it. The shelter offered by a small copse snuffed out the wind almost completely as we regrouped long enough for Chris to check I still had a pulse. He ignored the fact that it was barely discernible already. Reaching the edge of the copse and becoming exposed to the wild elements once again, Fiona was blown clean off her bike - quite amusing but my giggle muscles had long since seized so she got away with minimal ribbing as the rest of us tried to avoid the same fate.


This was a long drag now over stoney but smooth enough dual track so the hardest thing to do was pedal against the onslaught of this strong wind. A bit later on heading toward our turning point at the far end, it got quite boggy in places, and as we tackled the light incline to the highest point on Black Hill, Mark managed to foul his derailleur hanger in the weeds to avoid riding and getting stuck in the narrow central groove of the trail and snap it. Two in three days for NMBC! The final downward stretch beyond the moorland gate at Chat's Fell provided light relief although normally we'd have done it at twice today's speed in better conditions, and wearing a smile. We took shelter in the north-facing barn at Moorhouse Gate for a ten minute lunch and in one case a blood transfusion.

I wasn't alone in suffering from frozen toes and/or fingers but you have to get it done, so once again I scooted away up the hill on the unclassified tarmac up Leadside Bank, and this is where the ride got less familiar for me, so in a previous life I must have turned south and ridden anti-clockwise. I wish I'd done that today, this was a real pig of a climb and the wind still wasn't helping! Anyway, having managed to get left behind again, this lovely bunch of people once again had to hover in the grimness and await my catchup, aided now for the fourth or fifth time by Chris who had kept turning back and coming to get me, making it slightly easier to keep going with some friendly encouragement, and excellent Ride Leadership skills.


Finally, to the north of Catton, we got some downhill relief, but only until it was time to leave the relative ease of the tarmac and hit our return path, the bridleway from Spitty Lane Ends. There's just 50 metres of vertical climb from the start to the highest point, and the long-awaited turn east over Greenrigg Moor to have that evil wind firmly at our backs. However, it felt more like 500 metres to me over the mainly boggy, skinny-rutted route through hibernated birds' nests, and the eventual downward turn to the horizon brought little increase in speed, when it would have been brilliant on a dry summer day. Still the best part of the ride though, as we tried to pick safe lines over the many flooded undulations which we were crossing at right angles rather than traversing. Heavy going for everyone but it was inspiring to see how my colleagues all handled it with aplomb.

About half a mile before we reached the gate off the moor at West Greenridge John dumped himself into a pond, brrr! And then I managed to go sailing straight over the handlebars just as we approached the road, up to my arm and knee pits in freezing, fungal frogpond. Pooh.


We were now travelling directly west, thank goodness, and carried the bikes (honest!) all the way along the muddy, root-strewn footpath through West Dipton Wood until our ultimate arrival back at Dipton Mill with about 18 miles clocked up, in my case 15 of which were on foot.


We did at least get the odd laugh along the way, this being the most normal activity on an abnormal ride with survival becoming ever more important out there on the desolate bits. This isn't a ride I'll be repeating in anything but glorious sunshine and the moral of the story - the weather forecast is RARELY correct.

photos - Ian Mundy

(Actually, I will NEVER repeat this ride).

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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.







The bigger the group, the louder the laughs!


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