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Plan A was simple, start at Newcasleton in Scotland, ride gravel/CX bikes off road to the Dirty Reiver 200km loop with a goal to bivi out at the bothy called Green and finish the route today.
With the temperatures dropping to minus 7 overnight, a cheap B&B was found, slept, fed, loaded up and we were riding at 8am
Up hill towards the sun rise with a scenery stops and a nice gentle pace were the order of the warm up
The sun didn’t hit every valley until later on in the morning
One of the 7 Stanes, strange why it has the words to Jerusalem (an English anthem) carved into a Scottish art work, or am I missing something?
Still cold even as the sun finally made it over the horizon
90 minutes in and we crossed into England
The highest point of our ride before a long downhill to the West and the North Eastern loop that we were riding
At the bottom of the long fire road descent we headed south but that’s when my troubles started, the frost had gone, it was around 3 or 4 degree’s and the main grey coloured frosted fire roads had turned from hard trails to all gloopy and gritty. Jeff was running 2 x 10 while my bike has a 1 x 11 drive train. I started to have a terrible time of my gears slipping and chain kept coming off, after much faffing and many stop messing with the gears we realised that the fine grit was actually clogging my finer chain while the grit was falling straight through the holes in Jeff’s 10 speed chain.
Plan B, the gloopy trails and my chain issues means it was hard and slow going, getting to the bothy with our original plan was going to be tough, by the time we got down to Kielder Water Jeff’s rear brake was down to the metal and he didn’t have a spare set with him.
With only 1 hour of daylight left, we had another chose. Do we cut out part of the trail to get to our planned pub meal before heading onto the bothy arriving really late at night, making it a very long tough day with gear troubles and no brakes?
Plan F or was it Plan G? Do we chose to extend today’s route around the reservoir the very long way or cut it short and hit the pub early before heading off into the hills into the dark? We chose to loop the lake the long way around and bivi down near the pub.
It was tough going with lots of undulations and Jeff having a puncture en route but at least the weather was above freezing in places and no wind at all, we arrived at the pub with 70 laidened, heavy going miles ridden. We didn’t want to ride any further today, i walked into the pub and after a bit of a chat with the owner both Jeff and I pitched up our tents on the grass right in front of his pub.
Once up, we went into the pub to fin the bar full, but the restaurant completely empty, the owner suggested we use the restaurant and spread our stuff out, which we did, and once we found the fire and got in beer and food we were in hogs heaven and the bothy and the southern loop were soon forgotten about.
I got about 8 hours sleep last night, it was loverly
With continuing gear and brake woes we plotted Plan Z and a route back to Newcastleton and off we went.
We made it back to Scotland without any issues once we’d left the gritty trails of Kielder reservoir, then it was a climb up to and into the Newcastleton Stanes trail
Then it was the long downhill back to the van but going steady as I was warning Jeff about anything where he would have troubles without brakes. including frozen trails like this.
The bike was awesome, comfortable and perfect for the trails. But the 1 x 11 drive trail was shocking with the fine grit clogging it up on any of the grey coloured fire roads.
Ride stats from Strava
Saturday, riding from before sunrise to well after sunset 70 miles and 6246 ft of climbing.
Sunday, the escape, 20 miles and 1391 ft of climbing.
Plus a complete set of brake pads
And my gear system needs some serious TLC
EDIT – ADDITION
The gear issues were down to a poor chain line after my crank arm became loose about 3o miles and I miss tightened it….. or something like that.
Anyway it’s back from Thatto’s Cycles now and as good as new, but a few hard test rides will be needed to ensure it doesn’t come loose again. If it does it could be a bit spendy.
A mate has asked me, what sleeping bags and mats do I use. Plus several others have shown interest in what kit I use.
Now I’m no expert and my gear is where it is, is mainly by trail and error, but I think it is now perfect for me. Until someone else brings out the next must have bit of kit 😉
So, Part 1 is to answer this question about my choice of Sleeping bags and mattress’s.
After several years of poor nights sleep I have come to except that I don’t sleep at all well in sleeping bags, I don’t like the cramped and trapped in feeling that I get when zipped inside.
I have found that quilts suit me better, not quilts like you have on your bed or can buy wide and flat ones just for camping, but quilts that look like this.
They are simply a backless and hoodless sleeping bags.
Why backless? Because when you lay in the sleeping bag the lower part including the insulation that is underneath you gets crushed completely flat, so this part is not necessary.
Why Hoodless? If you move around a lot in the night while you sleep like I do, the hood of a sleeping bag won’t move around with your head/face and you end up with your face inside the bag at times which also makes me feel restricted.
The solution to these problems foe me is to sleep in my Quilt with a down hooded jacket, so that when I twist and turn the hood turns with me, in spring and autumn a woolly hat does the job.
I have a 250 Cumulus quilt for the summer and a 450 Cumulus quilt for the winter now.
Cumulus quilt info here Please note they are not available off the shelf here in the UK because the importer doesn’t believe that they will sell enough to makeit worth getting them in, so use google and Europe outdoor shops are your only option at the moment. Other manufacturers of quilts like this are out there as well.
Summer I use an original Thermorest Neoair as shown below
This exact rectangular model is no longer available so I believe, as the newer ones are tapered and lighter nowadays
Winter I use a Exped Downmat lite 5 LW L = Long W = Wide.
The summer Neoair is a little narrow and when I sleep on my back my elbows fall off the side of the mattress waking me up at times, so the Winter mattress had to be a wider one for a better night’s sleep. I didn’t need a long model but they don’t to a Medium Wide model.
And finally another reason that I prefer using a quilt (as you will see in the very top photo) is that the Cumulus ones come with 2 long elasticated cords that wrap around and underneath the mattresses, ensuring the quilt stays perfectly in place leading to hopefully a perfect nights sleep. When warm it is much easier to cool down in a quilt than a zipped in sleeping bag, plus getting in and out is easier I find.
Part 2, to follow. but what would you like it to be about?
I’ve never been a fan of back packs, whether it be for walking, climbing or biking but they are the necessary evil that haunts us every time we head outdoors.
Let’s face it even the very best ones are heavy (when loaded), restrictive, sweaty, uncomfortable, and get in the way of free movement. And I love the excuse “it will protect my back in a crash” yeh right, as if you’d land exactly on it, your more likely to have it try and pull your arm out of your socket when you crash…… Or simple don’t crash.
So, this winter it’s bye bye backpacks on bike rides and making full use of my bike packing gear.
Bike Packing gear = Not just for overnight rides…….
With tomorrows forecast saying that is will be a dry start then turning wet after an hours riding, I could do as roadies do and switch off my alarm and have a sleep in of I can just get on with it and get out riding. So that’s what I’ll do and I’ve just loaded up ready for it.
But instead of my normal winter back pack everything I need is on my bike leaving my back free from any dead weight.
In the seat pack are the following, Inner tube, tools, CO2 bits, over shoes, spare gloves, waterproof over shorts, light weight rain proof and a heavy weight waterproof coat (because you can’t trust those forecasters).
In the top tube bag is my every present camera, cash and my breakfast snacks (still in the fridge. Note to self….. don’t forget to load them up in the morning)
As some of my ride to and from the group meet up will be on roads you will see I have one of those crazy bright ALDI rear lights ready for action.
Then up front I have my Garmin Dakota, My KLite dynamo powered front light and in my stem cell bag are the electrics, phone charging port with room left for my phone and a couple more snacks.
With power for the front light and phone charging all coming from the front hub.
So, ditch the back pack this winter there is absolutely no need to ride with one.
And to finish, you called your house what?
It’s well over a month since I completed my Everesting of the Devil’s Elbow. It was a strangely satisfying experience, and one that has lead to further plotting, reading, research and g…
Source: Everesting: Bwlch-y-groes