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Club Mountain Bike Ride - Clapham Area - Sunday July 14th

by Tony Keates

On a bright but slightly overcast morning, 10 of us met in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre car park at Clapham for the annual club mountain bike ride, organised as usual by John Lymer. The party split into two groups - John Lymer, Nigel Koenen, Brian Richardson, Tony Keates, David Jones and Rob, Doug and Karen would do the longer and harder ride, leaving just Trudy Lymer and Dot Relph to do the slightly shorter, slightly easier route. All were riding full-suspension mountain bikes except for Tony, who had a rigid mountain bike, and Dot who was riding a hybrid bike.

The route consisted of two loops - the morning loop of 10 miles, to the north of Clapham, which was mainly off-road, and a longer 16 mile afternoon loop, to the south of Clapham, which was mainly on-road. The two groups set off together, leaving Clapham by a stony track, Thwaite Lane, which went through two short tunnels as it started to climb. This caused a certain amount of consternation, due to the fact that we were all wearing sunglasses and could not see where we were riding or where anybody else was for that matter! Fortunately there were no accidents or injuries and we all emerged unscathed at the top of the climb, ready to enjoy a fast descent.

Part way down this descent, Trudy and Dot turned off left, to avoid a long climb on grass, to join up with the others further into the route. The main group carried on down until we met tarmac again. At this point there was an ominous-sounding clang from Rob's bike - investigation revealed that a spring had broken in the rear derailleur mechanism. After some discussion, he decided to return to Clapham to pick up his car and find somewhere he could get the bike repaired. He would then rejoin us after lunch for the afternoon session.

The rest of the group carried on and after a short distance we came to our first ford. The majority crossed via a bridge alongside but Brian decided to ride through it, and as it was a nice day, I decided I would also have a go - neither of us made it! Continuing along the walled track, somewhat overgrown in places, we met Trudy and Dot coming the opposite way. On being told of our ford escapade, they informed us that there was another one just ahead so we could have another go! Once again Brian and I tried it and once again we both failed to make it - at least it was fun trying! Trudy and Dot meanwhile continued on down the track towards their lunch stop at Austwick.

Shortly after this second ford, we started a long climb, initially on a firm track, but towards the top it changed to grass, which made it rather harder going. At one point I thought it was time I got sensible and gave up this mountain biking lark, but on reaching the top I decided that things were not so bad after all! From here it was downhill all the way, initially on grass, then back down the stony track and through the tunnels - again without any major problems - to our lunch stop and a well-earned pint of Black Sheep Bitter at the New Inn in Clapham.

After a somewhat longer than planned lunch break, while we waited the return of Rob (it turned out he had driven down to Halford's in Lancaster, bought a new rear mechanism and borrowed their workstand to fit it, before driving back to join us) we set off through the tunnels yet again on the second leg of the ride. After retracing the first 2 miles or so of the morning ride, we turned off down another lane to find yet another ford - once more the intrepid duo tried to ride through it and, yes you guessed it, once more failed to make the far side without putting a foot down. Despite the three failed attempts, we felt that we had upheld the true ethos of mountain biking - if it's there, have a go at it!

Shortly after this, we turned into what I can only describe as "The Matto Grosso of the Yorkshire Dales" - a very rough, very overgrown lane, with a narrow, twisting track between shoulder high nettles and other unfriendly vegetation. However we all made it and after another fast, grassy descent, were soon back on to tarmac. From here it was a very pleasant ride on quiet minor roads back to Clapham, to find Trudy and Dot were back safely and had got the kettle on. They had followed a shorter route from Austwick, through the back lanes, to Clapham.

Over cups of tea in our camper van, we discussed the day's rides and all agreed that it had been a very enjoyable day - Trudy and Dot could not stop talking about the enormous Yorkshire puddings, filled with roast beef in gravy, that they had had for lunch in Austwick - they felt that one helping would have satisfied both of them - so if you ever go to Austwick, bear this in mind.

Many thanks to John and Trudy for organising a great day out and we look forward to next year's event. In the meantime, Brian and I will be secretly practising riding through fords!