Daring Deeds - real stories, expeditions, road trips and adventure
On Saturday 14th May almost 100 riders gathered in Staveley for the start of 100 miles of South lakes riding. The event was conceived by Richard Munro, a Kendal local, owner of spectacular facial hair, connoisseur of fat tyred bike packing and single handedly supporting the south lakes real ale industry.
Initially it was to be a low key ride, organised via social media in memory of Jenn Hill who sadly passed away after a hard fought battle with cancer. A just giving page was set up and entry was via a donation to cancer charities, but the demand was much higher than expected and so it was that we all found ourselves on the start line with many friends, old and new.
This definitely wasn’t a race and though some ‘rules’ had been mentioned I don’t think any of them were to be enforced. A real mix of bikes and riders assembled, some going super light and going for a ‘oner’ with others packing more gear for a couple of days out and a night under the stars. Bikes varied from superlight single speed hardtails to all mountain enduro machines along with everything in between.
I had elected somewhere very much in between, I decided to take a Sonder Transmitter, not the usual choice for a ride like this – it being a super slack ‘fun’ hardtail - but the route took in some great trails and I wanted to make the most of the descents...
My kit consisted of a small saddle bag, so I could still use the dropper post, a bar bag and Fat Roo, 2 stem cells and a medium Fuel Pod. I also carried a Gourdon 20 with hydration system and extra clothes, food, and cooking kit. Full run through of kit can be found here
As we rolled out of Staveley at 9:30 I found myself in the front with a small group of riders going for a ‘oner’, the pace was steady and the long climb over to Longsleddale felt comfortable on the Transmitter, then the 650b+ rubber really came in to its own on the techy climb over to Stile End before the first big hike-a-bike of the day came over Garburn Pass. By now the sun was up and it was getting pretty warm but spirits were high and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. Descending from Garburn down the long, loose and slatey descent I’d definitely made the right bike choice, as several of the skinny tyred, rigid bikes clattered down or punctured the Transmitter floated down on its 3ins rubber and the only limit being my nerve...
With the high point of the ride done I was onto more familiar ground and really enjoyed the opportunity to ride trails that I last rode as an Ambleside local over 12 years ago. Troutbeck, Ambleside, Rydal, Grasmere all came and went before the climb over Red bank and down to Elterwater... here I deviated slightly to visit the Brittannia Inn in Elterwater, one of my favourite pubs anywhere and a relaxed pint of Kirby Lonsdale Monumental (nice one Stu) along with some sausage and bread and cheese in the sun was lovely... it was at this point that Rich and Alex also arrived...
After Elterwater a steady spin down Langdale with a brief sojourn over a very techy short climb from the New to Old Dungeon Ghyll meant we were at the furthermost point of the ride, from here in we were riding ‘home’. Many riders decided to stop here for food... I selected a pint of the excellent Moorhouses Blonde Witch and a bag of plain crisps. Riders came and went for the next 40 mins, some in groups, some solo all pretty happy with how it was going.
It was about 4pm now and we were 38miles in.
The route continued off-road down Langdale, through sooooo many gates, Little Langdale, Hodge Close, Iron Keld all trails I knew but that I used to know intimately, like meeting old friends again. I found myself grinning constantly as the bike relished the regular sharp climbs and flew down the fast, dry and dusty descents. Eventually I hit the road and descended to Hawkshead, there were several riders here enjoying the various facilities and some big plates of food, I went for a very nice pint of Hawkshead Red and more crisps, then off to the co-op for some grazing, and a refill of cold water...
The climb out of Hawkshead was steep and long and for the first time a bit of tiredness was creeping into the legs, it was at this point that I also regretted not having studied the route a bit more, the vague line on my (10 year old) OS map bore some resemblance to the North Face trail but it was quite tenuous... I rode on for a couple of miles the bike coping admirably with some lazy line choices, even fully loaded. I eventually came off the man made trail to pick up a Bridleway, I was now riding blind as the tracks and trails in front of me were not marked on the map, it was after 7:30pm and the bright sun was sitting lower in the sky. I knew where I needed to be but the map and my memory couldn’t put the two together, after a short detour through deep standing water, windfallen trees and following a vague bridleway I emerged back on route but a little further on than expected, I’d missed the short section along Parkamoor – that I know would have been beautiful this evening but some red rear lights ahead in the trees showed other riders so I was keen to press on and not get off-route again.
The descent to Satterthwaite was brilliant, rocky, rooty, loose and fast... again the Transmitter was impeccable... Into Satterthwaite, past The Eagles Head, staring longingly through the window at others enjoying cold beers and hot food, I ploughed on. The climb out of the valley was steep, started on tarmac before heading off road and over Breasty Haw, through sleepy High Dale Park and up again, forced to get off and push now before descending through Cunsey Wood to the shores of Lake Windermere and past the Ferry house, I’d caught a friend, Paul by this point and we were wordlessly pushing on together, it was after 9pm now and getting dark, still warm but getting too dark to see under the trees, 2 other riders decided to ride up the road from the ferry to the Tower Bank Arms at Near Sawrey for a pre-arranged meet for beers with other riders, we pressed on the route, passing campervans and fishermen enjoying BBQ’s by the lake. The short cropped and lush green grass here looked welcoming but we fought the urge to stop and set up bivis for the night.
Soon it was time to turn left and climb again, lights were switched on and the climb over Well Head Coppice, heading For Sawrey started, the climb was long, steep and we pushed several sections. Evetually we emerged from the trees to the last of the sunset, we stopped for a moment to enjoy the mild, still evening and incredible light show as the sun disappeared behind the hills. We discussed stopping right there but Paul was keen for sustenance so we decided to descend to the pub for food and drink. We rolled down the next descent, a wide, loose affair that chilled us slightly now the warming sun had disappeared.
We rolled through Far Sawrey electing to head for the excellent Tower Bank Arms at Near Sawrey. Here we met several riders, including Rich and Alex again... (you know you’re choosing the right pubs when Rich Munro is there too)
It was now after 10pm and the pubs inviting glow was most welcome, we put on warm, dry layers and headed inside. A few pints of superb Langdale Gold was most welcome along with the biggest pile of crisps I’ve ever seen. We remained in the warm, comfortable on nice soft chairs as long as was polite before we made our move, we refilled water bottles and warm layers and lights were fitted before we rolled off up the road heading for Claife heights. As we climbed we started to pass other riders who had already retired for the night. We stopped just before Moss Eccles tarn and bedded down for the night. I quickly cooked up some pasta along with more sausage and cheese, the Kraku and Mytimug650 making short work of it, I ate half and left the rest for the morning. It was a cold, clear night so the tarp wasn't need, instead my Hunka/Mountain Dream and Lumo combo was perfect and we stared up at a magnificent star filled sky.
Morning dawned cold and clear but the sun soon climbed in to the sky, breakfast and coffee were prepared, bivis were packed and we were soon on our way again, leaving no trace of our presence the night before.
The next few climbs and descents were stunning in the early morning light and frequent stops for photos slowed progress and meant I was soon riding on my own again. High Wray, Belle Grange descent and the ride around Pull Wyke Bay came and went before rolling into Ambleside. Here I replenished food and water before the drag up Jenkins Crag. This was soon a push but the views down to the lake and the deer that joined the trail just metres up ahead made it all worthwhile.
Soon it was down Robins Lane and into Troutbeck then through the holiday park at Limefitt to rejoin familiar trails from yesterday then came the turn up the road to High Borrans to then pick up the remote and wild Bridleway over to Kentmere Hall and then the drag up and over (and through all the gates) on Green Quarter. From the top it was a lovely descent that you could take as fast as your tired legs and brain would allow, ending with the open, techy and grin inducing HP Wood downhill to the road. It was then a steady spin down the road back to Staveley with Alex who had caugfht up and lead out the descent on his full-suspension bike.
It was now 11am, and after 168km and 4200m and 25 hours the finish was a brilliant, low key affair, a shake of the hand with Rich (who had finished just 15 minutes previously) and a bottle of Hawkshead beer (that was instantly opened and drained) and then bacon butties were ordered and the few riders there started to compare stories and kit choices and talk immediately turned to ‘next time’....
Overall this was an amazing event, the weather, the route, the people the stars aligned and this was honestly one of the best weekends I’ve ever had on a bike. This was helped in no short measure by, (an unexpectedly) brilliantly capable bike... the Transmitter isn’t just a fun bike for trail centres or short blasts, it is a proper all day mountain mile muncher that will do as much or as little as you want it to...
I love it, properly love it... I’m not giving it back... never...
Thanks to Richard Munro for an amazing event, to everyone who went along and helped make the weekend what it was and I hope this becomes a regular in the calendar.
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