Sunday July 16th and The Club's Annual Mountain Bike Ride

by Steve Wardle

As an expert armchair cyclist (I subscribe to MBUK magazine and do at least one ride per year) I was looking forward to this weekend break in Cumbria.

A number of people had arrived in Kirkby Stephen on Friday evening or Saturday morning to do a walk on the Saturday. This gave them an appetite for dinner at the Jolly Farmers B&B where most of us stayed. I drove up early Saturday evening and joined them.

So for six of the cyclists (and five of the Keld walkers) Sunday morning started in a very civilised manner and after a slightly delayed start (Nigel was not late if that's what you supposed) 13 of us set off from the main car park.

Within a few minutes we had left the main roads and were following deserted lanes then grassy contours generally following the path of the river Eden south.

Trudy had set off before the main group but we met her retracing her route searching for the glasses which had "escaped" from her pannier. Luckily Carol had spotted them and one of the party had retrieved them.

We went around the south side of Birkett Common and then north-west, this time following the direction of the Settle to Carlisle railway, with a slight detour to look at a field and fill in time! The weather was just about perfect for cycling.

After crossing Waitby Common we headed north through Waitby and picked up the lane which took us back in to Kirkby Stephen for a well earned lunch at the Pennine pub. Marstons Pedigree - my favourite! This is after all what mountain biking's about, isn't it?

Derek Draper kept up in the morning but elected to take the shorter of the two afternoon routes offered. A good effort considering his £50 - sorry Derek, £75 now it has a working front wheel - bike had one fewer chain ring than everyone else's. Trudy kept him company.

The rest of us set off west to Crosby Garrett negotiating a small ford (the wet type) on the way. Then south-west round Nettle Hill and back north over Crosby Garrett Fell. This ended in a downhill section which had the few of on basic machinery wishing we had more in the way of suspension than arm and leg muscles.

Be it caused by thorn, flint or snake bite, a puncture (provided it's someone else's) makes a good excuse for a break and chat, provided the weather is as pleasant as it was during this ride. We had three between us in the afternoon. Despite Francis looking on and taking instruction during the first repair she didn't take us up on an offer to let her practise by fixing the next one!

The return route saw us mainly on lanes again interrupted by a section on a very overgrown track between Stockber and Soulby Grange. Again we detoured a little through over exuberance, should learn to let the leader stay at the front!

Overall the route was not too technical and had no painfully steep long climbs nor worryingly (for me anyway) tricky descents. Only the odd innocuous looking "puddle" on an otherwise fairly dry trail caught out some of those who decided to go for it. The total distance was around 29 miles and I enjoyed all of it.

This rolling hills and quiet trails make this a superb area for cycling. Away from the villages we only met five ramblers, two other cyclists and a few friendly farmers, one who kindly opened and closed the gate for us as we passed through her farmyard. On the lanes and minor roads we saw three cars.

Thanks to John for all the work he put in planning and leading this ride. It makes it easy for the rest of the group who only have to sit back and pedal. I know he is already looking at routes around Kirkby  Lonsdale for next year's ride.