Aside from climbing Great Hameldon about twenty times this month, taking Barkley along with me, today I went for a quick bounce over Pendle Hill with my lady friend, setting off from Barley in Lancashire. We managed to get over in well under two hours. It also gave me the chance to try o my new Salomon trail shoes. I will talk about those in another post, but suffice to say spending a decent chunk of money on kit is good for one’s feet when it comes to trail shoes. I always remember being advised to be mindful of whatever is between me and Earth – bedsheets, tyres and shoes. That has been sage wisdom that has stood me in good stead down the years.
I have been running every morning before work, bicycle commuting, and hiking almost every other day with Barkley. That has left me aching relentlessly, particularly over the last fortnight where I skipped my rest day to make it fourteen days in a row of strenuous exercising on daily, multiple occasions. That means that this evening I can completely monster some takeaway tofu and not feel as if I am eating back all that I burned.
This is all pretty good training for the future. I have in my mind to complete the Pacific Crest Trail when I am in a position to do so. In the intervening time I fully intended to keep day hiking to get this body in shape. I am also looking at a few short through hikes. Two in my sights right now are the Tour du Mont Blanc which, despite its name, actually spans three countries, and Laugavegur in Iceland. They are both in the 100 mile vicinity and around 7-12 days of hiking. When I was a wee nipper my parents attempted the Wainwright Coast to Coast but they bottled it after a week. I think that might also be a target.
Today I climbed Stoodley Pike, got to the monument at the summit and then went along the Rochdale Canal back to Hebden Bridge. It was a hell of an enjoyable climb and a glorious nine miles. Data and photos are below.
So I have not posted in ages. Bygones. I have been cycling to work all winter, including the days that were so cold that I wore thermals and tights for the first time ever. Running, cycling and hiking has been my jam.
Here in Lancashire there is a hill called Hameldon that I always meant to climb but never did, until this week. Last Sunday I did it – discovering up there a park bench of all things – and strolled across to what I have nicknamed the Golf Ball:
It is actually a Met Office weather radar station. I always meant to climb up to see what it was, ever since I was a nipper decades ago, and I went up a while ago, and then a good few times more since. I feel as though I have completed a childhood ambition.
The climb up to the top of Hameldon followed by the walk across to this is great. It is essentially a chain of hills a bit like a massif. The feeling up there is eerily still and reminiscent of growing up in the tail end of the Cold War. Weird I know but all of the architecture and the construction looks like that time. Even stranger is the fact that it reminds me of photos of Buran, the Soviet space shuttle that was mothballed before it ever flew in space. Some enterprising soul tracked it down to an aerodrome in Kazakhstan where it sits, rusting away quietly. I would love to go and see it. I am not sure that it would be worth the risk of being detained by Russian Secret Service goons, however.
It is possible to get very close to the Golf Ball, within about five metres, but once there it is gated and covered in warnings about ionising radiation, which I am sure are more of an intimidating attempt at deterrent than factual given that it is just radar.
The whole walk from my house and back was about twelve miles, which is very rewarding when you have a spritely young border collie to tire out. Even though he went up to his shoulders in mud a couple of times he had a whale of time. Hiking is simply so much better with a doggie in tow. Even better is the Hapton Inn at the base of Hameldon where you can roll up for a well-earned drink afterwards.
I had been intending to vlog about my trip to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park but a lack of usable footage abounds unfortunately. Nonetheless water sports and exploration in deepest, darkest Scotland was great. I even did something I have not done for easily a quarter of a century: I ate chip shop chips, this time by the shore. I imagine that it will be at least another twenty five years until I do that again.
It has been a good, fun year so far. I have noticed a pattern too, which is that I seem to run more in the winter, and by some distance too. It is funny what you learn when you look back and analyse. Summer is when I do shedloads of cycling, both commuting, pleasure and, thanks to the addition of a decent foldie, everyday cycling to the shops, doctor, and so forth. I cannot think of the last time I got to somewhere locally using the car other than occasions when collecting or carrying a boot-load of things far too heavy for cycling. Even those journeys have been reduced by slicing them up or rearranging things to suit the city bike lifestyle. This winter I will be running in the morning again, relentlessly. It feels strange to look forward to the wettest, darkest and most dank time of the year but hey, that is how I am built.
For a long time I have been taking stock of my cycling situation, specifically in regards to commuting. My focus has been on finding the right bicycle, one that is portable, fun to ride but which still gets me around fast. Well, so help me oh lord but I think that I may have finally found it.
Thoughts on Foldies
Folding bikes, and I would also suggest city bikes in general, are enjoying something of a resurgent era. I live in the north of England, about thirty minutes from Manchester and I have watched with keen interest the efforts of mayor Andy Burnham as he has been attempting, and at last succeeding, to take the city bus network back into public ownership. As the country tries to remember that there are people in places other than London who would like to get to work, he has been grafting hard on this and his recent court victory is a huge step forward. The news that he is capping bus fares at £1 and £2 for children and adults respectively is great news for a city, and indeed a country, that is being strangled by car usage and corporations using public services to gouge people with extortionate fares.
All of this means that cycle commuting is becoming attractive, notwithstanding some absolute terrible biking infrastructure. For me the folding bicycle has always been problematic. Some of this is due to them being relatively expensive, Bromptons for example are absurdly priced, and some of this is because of the 16/20 inch wheels that tend to be standard. A full size foldie would, for me, negate the whole point of having one as I need something I can put in the car also. The small wheels are an issue because, where I live, wherever you cycle if heading out of town is uphill. Cycling uphill on small wheels isn’t particularly difficult but it just takes so long to do it. These bikes are anything but fast. I know that the Brompton Elite Fanbase (TM) swear by them but if I did have upwards of £1000 to splurge on yet another bike, it would not be a sixteen inch wheel, overpriced luxury machine. I have nothing against them but that amount of money is preposterous.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that a foldie is a great solution to many problems and so I spent a long time scouring the web for one, eventually coming to settle on a middling price 20 inch wheeler. My hand hovered over the checkout for many days until I suddenly spotted something beautiful…
Tern are a company that formed after the father and son ownership team of Dahon split in a dispute, with Tern being the new business venture of the latter. They make all sorts of bikes, including the now-discontinued Tern Node D7i:
On the Tern website they now sell the Node D8, however if one Googles the D7i then the page is still accessible. The D8 differs from the D7i in that it does not have the hub gearing and he chain is not sealed, two features that I think they ought to have kept as they are great for stopping oil getting on clothes or chain slap in general.
The D7i appears to be a rare find. I could only locate the one I bought, used, via eBay. The previous owner very kindly gave me two Tern baskets that attach to it, one front and one rear. It has 24 inch wheels as opposed to the bog standard 20 found on most foldies, and it is beautiful. The bigger wheels make for a much faster bike than my previous 20 inch wheel foldie, and it is also lighter than that bike and folds down better, faster and smaller. The caveat there is that the other one was older and cheaper, but nonetheless the D7i is way ahead. The front light is dynamo powered so I only need a rear lamp, and the bike is far easier to carry in its folded state than the old one. This might be the best bike I have ever had for commuting and general city and urban cycling.
So I appear to have raised the standard of my commute. As I have ridden it twice around the block to test it you can expect more detail on here later…
I am on a bicycle odyssey right now. I have been running solidly all winter and cycling season is but a twinkle in the eye, except that it always turns up quickly. I now have four bicycles as I have just bought what I expect will be the first of many vintage cycles. It is a Wolfman road tourer, pictured below.
It is clearly an ancient thing but I think it, like many other older bicycles, is beautiful. Let us be frank also, one bicycle is never enough. I obtained this for zipping around town so as not to have to break out my more expensive bikes for that purpose. Not only is there a substantial risk of theft in urban settings, there is also the fact that wearing out parts and risking punctures for the sake of a couple of miles is a wee little bit silly.
The look on the face of the servicing technician when I asked for a tune up to get it roadworthy told me that there are not very many vintage bikes on the road in the north of England. To me that is a great shame. When I think about the health issues we have such as obesity, diabetes and the myriad problems associated with inactivity and sedentary living I find the solution to these generational challenges is plain to see. The normalisation of cycling as everyday transport would tackle so much of this with very little effort or expenditure. It is a matter of the political will to have the courage to put motorists back in their collective box and make active travel the priority. It is happening here in the UK, albeit very slowly. We all glance over at Amsterdam and Copenhagen with green eyed envy but I think that the change is coming and it is inevitable. Every time I use the roads in a car I look around, aghast at the sheer lunacy of it all. Hundreds, thousands of single people driving around in box with a sofa and two armchairs, which uses fuel that is running out, polluting an ecosystem we cannot afford to lose, and using up time that could be spent doing exercise and commuting simultaneously, and I can only reach one conclusion. This cannot go on. It simply cannot. This utter insanity of packing people into dirty, polluting metal boxes that make them lazy, fat, entitled and angry has to come to an end.
The Normalisation of Cycling
The unsustainable nature of car culture is why is think that vintage bikes are coming back with a bang. Every time we all see a child cycling to school in uniform, an adult cycling in jeans, a young lady riding in a dress with her shopping in a front mounted basket; these all serve to normalise everyday practical cycling. Yes, I wear Lycra to cycle but only because I am a sport cyclist covering great distances. The change we crave will come from a critical mass of people using their bikes as their primary mode of transport.
My motive for buying this vintage is precisely that, to play my part in the normalisation of day to day cycling. I have for years zipped around doing errands and collecting shopping on my bike, but only now have I bought some decent urban cycling kit, including the bike, and also shoes and clothing. I have been using the Wolfman and my foldie and I am cycling at a leisurely pace. I am not interested in calorie burn or raising a sweat. Just cycling for the utility and pleasure of it. I will still do my distance rides on my carbon fibre racer, but in order to normalise utility cycling I am doing my bit. Why? Well, as I said, the lunacy cannot go on. The fuel is running out, the environment needs to be pollution free, people need to get thinner and fitter, and diseases of laziness and inactivity must be beaten. Simply put: the world must change.
To see how we got here and why change is coming, I recommend you watch Bicycle, a documentary about cycling, where it began, what went wrong, and how we will put it all right in the future. In the meantime, get on your bike. Don’t race, don’t Lycra up, just take a leisurely ride and do something to normalise utility cycling. Your kids and your future are waiting to say thanks.
At the weekend I attempted to hike Grisedale Pike. Sadly winds became so dangerous that they lifted my companion off the ground. Clearly it was time to abandon the climb! We will get here in the summer.
Even though we didn’t reach the summit it was still a great day o climbing and hiking.
And… we’re off! Having gotten smashed into the ground thanks to my customary winter (non-covid related) respiratory illness – something I have avoided for the last two years by upping my vitamin D and taking shilajit and ashwagandha – I have deliberately hit the road early in order to get a good start this year. My head is bursting at the seams with adventures I plan to have throughout spring and summer especially so I have resolved to be as ready as I will ever likely be.
To achieve my goals this year I have taken several productive steps. Firstly I bought a selfie stick for better video capture as you will hopefully see in my next video on YouTube, uploading as I write. Secondly I have started to actually use Komoot in conjunction with my Garmin Quatix watch. For those interested the Quatix is the same guts as the Fenix but with marine features added and a much more pleasing – to my eye – navy strap with brushed chrome bezel. Me being me I am already looking to upgrade and I am eyeballing the Garmin Enduro and its ridiculous battery life but that will be a purchase for next Christmas at the earliest, unless I am the lucky recipient of a windfall.
I have also bought a Garmin eTrex Touch 25 handheld GPS receiver. This may seem pointless as my watch does the same thing, however I have bought this because my bulbs are not what they used to be. During my most recent adventures I have caught myself pressing the screen right up to my nose just to be able to see it. The extra inch of screen space is very helpful.
I have also bought a ton of outdoor kit from the much-underrated Aldi. Seriously folks, their fitness clothing and thermals are remarkably well-priced and effective. If you want to buy it you need to get their app. It tells you what special buys are coming and when, and thus it all sells out rapidly.
I can now partake in many more winter hikes and some wild camps. In regard to the latter I am also now kitted out and ready to go this year. Last summer I was looking to do it but the only chance I got was during my aborted attempt to climb Helvellyn. This year I hope to get a night at Red Tarn in the shadow of Cumbria’s angriest fell.
On Christmas Day I dragged my sprogs over Pendle Hill. It is hardly a tough one to do but I had done it the day before as well without them. Additionally I climbed the Old Man of Coniston last week and a couple of days ago ascended most of Grisedale Pike, only abandoning after my companion was actually being lifted off the ground by the high winds.
I have commenced running too. In between the two gruelling winter hikes above I have done a couple of short two milers. Small steps, and I am hoping that the cold weather exposure will give me an advantage with endurance this summer.
Then There’s Barkley!
Hopefully my new hound, Barkley, a border collie, will pester me to get out too!
So things are afoot and what a summer of adventures is coming. In the meantime whilst you wait, check out my photographs from The Old Man of Coniston, all below.
Yesterday was not so much a hike as a gentle stroll over to Bolton Abbey and it’s infamously dangerous water course, the Strid. For some reason there was a long conversation about the eighties. The outdoors not only takes you to new places, it also takes you mentally to new places.