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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
I was born in Leeds, hence my Liverpool – Leeds canal ride this year, but at the age of 7 our family moved to Stafford.
So this Autumn I thought a quick intercity 125 train ride to Stafford and ride back should be on the cards.
The problem was to find a traffic free route with off road sections, studying maps took me over into Derbyshire, so one Friday afternoon I jumped on the train and the adventure began.
My Travers Angus bike set up
Ride 1 – To the local train station – 1 mile
Hop on the train, until it’s engine died 2 stations away from Liverpool, everyone off.
Not wanting to miss my train while waiting for a recovery train to arrive I hopped on the bike
Ride 2 – to Liverpool’s Lime Street – 2.8 miles
Burger King while at the station
Train to Stafford
31 miles to bivi spot just north of Ashbourne on the Tissington Trail
1st mile didn’t show on the GPS
Using quiet lanes and off road sections like this
Rather than carrying food and cooking equipment (just a folding spoon) a Chinese Special Fried Rice was bought and put in my back pocket for the 20 minutes to find a bivi spot which acted as a mini heater as the light was fading.
Bivi pitched just as it started to drizzle
Nom noms in bed
Handy for the trail
Last nights left over for early breakfast
Just 107 miles to home
The Tissington Trail although it doesn’t look steep it rises 682ft over 15 miles
I then rode east in ever worsening drizzle/rain, my new waterproof worked perfectly and got to Bakewell before the cafe’s opened, so it was breakfast snack bars until Buxton, via the Monsal Trail which climbs 543ft over 13 miles.
Note to self if doing these 2 trails again head North to South
Random photos of the lovely Monsal Trail
Then it was into Buxton for a double breakfast over 2 full fat Cokes while map checking
Straight after this came the last big climb of the day with it’s 625ft over just 1.7 miles
Then I rode off road on the Midshire Way until the canals of South Manchester lead me north to the Trans Pennine Trail.
This trail is rubbish it has thousands (well it felt like thousands) of anti motorbike gates around every corner, this was so slow that I then changed directions and headed north via the Trafford Centre up toward the East Lancs Road at Worsley, then it was head down with a slight tail wind all the way home.
Full ride from Stafford stats
With the 2 rides to the train I clocked 150 miles, 2 train rides and a night out in just over 24 hours
And on a final note, yes they are aero bars but on long rides they help so much, not only getting down out of the wind with the help of my large framed bike and short body, but they also help by using different muscle groups in my legs, so any ride over 50 miles they are staying on
How to get a photo similar to the one I took this Autumn of an Old Coach Road near home and one which I’m quote chuffed about how it came out.
Take lots of photos from all sorts of angles.
Here’s the original and not very interesting shot which I took looking down the tunnel of trees but from ground level to get the fallen leaves in shot.
Using your editing software, I use a free downloaded on called Paint.net found here http://www.getpaint.net/
Crop the original photo to make it come alive, I cropped the original photo here
Using the rule of thirds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds
I cropped the original photo to get the required shot as marked below.
I then edited with a tweak here and a tweak there to finish with this.
Now if I can take a good shot so can everyone.
If your photography improves slightly because of this blog * I’ll have a pint next time we’re out.
Ever since I saw the Surly Krampus I wanted a 29er+ for longer rides and bike packing, but because of the lack of frame bags on the market at the time (or I didn’t know about them at the time) I didn’t buy one because it wasn’t suited to rack fittings. A chance meeting with the guys from Surly at a Scottish Fat Bike meet up gave me a hint of the future and the up coming ECR (Extreme Camping Rig), but by the time it took to come out I’d discovered frame bags and luggage carrying seat packs. Plus a mate bought a bike I’d never heard of the Travers Rudy Fat, I read up on it contacts Michael Travers and test rode my mates medium framed piece of Titanium loveliness and I instantly fell in love with how it felt and rode I had to have one.
After dreaming about a Rohloff hub for a couple of years after riding on an 11 speed shimano hub and many, many, many emails to and from Michael Travers about a new bike called the Angus that he was working on it was decided by my heart (not my wallet) as that is the bike I needed and wanted.
Michael rushed 2 Angus’s from the factory to get to not only me but to Angus Edmond (the bikes name sake) who came 2nd in the World Single Speed Championships, the rush was to get Angus’s Angus to him before his next race and mine nicely fitted into the same box for shipping, Cheers Angus.
I’ve ridden it since late spring for 2000 miles (as part of my 5000 off road miles a target on my several bikes) and although the belt drive we worked on from day one died on the first bit of mud it hit and it took a day of faffing to sort out a chain drive replacement it’s not skipped a beat since that day. I’ve ridden the Leeds Liverpool canal towpath in record time and had several bike packing trips on it as well and quite a few local big rides.
Now it’s time to let you on a little bit of news, while chatting to Michael http://www.traversbikes.com he has asked me to become one of his Brand Ambassadors http://www.traversbikes.com/brand-ambassadors.html
We are currently working on the next generation Race Fat, Fat Bike
Following us Brits “inventing” Fat Bike Day the yanks have taken up and ran with it.
It’s changed it’s name to Global Fat Bike Ride Day and it roughly takes place the first Saturday in December, so if you have a Fat Bike and ride it occasionally make sure you get out on it on Global Fat Bike Day every year and take a photo to prove you rode it, even if it’s just to the shop and back
There were around 6 “gatherings” around the UK from Scotland to Dorset, I said I’d lead my normal Merseyside ride and we had 10 Fat Bikes riding up to 40 miles on beaches, sand dunes, single track, canal towpaths and disused railway lines avoiding all forms of tarmac.
Here are some shots
Role on next year