This summer I rode the full length of the towpaths along the Leeds – Liverpool canal.
Why? I live in Liverpool and ride short sections of it nearly every time I ride on my local trails as it runs straight through the village where I live so I use this rather than use the busy roads and because I was born in Leeds it would be good to ride to it rather than drive to it on the M62.
I’ve thought about doing this ride for a few years now but never had the chance, bike, work, home life, weather, fitness plus it had to be on a midweek ride because at the weekends it would be a nightmare with all the fishermen along the whole route taking up the tow paths.
So, with a dry morning and wet afternoon forecast I got up early, walked the dog, had a bit of breakfast and got on my Travers Angus semi fat bike which I’d already loaded up the night before with the frame bags, fuel tank bags and even aero bars to help save energy on the smooth sections.
Picture taken post ride, crap camera angle because of the sun
I rode to the local station and jumped onto the train to Liverpool’s Moorfields station, then rode the mile to the start of the Leeds Liverpool canal.
At 7.30am on the dot I left the first marker
My first goal was to do it on one day where most people ride this for charity over 2 or even 3 days, secondly with the only 2 times that I’ve found broadcasted online to try and beat of 11hrs 23mins and another on Strava of 12hr 12mins 25secs I felt I stood a chance.
So, with no wind in the air and on my local sections I got my head down, pushing a big Rohloff gear I covered the route to Ormskirk picking up 2 Strava KOM’s that I’ve not got before, but once the wide trail ran out and the narrow and all grass sections started I eased back to save energy. Then it was onto the worst section of the whole trail between the M6 and Wigan following all the recent rain the gloopy muddy puddles for several miles are awful.
Once past Wigan and heading due north the wind picked up and over this rough section the tail wind (the only one of the day) helped lift my sprits and I pushed on through smaller shallower puddles, the once near the M65 with my head down I missed the canal cross over bridge and went up the Walton Summit Junction canal for a few hundred meters before having to turn around and find the right route, when the route turned East the wind direction changed to slow me down for the rest of the day.
I successfully bypassed the 2 road sections as the canal goes through 2 long tunnels and I worked out I would be on for a good time, but that was until I got to the 20mile section of rough trail, mud, deep puddles and hard work grass sections from where it passes the A59 all the way around to Ribblesden, I lost the will to carry on but a text from the wife told me how bad the weather was back at home so I pushed on as not to get too wet before the end.
Although it did get very dark overhead for the last 25 miles I was lucky that it never rained at all, but with the million puddles I’d ridden through I was soaked through from below.
Once at the end it was time to find my hotel,
Sneak the muddy Travers into the room
Then head out for a double Macdonalds to celebrate
I was thinking about riding the same route home again the day afterwards, but because the trail was so poor I got the train home instead as I couldn’t be bothered enduring that trail again.
Would I do it again?
If the conditions were the same or worse there is no way I would even think about it.
If there was a prolonged heat wave and the trail was completely dry I would maybe think about it, if there was nowhere else to ride**
Could I do it faster?
In these conditions no
If the trail was completely dry then maybe a sub 9 hour ride would be possible, But to be honest I won’t be bothering again.
What bike to do it on.
65% of this a CX bike would be perfect
35% a short traval mtb would be perfect
So my 29er+ Travers was perfect for all of this route
Please note I didn’t race it was an endurance ride, I fitted a cycling bell and used it every time I saw a walker or fisherman, I was polite and so were those I passed along the way.
There are many, many more faster and stronger riders out there than me so this new record will not last for long, but I can say that I’m the first person (that I know about) to break the 9hour 30minute barrier.
** – Now I’ve had a few months to get over the ride I think I would do it again but as a there and back ride, but only if there was no wind in the middle of a high pressure zone and after a prolonged dry spell. Maybe