Monday, 9 March 2009

You really couldn't have made this up....

Now I don’t like driving at the best of times. I particularly don’t like driving any distance for a one day ride. It makes me nervous. What happens if… My shock blows? I forget one shoe? A freehub seizes? Well, to mitigate against these ride wrecking possibilities on day trips I load up the Volvo of Eternal Storage with every conceivable spare part, tool, and item of clothing I could possibly need. This Sunday was no exception and, fully loaded, I headed down to the Dales to do some Coast to Coast reccy to the east of Grinton.

But do you ever have that nagging feeling that, no matter how well you have planned, something is going to go happen…?

I pulled up in Reeth town square. It was Baltic. As I was getting changed the sky turned that steely bluey grey that shouts INCOMING SNOW. (In fact the first flakes coincided with me taking my top off to don my lovely new Skins). I leaned my perfectly prepped bike up against a small monument thingy. Hurriedly, I layered up… shorts? Check! Overshoes? Check! Two pairs of gloves? Check! Today’s 3 OS maps, covered in highlighter? Check! I congratulated myself with my exceptional organisation.

Out of the corner of my eye and to my left, I registered movement. It was a car. IT WAS A CAR!!! ‘Nooooo’ I screamed! The car kept moving. I leapt forward to grab my bike. Too late. The car rolled into the front of my bike. It jammed the handlebars against the little monument thingy, pushed my machine over to 45 degrees, rolled up onto the front wheel and jammed the bike between the ground and the monument thingy. It rendered my lovely IH immovable. !!!!!!!!
In a panic, I tried to pull the bike out. No way. It had the full weight of the car on it and, (despite my Herculean 56kg frame) there was no way I could push the car back (it had the gravity of the slight slope behind it). In a cold sweat, I looked around the deserted car park. There was nobody in sight with an age below 100. What on earth was I going to do???? What a ridiculous situation! I wrestled with the bike, got the quick release open and yarked the frame free. The wheel whacked flat against the ground. If I did get it out, it was surely wrecked! Kneeling down I thrashed around trying to release the wheel. And then I realised that if I had managed to release it, (a) I would be run over and crushed (b) the offending car would have rolled into the lovely shiny BMW it was aimed at. B*llocks. So there I was. Unable to do anything; immobilised by some tw*t that forgot to pull the hand brake. I was there for about half an hour before someone below OAP bus pass age walked past. Lucky for him! His help was instantly enlisted (I didn’t give him an option). I ran off and found some bricks. We pushed the car back, released the wheel and chocked the car back. Phew!

Amazingly, when I inspected the wheel, it was perfectly true! My DT XC1800s have taken some thrashing in the rocks of the Lakes and come up rosey. I’ve really been impressed with these hoops. But it’s some testament to their strength that the wheel was not totalled after this abuse!

So off I set. I didn’t expect this to be a desperately exciting section and I was right! Minor roads and tracks… the off road was not desperately technical but was sodden and muddy. Most of it was the archetypal ‘muddy field’ riding, the conditions were atrocious and navigation was tricky (why are field networks so hard to navigate???). Sleet, snow, mud, maps and howling gales don’t mix…. I rode out past the A1, did a bit of road and turned back.

Anyway, it’s confirmed a few of the things that I already had began to suspect about the Coast to Coast:

- The rocky Lakes passes are fairly constant variables relatively unaffected by conditions. I can deal with that.
- If it is wet, even flattish sections like my Grinton ride are going to be energy sapping and time swallowing (they are more intimidating than the big passes in this sense)
- Prising open rusty gates / climbing over walls (aka Westgarth area) are very strenuous elements that need to be considered in energy expenditure

The ride was also valuable for another reason. I haven’t ridden for more than 3.5 hours for quite a long time now (on advice from Will my coach). Maybe like others who have changed their training strategy from high mileage to intense quality, I’ve been unsure how a longer ride would feel…. Well, I boshed out 6 hours at a good pace in rough conditions and was full of strength on the final climbs of the day. It’s coming together…

I dropped in to the Fremington based Dales Bike Centre on the way back to Reeth ( I’ve wanted to have a nose here since I heard about it. I just caught Stuart the owner before he left for the day and we had a good chat. We talked about the Coast to Coast and I got the feeling he was slightly intrigued by my one hit attempt…. He offered me use of the bike wash and taps as a pit stop. Just what I’ll need as I plan to be in the Dales during the night. All this knowledge helps. I think the Bike Centre is a great project and really hope it does well. Who knows, if I hadn’t got that wheel out from under that car, they may have been able to save the day…

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