Sunday. Day 2 of the Lakes expedition. After a poor nights kip for some (snoring, oversoft mattress, loud expulsions of windy-pops) it was up and at ’em for breakfast. Various goodies had been acquired/ brought with the team, our milk safe in the fridge overnight thanks to sticky labels (OK, I maybe went a little overboard, but when I was in student residences, milk was always getting nicked). We chatted to a few other folk staying in the hostel who were doing a bit of walking and watching their friend take part in a big swim event later that morning. Breakfast done, we packed up, grabbed our gear from the drying room, spent ages trying to find John’s overshoes in everyone elses bag only for me to find them – in his bag – then we were off. The plan was to head along the “Fred” route and sort of pick up somewhere along the route were we left off to get the other hills done. More parking fun was to ensue, the swimming event and the triathalon meaning that there were people everywhere and not a space to be found. Eventually we found a layby space and decamped, the rain starting to fall as we got kitted out.
We set off along the flat route, through Ambleside to the first climb of the day – Holbeck Lane leading to Troutbeck (what great names some of these places have!). I got off to a bad start here, my front mech jamming, unable to swap from the big to the small ring. With no hope of getting up the hill in those gears, I yelled to the others to go on (no, its not another puncture), clipped one foot out, banged my foot on the mech and turned the pedal to get the chain to shift over. Result. The others were quickly vanishing, so I pushed hard to close on them as they toiled up the hill. After a short while I was back in touch, breathing hard as we all slogged up the slope, the occasional car squeezing by us as we made our way further up to the Kirkstone pass. As we climbed, dozens of cyclists (triathletes) started to stream toward us, down the hill. A few “hello’s” from John at the front were ignored (seriouz bizniz this triathllon?), only getting the occasional nod, until, to our surprise, a huge yell of “Guys!” – our very own Gio belting down the hill. We responded with our own cheers and hello’s as he vanished down the hill behind us, and kept plugging away at the hill. Soon we were passing an ambulance attending to an unfortunate triathlete on a corner, a convoy of cars behind us only able to pass us once we’d cleared the accident. We continued upwards, calling out to the steady stream of downward cyclists to watch for the accident, and after thirty or so minutes of climbing we reached the top.
The steep descent required serious braking, sharp corners, oncoming cars and the occasional walking or slow, tired cyclist to watch out for. The slope levelled off, and several miles of flattish roads were ahead, time for the train to come in to play. Sadly this was not to be, as we hit a short rise, my front tyre was looking decidely flat, so I had to stop. Pumped up (slow puncture?) and we moved on, but it wasn’t more than a few miles before I had to stop again for more air. Then again as we turned to climb to Matterdale End. And at the top (well, the first top, there was a second not far ahead). And at the bottom. At least the (pricey) tube I’d bought at the top of Whinlatter had a valve that agreed with my pump. This was getting silly, so a new tube went in. Tyre patches also applied as it was clear the tyre was seriously gubbed, gauging roughly where David had seen air coming out the tyre wall on one of the many previous stops. Patched and tubed, we moved on, this time, my tyre seeming to hold the air without issue, but planningon heading to Keswick to get me a new front tyre to be sure of no further incidents today.
We turned on to the A66, Sam taking the lead, the rest of us following, the road starting to head downhill. We spread out a little, mostly keeping to the left of the white line at the edge of the road to give the fast, overtaking traffic more space. We must have been doing around 25mph when it happened. I was at the back, and suddenly and seemingly in slow motion, I could see Sammy was in trouble – his front wheel slid from under him, tipping him over the bike, his head hitting the tarmac, and he lay there motionless as we all careened to a halt. Bryan got to him first – “don’t move him” I yelled as I got off my bike. “Sammy, you ok?”. A few moments passed. “I think so”. “Can you move?”. “Yeah”. “Help him up, slowly”. Bryan and I helped him to the kerb of the junction we were now at and sat him down. “You alright?”. “Mmm”. I’m no medic, but I’ve got a fair bit of experience of dealing with a postictal Dee, so started to apply some of the cogntive checks I’d picked up over the years. “Follow my finger with your eyes”. Left, right, up, down. All seemed well. “Can you move your fingers?”. Yup. “Toes”. Yup. “Anywhere hurting?”. “My head” (surprise). “here” (waist/ hip). “Do you feel sick?”. “No”. So, no concussion (probably?), so far, so good (ish). “What year is it?”. This seemed to pose an issue for a few moments… “2012?”. Ok. “Where are we?”. “The A66, Lake District”. “Who am I?”. “You’re Ian…. I’m feeling a bit funny now”. A quick conflab with the rest – we’re getting him an ambulance, he’s not right and needs a proper medic to check him out. Bryan got on the phone, 999, me using my wee Garmin to call our rough location, getting John to keep him talking, don’t let him fall asleep. Bryan relayed our location, the controller at the other end getting him to ask Sammy his name. He got that right, but was now getting more confused about where we were going, where we’d just been, and was getting cold. I whipped off my jacket for him as Bryan got off the phone. We didn’t have to wait long for the blaring of sirens and the flashing blues as the ambulance arrived. The paramedic took his time to check Sam’s neck, then got him to follow his finger (turning his neck) left then right, head up, chin to chest (neck working ok). “Was he unconscious?”. “Maybe, but only a second or two, can’t be sure”. “OK, seems you won’t need a brace, lets get you in the ambulance”. “where you taking him?”. “Carlisle”. Hmm. “Can you take his bike?”. “I’m not supposed to, but I’m a cyclist too, ok, wait while we get things sorted, then we’ll take it for you”. We took charge of Sam’s car key, took his Garmin for safekeeping, then passed the bike to the ambulance crew, who were quickly off, sirens and lights down the road.
Ok, now what? Back on the bikes? Keep going to Keswick John reckoned, bike shop, ditch bikes, grab a taxi back to the cars. Sound plan. The rain was tipping down, we cautiously made our way along the road, cars dangerously close at times, all of us extra aware of the drains, bulging cats-eyes and any potholes that could lie ahead. The longest four miles ever were ahead of us, the four of us moving in mostly silence, mulling over the recent events. We got there, found the bike shop from the day before, John and Bryan going in to see about a taxi. They were soon out – turns out we’re less than 30 minutes away from the cars, bike shop guy reckons we’d be as quick biking it as waiting for taxi. So a quick refuel with gel/bars and we got ready to set off back up the road. Bryan’s phone went – Sammy! Seems they’d turfed him out of A&E, his ride in the ambulance seeing him mostly recovered, the doc showing more concern over his hip than his head. Good news. Less so for the road, as we were immediately on a hill, working hard to get to the top 4 or 5 miles further on. The rest of the route we fell back into the train, taking our 0.5 mile stints at the head of the group, as we set a quick pace on the favourable roads, some shorter upward hills but a good few downward or easy flat sections allowing us to hit decent speeds all the way back to Ambleside. Ok, where’s the cars? Erm, not sure. Think its this way (stupid Garmin not playing ball with the ‘back to start’ function). An extra loop of Ambleside’s one way system and we hit the right road, a mile or so further on and we were back at the layby and the cars. Ride done. 50 miles (5 or so missing from me stopping my Garmin at the Sammy incident).
A fun drive from Ambleside to the M6 (Sammy’s in-car GPS taking us the ‘scenic route’), and we were soon at Carlisle, picked up a bored (and much better) Sam, only effected by a sore hip and a bit too much daytime TV while he waited for us, and headed home. Curry in Cambuslang rounded off an eventful weekend – not really the 170+ planned for the weekend, and missed out on a chance to try the infamous Hardnot and Wyrnose climbs, but I reckon we’re excused due to all the other hills, weather, punctures, accident, floods and er, hills.
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The original plan (well the current original plan which was one of many but don’t let that complicate the story) was simple. Me, Sammy and David would be meet Ian and John in Coniston at 0930 and start riding soon after. However, since it was raining (pretty hard) John decided a new jacket was required and Keswick was the place to get it, prompting a change in the start of the ride to Keswick, a place we were due pass through on our ride. Same ride, different start point……..
The background to this is the weekend just passed was supposed to be the pre-lejog, big 2 hard days in a row cycle to ensure that everyone felt what it was like to get up 2 days in a row and cycle.
Driving down, the call came in from Ian ‘John wants to buy a jacket, going to Keswick for it’, ‘Ok, we will just come there and save a bit of time and start the trip there’ we respond. Our response is paraphrased, the real response would have involved word like selfish, unprepared, **** (insert swear word here) etc….. It’s not like rain wasn’t forecast. However, at the time it seemed like an ok plan.
As we drive into Keswick we spot a bike shop and John’s car. Ian’s bike is strapped to the back unsecured, we think about taking it to teach him a lesson but think better of it. Ian’s view of security gets even stranger as he padlocks his carton of milk to the fridge in the youth hostel for fear of theft.
The rest of us troop into the shop and find John trying on various jackets, posing as if he was on a bike to ensure the sleeves are long enough, this is not a quick process but eventually a jacket is settled upon. Everyone then has to take a shot of the shops toilet and we are ready to go. Well nearly, there is a job of driving round Keswick trying to find a non paying parking spot, but eventually we end back in the centre of town at the Pay and Display. Of course no one has any change for it, but luckily you can phone a number and pay by card. Great, but seemingly the computerised system doesn’t do ‘Scottish’ and it’s off to the newsagent to buy a packet of mints to get some change. Nearly there, just the weekly discussion about how many layers to wear, which gloves to use, overshoes or not…. Given that it had been raining for 3 straight days, pretty much meant everything was going to be worn.
We eventually set off about 11:15 and immediately find out that however bad a road is in a car, it’s 10 times worse on a bike. The roads are in a terrible state, flooding everywhere and rocks and scree all over the road. We cycle gingerly, not knowing what’s around the corner. There are no land speed records getting set this weekend.
The 112 mile route we had planned to do has 9 big hills, but although we have the route mapped in Ian and Sammy’s Garmin gps no one is quite sure when the hills are coming. After about 10 miles Sammy thinks there is a hill coming and having put too many layers on, everyone is already sweating and it’s time for some to come off to help us the hill. Suitable ready, off we go. Now what we were expecting was a hill, not a wall that had slightly subsided. This hill was near vertical, the 25% signs suddenly appearing in view, the recrimination of the route owners began. ‘You didn’t say it ramped up so quiclky, ya ****’ ‘Is this one of the big ones’ ‘ How long does it go on for’ are the shouts heard. Nobody knew and quickly no one could speak as everyone used all their energy to keep moving, this hill was tough and it went on for miles. Some decided that weaving all over the road from side to side lessened the gradient, others decided that nearly falling into a ditch at the side of the road was the way to go. However, in the end everyone made it up to the top without stopping. I think it was one of those situations where had one stopped, everyone else would have quickly followed, but no one did, pride forcing everyone onwards. At the top we re-gathered and had a chat about the experience. But not for long, it was cold, jackets back on and then down. Brakes stuck on, this was not an easy descent, windy thin roads with debris everywhere, cramp in your hands as you grip too tightly. But soon we were down and back onto the flat in a group. But not for long.
Onto hill number 2, again no real idea of what to expect, the expression ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ comes to mind. This hill is hard but not too hard and has a nicer feel to it, it is semi enjoyable. We come to the top, stop and take in the view and then quickly get going again. This descent is better, smoother roads, wider turns and we bundle down and eventually it bottoms out. However, there are only 4 of us now. Ian is not with us. We remember him putting his jacket on but surely it doesn’t take that long. We look back up the hill to try and spot but it’s a long hill and hard to see in the rain. Eventually a lady in a car stops and tells us that Ian has a puncture. It’s a relief that we know what’s wrong but know that there could be a wait as Ian wont be in the Guinness book of records anytime soon for the fastest time to change a puncture. And then we wait, and wait, it’s getting cold and eventually the decision is taken to start going back up the hill to help. We go about half way back up and find Ian. The puncture has been changed but the valve on tube keeps coming off when getting pumped up. We get Sammy on the job, he is known as the ‘Mavic man’ after the yellow cars that follow the Tour de France to provide mechanical help. After a bit of toing and froing it is fixed and we are on our way. Not for long, we manage another couple of miles and psstt…… Ian’s tyre is down again. This is not going well. Another new inner tube, another check of the tyre, it is pumped up and off we go again, all the way back down to the bottom and ready for hill number 3.
Sammy kicks off first, followed by myself and then the other 3 are a bit slow in getting going. Sammy is setting a good pace but I am keeping him in sight, I check back a couple of times and can see John’s new yellow jacket. All present and correct. As the hill ramps up, you start to concentrate to keep going, a steady rhythm is required. My technique is counting down from 10 to 1, that’s easy, only 10 to do and then start again. I havent looked back in a while but when I do I dont see anyone but there are a few corners so they might be round one of them. I keep going. Eventually I stop just short of the top and decide to wait. Nothing. I eventually phone David and find out the bad news, Ian’s tyre is down again. So I wait and wait. Eventually, Sammy comes down from the top and we decide to roll back down to help and it’s nearly to the bottom. It is again fixed, but this is not a good sign, however there is a bike shop at the top of the hill and we will take it in there. Off we go again, my legs not enjoying the hill the second time around.
We reach the top, where the bike shop and a cafe are situated and Ian goes off to get help. John and I browse the shop and John decided to purchase another set of gloves to supplement the 3 pairs he is already carrying. ‘Super Waterproof’ or so they claim, they need to be. Sammy has replanned our route for the rest of the day, taking in most of the big hills but less of the flat in between. Ian’s tyre has been checked and been given the all clear and we decide to stop for lunch although we barely deserve it. The standard of lunch is reasonable for a forest cafe but the prices resemble a 3 star Michelin place. 2 soups, 1 baguette, 2 cakes and a drink, £20!
Lunch duly eaten, we set off once again. The descent is treacherous, water is pouring off the hills making handling tricky, stones everywhere. We make it to the bottom and guess what? Ian’s tyre is down again. This is turning into a nightmare. We try and work out what to do. One school of thought is a couple of us to go back and get the cars, but the quickest way is back over the hill we came. This is rejected due to the danger. So we decide on fixing Ian’s tyre once again and heading back to the cars a different way involving hill number 2 and hoping for the best. The trip back to car is fairly uneventfull although hill number 2 seems decidedly harder, although not for David who romps up and over in double quick time.
We make it back to Keswick at 17:32 just in time for the bike shop closing. Great! No new tyre. And only 45 miles done.
Quickly, we were locked and loaded and off to the Youth hostel. I think most of us would have preferred the luxury of a B and B and a nice comfy twin room but due to many events in the area, this was all the accomodation we could find. How bad could it be? Well in reality, not too bad at all. We had one room for the five of us, while not exactly Ritz standard was clean and tidy. The showers were hot and the setting was fantastic. Life was ok. Deoderant was sprayed on and we were ready to go out.
On the way out we chatted briefly to a hen party waiting on their lift. It turned out their lift was the hen herself who didnt drink and who would be taking 2 lots of her friends to the village for her night out. Sounds great for the hen!
The nearest town is Ambleside, a lovely spot with may fine restaurants. We decide on the ‘Jade Garden’ for rice and noodles to fuel us for the next day. It turns out to be a perfunctory by the book Chinese restaurant that wont be winning any awards anytime soon. However, the chat is good and everyone has enjoyed it so far even given the mishaps that has happened. It’s all about the journey.
We get back to the Hostel at 22:30 and Ian and David go for a drink as it too early for bed. The rest of hit the hay and dream of a better second day……TBC
The plan – 6 of team DIFD to head down to the Lakes to take on the “Fred Whitton sportive” route on Saturday, an easy 60 on the Sunday. The “Fred” is a tough 112 miles taking in 9 significant climbs, including some of the hardest in the UK with gradients of 25%. The guide to the route uses the words “painfully” and “very, very” an awful lot in front of the word “steep”. So, guess the hills were going to be tricksy… Sunday was to be a recovery day from the significant self-inflicted torture that Saturday was promising to be.
Saturday. 6.45am start. Rain. Lots of it. Mark M had dropped out (needing to get his cycle legs back after his last few weeks of focussing on his marathon training and better guessing the impact of the weather), so 5 of us were heading down in two cars, myself with Big J; Bryan, Sam and David in the other. Gio would be in the same area taking part in a triathalon on Sunday so was going to miss out on today’s fun. Did I mention the rain?
As we got closer to our target (Conniston), John was eyeing the weather from the car, noting how very, very damp the few cyclists we were passing looked and decided that a new waterproof jacket was in order. A quick phone call or two to the other car and a detour to Keswick was made, a bike shop found and John kitted out in new bright yellow Gore jacket. Some swithering over some Gore bib shorts that happened to be a close match for out team kit (decision was we’d come back for them later) and it was back to the cars to find a parking spot somewhere on the Fred route, as the morning was moving on. Seems despite the weather there were a lot of people trying to park.
A brief stop on a quiet lane was rejected as being too close to a river that looked to be already bursting its banks – didn’t want to be paddling back to the cars at the end of the day. More forays along quiet roads, passing through some serious flooding (bow waves and hissing engine from the depth of water) a call was made to just head to Keswick and face the cost of a proper car park. This had its own issues – very little change, so phone based payments attempted (succes for car 1, a jog to the shop for change for car 2 as ‘your network is not compatible with this service’) and we were parked, £7 down each. Waste of cake money…
A quick discussion on gear (long legs, 2 or 3 layers, definately waterproof jackets) and we eventually hit the road on our bikes. First stop, the flood we’d just been through (and back again), with a mix of taking the footpath (still under half a foot of water) or the road (equally flooded), picking our way through the water with care. The ‘train’ moved on, the rain coming down, the spray flying up, the road sodden – water streaming through the ironically named dry-stone walls in various spots, inches of standing water not uncommon, causing us to take to the middle of the road in an attempt to pass on through the shallowest part of the floods.
Nine miles done in half an hour (watery roads not condusive to speed) and we were at the first hill of the day – the climb to Honister Pass. A quick stop to shed our jackets (the rain had abated) and we started the climb, all in the small rings as this one of the “painfully” and “very, very” hills. Dodging to the side for a few cars/ bus we pushed upwards, Sam starting to traverse at the steepest section, David having a wobble and near dismount situation with a ditch. I pushed ahead a little to avoid the traversing (extra time on this hill? no thanks!) and reached the top, 2 mountain bikers watching us from a side path. I clipped one foot out to wait for the others right behind me, only for Sam to call “this isn’t the top, keep going” as he pedalled by me, the false peak a short respite only before more climbing to the real top a bit further on. We regrouped for the descent, as steep as the climb, so hard on the brakes as we headed down, avoiding the gravel and debris washed on to the road by the rain.
Through Buttermere and three miles or so on to Newlands, the second climb of the day. This was ‘easy’, at least compared to the last hill, again everyone climbing roughly together. A brief stop at the top to regroup, warnings to take care on the way down and we were off.
I was last to go, but punctured nearly immediately. I pulled over, the others fast vanishing ahead. I started to change the tube, tyre half off, old tube out, new tube in. A van stopped, asking if I was ok, I was – just tell the guys up ahead I’ve got a flat. Pumped it up. As I unscrewed the pump, the valve started to come out, deflating the tyre. Bah. Rescrewed the valve, pumped it up. Unscrewed the pump. Valve came out again. By this point the others had decided to come kick my ass for wasting their time, getting chilled in the rain. Dissing the pump, a gas canister inflated the tube, and we were off, making our way to Braithwaite. However, we’d barely gone on a mile or two and I’d punctured again (2). This time Sam helped me change the tube (dont want the new guy pinching another tube), pump still de-valving the tube so another gas inflate, and we were again on our way. We were soon at our third climb – Winlatter. A gentler climb this time, but we’d hardly got a few hundred metres before I had puncture number 3. Sam and Bryan were well ahead, but John and David were stopped with me. John took charge of this change, taking the tyre completely off the rim, checking it over carefully and getting me to do the same, David finding the hole in the tube to see if we could find something that was causing these punctures. Nothing. New tube, inflated. Ready to go again, as Bryan and Sam came back down to see what was taking so long. Up the hill we went, nothing too steep, but a fairly long slog. The promised lunch stop would be at the top as well as a chance to get my tyre checked over in the bike shop that was there too. We got to the top with no issues, I took my bike into the shop, the mechanic taking a look at the tyre and tube. His verdict? You’ve been unlucky, can’t see anything wrong, avoid the gravel. So purchased a couple of new tubes from the shop and off to lunch (and cake).
Ah, lunch. Baguettes, soup, coffee, water and cake. Toilet stop. A quick chat to a mountain biker who had four punctures in a day (ridiculous! no-one is that unlucky…) then back out into the rain. Down the hill we went, the wind and rain battering us as we went. As we hit the valley floor, I was again feeling too much road through my bars – flat number four! Unbelievable. Another new tube, exasperation all round and a change of plan. Time was against us (it was nearly 5pm already) so a quick try to get a lift for me and my ailing bike from a couple in a van failing (“sorry, we just live over there”), it was change the tube then a few miles along the valley floor, back over Newlands, to get to the cars. The second time up the climb seemed tougher, particularly as I was watching my front tyre, concerned it was going to go at any moment. David pushed to the front, stretching himself to hit the top first, the rest of us soon there. Me puncture free so far. Down into Braithwaite, turning back to Keswick, the train making great time, the wind now helping us and the roads relatively clear of debris and floods – the ‘best’ bit of the day, a nice fast section for a half dozen miles. Soaked, not as tired as we expected, not even half the mileage we’d planned, we were back at the cars.
We packed up, made a quick stop at the Co-op for supplies and headed off to the Youth Hostel. Hidden behind Ambleside up a serious hill, this YH used to be a mansion. We checked in (here’s your key, bike shed round the back, drying room in the basement), claimed beds in the 3 bunk-bed room, grabbed a shower (or trickle depending on shower cubicle choice) and put our wet gear in the drying room. The bikes were locked in the shed, a quick chat to a hen party (you chose to stay here? for a hen night??) and we piled into Sam’s car to head to Ambleside for a Chinese. Not the best grub, but plenty of it, a beer for David and me, water for everyone else, then back to the YH. A quiet pint (the YH had a small bar in reception) for me and David, everyone else off to bed. We finished our drinks and headed to bed too.
The morning would be bringing better weather (right…) and a second crack at the Fred to finish the hills we skipped. A sort of enjoyable day (some good hills done), nice lunch, bad luck on punctures, rotten weather, ok room, passable dinner and my first sleep on a top bunk in 25 years. Part 2 (Sunday) soon.