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Rivers Ride Postponement, Wasps and Boats

Phew. What a relief. My endless scouring of the weather forecast didn’t do anything to make it read any better so I was absolutely dreading the 15th September. Last year we actually quite enjoyed getting soaked to the skin in the company of a jolly bunch of hardened Cumbrians. It was fun. But the prospect of strong winds on top of the rain was daunting to say the least. Good call, Andy.

The added bonus is we now have time to do a bit more on the bike before the event. Our efforts this summer have been derisory, as evidenced by previous blogs.

Well, ok. Blog.

Here is a description of our training efforts over the August Bank Holiday, with the red letter day looming large on the horizon:

Me (chirpily) “shall we go for a bike ride?” Him “Yes. Good idea! But… erm…. there’ll be loads of traffic, so shall we hike round Lord’s Lott instead?” Me (thoughtfully) “Yes. OK”

Sunday: Me (eagerly) “shall we go for a bike ride?” Him “Yes. Great idea! But ……the wasps are currently winning the battle of the plums. Don’t you think we’d better get them picked before they’re all ruined?” Me (reluctantly) “Yes. OK”

Monday: Me (hopefully) “shall we go for a bike ride?” Him (looking out at glorious sunshine and an enticingly pleasant breeze) “Yes. Brilliant!  Although………the weather’s perfect for a sail, and it might be the last chance we get this summer”. Me (envisioning picnic and bottle of wine whilst drifting gently down the Lake) “Oooh yes. OK. Lets.”   It was a great weekend. Well, apart from the wasps.

Jennings Rivers Ride Postponed

The decision has been taken to postpone this Sunday’s Jennings Rivers Ride.

Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive of Cumbria Community Foundation said ‘Rider safety is paramount and the combination of high winds and heavy rains means it is not appropriate to hold the event.  We have taken this decision following advice from Rather Be Cycling our cycling logistics support partners.’  The event involves routes which cross high level Lake District Mountain passes and also a family ride involving young children.

We have not taken this decision lightly and we know that some riders will be disappointed but we would prefer to postpone the event now and hold it on a day when people came be both safe and have a more enjoyable ride.  We hope to announce the new date shortly.

A Marshal for a Day!

I’m happy to say I’m a volunteer marshal for this year’s Rivers Ride! However, I am looking at the weather forecast and wondering if I’d be better off riding…! I must admit, despite the weather being awful it didn’t put me off for this year, sadly due to personal reasons I’ve decided not to ride. But I am doing my bit for the Foundation!

All the volunteers met last week to find out which jobs we’ll be doing – I’m marshaling on the Big Day Out in Cockermouth! I think it will be interesting to see the ride from a spectator’s point of view; I didn’t pay too much attention to what was happening around me last year as it was so wet we just wanted to plough on!

I’m so proud to be able to be part of the event again this year – I will wear my biggest smile and I’ll be ready on Sunday to cheer on all the riders on the Big Day Out.

My company Derwent have 3 riders this year and are trying hard to raise as much money as they can for the Foundation – it’s a joy to see!

Good luck to everyone and I’ll try and take some photos of my marshaling experience (warning: they may just be of wellies and a cup of tea…!)

Community Cash for North Allerdale Groups

Community organisations and partnerships within Silloth and the parishes of Home St Cuthberts, Holme Low and Holme Abbey are eligible to apply for grants from the Hellrigg Wind Farm Community  Fund.

RWE npower renewables contributes approximately £15,000 annually to support f the communities neighbouring the Hellrigg Wind Farm. The fund provides grants to support community, educational or environmental activities.

Cumbria Community Foundation was appointed by RWE npower renewables to manage the community fund, which was established in 2012.  Groups who benefited last year include Abbeytown Junior Football Club who received £7,500 to upgrade their community sports pavilion, Silloth & District Community Transport Ltd which received £1,000 for running the community bus and Abbeytown Youth Group who were awarded £4,000 for youth activities for rurally isolated young people.

Kathryn Harries from RWE npower renewables said: “Our Community investment funds provides a valuable, long term, sustainable and reliable source of income for the local communities that neighbour our developments. It is flexible funding that can address what is really important to communities and we’re delighted to see this funding making a difference to the communities surrounding our Hellrigg Wind Farm.”

Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive from Cumbria Community Foundation commented: “We are delighted to be working with EDF Energy Renewables, who like many businesses operating in Cumbria, are committed to finding ways to help their community.  This comes at a time when local charities need more support than ever.”

Applications must be received by Friday 18th October for a decision on 13th November 2013. For more information on the Hellrigg Wind Farm Community Fund or to apply please click here or email

Feeling wet, wet wet

Just a week to go to the Jennings Rivers Ride and I’m hoping that I’m at least starting to get there in terms of fitness.

One thing is for certain. If it turns out to be another wet day this year I will definitely be prepared for anything that comes. That’s because part of my training took place during some of the wettest weather Europe has witnessed in several decades.

My wife and I took the opportunity to go on a cycling holiday at the start of June while our daughter was away on a 10-day school trip. We chose a river ride in Germany which was recommended by a friend.

All started well as we set off from the source of the River Neckar in theBlack Forestand headed towards Heidelberg, close to where it joins the River Rhine. The villages were beautiful and very historic, looking as if they had changed little for centuries. Some of the half timbered homes looked like a scene from a fairy tale.

Three days in though the weather had turned from warm to damp and then non-stop torrential rain.

I don’t mind getting wet but this was the sort of rain that soaked you right through within minutes. After a few hours the river had started spreading out and ended up two or even three times its normal width.

The Germans were clearly shocked by the amount of flooding that followed. We passed them taking photos and even with our limited knowledge of the language learnt that this was the worst flooding at that time of the year for around half a century. In fact the images made the news not just there but in Britain and right across Europe. (It was the same time as Prague was also at risk and many other European towns and cities).

The worst of it for us was the fact that the lovely cycle paths along the river edge had, by now, disappeared under several feet of water and we had to follow long diversions to get to the next towns and villages. We did learn one useful German word though – Hochwasser (flood). The signs were everywhere.

One town was actually cut off to all road users. So we ended up having to retrace some of our steps and catch a train as it was the only way to reach our accommodation for that night. When we finally arrived we saw the hotels pumping out their cellars.

But none of this put us off and we still had a wonderful – and very memorable – holiday. For me cycling is a great adventure and these challenges are all part of the experience, just like last year’s rather damp Jennings Rivers Ride.

I’m sure this year’s event will be blessed by good weather but just in case it’s not, I’m ready!

Downhill cycling, midges and family training sessions

This year’s Rivers Ride will be 28 miles shorter for me as I have opted to do the Family Ride rather than the Community Circuit.

However, as I will be taking my family it may well take as long to do 10 miles (with an eight and a six year old) as 38 miles on my own.

I do have my husband to help, which is good for when we need a push up the hill …

So, how did we prepare for this fun filled adventure?

Back in the Spring when waterproofs were all the rage, we discovered the joys of taking our bikes on the Settle-Carlisle railway and cycling between stations. We parked at Kirkby Stephen, put the bikes on the train and then enjoyed the ride to Ribblehead. You can imagine the boys’ shouts of joy when we told them the only way back to the car was to pedal 23 miles…

It was the climb out of Dent – largely pushing said bikes up a very steep hill – that triggered the thought that maybe we could skip the bit between Dent station and Garsdale by hopping back on the train. Me and the boys enjoyed our brief respite on the rails before re-joining the father-ship again.

The scenery was stunning and our youngest enjoyed it the most as he rode on the crossbar seat on his dad’s bike. So we had six months to get the small one bike-fit for our Family Ride.

I also had six months to polish my riding technique and get over my fear of cycling down very steep hills.

My first insight into how you should cycle down steep hills came from Cheryl Frost from Rather Be Cycling. We’d been out on a photo shoot on Honister and so had the lovely steep descent back towards Seatoller to discuss my white knuckle style of descent. Cheryl noticed that I was burning my brake blocks as I gingerly rode down. In truth, I had everything gripped – buttocks on the saddle, hands on the brakes and teeth tight together. The only thing loose was my feet – I had unclipped my shoes from the bike so I could put my feet down if necessary. It was not the right way to ride.

“Let go of your brakes” said Cheryl. I did not let go of my brakes.

“Come on, together, let go of your brakes, then start with your back brake and then use your front brake.” I nodded. I did not let go of the brakes.

“Trust me. Just try it. Let go … now back brake, front brake.” I tried it. I did not die. We repeated this bit all the way down. She even threw in a few more tips – like I really should clip in, stand up on my pedals and put more of my weight over the back wheel. She was right. Slowly I was riding downhill rather than hanging on for dear life. And I survived.

I tried to share my new found tips with the boys. But every mother should know that the last person they will listen to is their mother. Especially if it is to do with riding bikes.

New tactics were needed.

We were very lucky to take part in a relay of all the Jennings Rivers Rides – we, as a family did the Family Ride with World and Olympic champion cyclist Yvonne McGregor. It turns out that tips from a real professional get taken in much better. Yvonne was an absolute sweetheart with the boys, encouraging them to believe in themselves and challenging them to mini races en-route. A treasured memory of that day was watching my eight year old go over the wooden bridge on the old railway track, open his mouth and go “er-er-er-er” as only you can when you ride over bumps … only to hear another set of “er-er-er-er” and realise that Yvonne’s inner child had joined in!

We decided to take our training to another level and signed up for a Family Skills Session with Cyclewise – a three hour special session for us and my good friend Sarah Bennett and her two children. It did not start well. My six year old had just taken possession of his brother’s old bike and my eight year old had a hire bike for the session. The aforementioned six year old claimed he could not even ride the bike in the car park!

However, with Dave our instructor and after three hours of intense training in Whinlatter Forest, we all came away with a new found confidence in our riding. I discovered even more downhill control, we all discovered the joys of wheelies (even if the wheel hardly left the ground), learnt new tricks like drop-offs and how to ride over lots of bumps without falling off. We also were bitten by a million midges. That’s what you get in a damp forest in July.

It was clear that our eight year old needed a new bike and with a family holiday looming where cycling to and from the beach was essential, we looked to KMB (Keswick Bikes) for help. It turned out that the growth spurt that meant he outgrew his old bike also meant he had entered a whole new league … he is tall enough to ride an extra small adults bike complete with 26 inch wheels! Within days a bright red bike was his. The guys at KMB were great, they made sure the new bike fitted perfectly and that the old bike was adjusted for the little fella.

So we’ve had a couple of weeks in France and practiced on and off road. The boys bombed off, standing up on their pedals, the breeze in their hair and as happy as can be. We think the six year old will cope with ten miles, we hope the eight year old will make it up the hills without any help and I hope I let go on the downhill.

The father-ship is focussing on finding all the answers to the Treasure Hunt! As will every other competitive dad on Sunday.

A family of four can take part in the Jennings Rivers Ride for £16 – hope to see you there!

Is it September already?

This blog has been milling about in my head and playing on my conscience for four months…. FOUR MONTHS!!! Where did they go? How can it possibly be September already?!

My training for the Rivers Ride began early. As early as April, when I did, at least, go and have a look in the garage and found that, yes, my bike was still there.

In May we were off to bonnie Scotland for a few days and were immediately faced with a dilemma.  Remembering all the enticing cycle paths we drove past the last time we were there we had to decide….. do we go in my car, the cabriolet, with the hood down and the radio blaring, or his car …… the ancient landie with the bike rack and no obvious signs of any suspension? Well, what would you do? We took the cabriolet. Of course.

I did actually have a bit of an urge to cycle though so ten minutes of Googling later I came across Tim from Strontian Cycle hire. What a discovery. Couldn’t be more helpful. All he needed was our inside leg measurement and we were sorted. He met us at our holiday cottage on the banks of Loch Shiel.

Next morning dawned, fondly reminiscent of last year’s Rivers Ride. Identical torrential downpours, howling gales, everything. Undeterred we set off to cycle to Loch Moidart, three miles away, where the kids were staying. The landie owner was his usual helpful self. At the least sign of an incline he would yell instructions such as, “Change up!!” or “Top gear NOW!!”

I didn’t like to say, but I honestly hadn’t a clue what he meant. I mean, which gear is top….the one where pedalling is harder or the one where pedalling is easier? And do you “change up” to pedal faster or slower? I have no idea. All I know is if I tweak my thumb the hills get much easier and if I tweak my forefinger I don’t have to pedal so fast on the flat. And any fool can see when a hill is coming up so what more do you need? But, we were on holiday, and I was having such fun, what with the sodden hair plastered across my eyes and the persistent trickle of cold water coursing down the middle of my back, so I just ignored it and carried on, chuckling merrily to myself all the while. The kids fed us then kicked us back out into the storm for a jolly ride back home. So six miles in total and a fun start to our holiday.

Fortunately the next day dawned sunny and warm, so we packed a picnic and set out to explore. All I want to know is, why does every bike not have a lovely, soft, leather Brookes saddle? I had no inkling of the lasting effects of the previous day’s endeavours until my nether regions hit the solid ridge that masqueraded for a seat on Strontian’s best. It was agony. We got as far as the village of Acharacle, with me affecting a lop-sided technique that I’ve yet to see on the Tour de Anywhere, and the frequent change of sides made it rather difficult to maintain a straight trajectory. We did a bit of a tour down to the Loch and out to the end of the village and were back home for coffee.

The next day we did a quick scoot to the village for the morning paper and then rang Tim.

Leading out the pros

If you are still wondering whether to sign up for this year’s Jennings Rivers Ride, don’t delay. It is a wonderful route and a great cause. The money raised will go to the Cumbria Community Foundation, which helps those in need across the county.

If that is still not enough you can consider the fact that you will be leading out some of the world’s top professional riders, including Sir Bradley Wiggins. In fact you will be just 24 hours ahead of them as you struggle over the toughest section of the ride, the gruelling one in four incline of Honister Pass.

The second stage of the Tour of Britain, the day after the Jennings Rivers Ride, will follow part of the same route, probably the most spectacular section. It’s a bit like completing a stage of the Tour de France the day before the pros tackle it. I am sure this will add to the appeal for many amateur riders this year, a chance to see how they can do compared to the greats of the sport.

Sir Bradley has already been confirmed as the leader of Team Sky and other big names expected to be there include Nairo Quintana, the Columbian mountain specialist who came second in the Tour de France, and Mark Cavendish, who is with the Omega Pharma team this year.

I am expecting to be at the finish line of the Cumbrian stage, in Kendal, reporting for ITV Border. We will have highlights and reaction on our Lookaround programme that evening at 6.

It should be a great day and, after the Jennings Rivers Ride, I will be able to say that I have at least some understanding of what the professionals have been through!

The Gap and the Guinness – one man’s approach to cycling in Ireland

I wouldn’t go so far as to say there’s a “structure” to my cycling endeavours, but the last couple of years have been planned around two major rides. Though if a proper cycling coach were to check on my approach and methods, I’m sure there’d be a lot of head shaking. Whatever, it’s worked so far. Just about.

First there’s a May offensive ahead of the Fred Whitton ride/ordeal/torture. Having now completed this twice, I wish to announce that I have officially retired from future Freds. My wife has asked me to make this clear.

Then there’s a slight easing off, with the exception of July’s Virgin Money ride around Northumberland, before August and the thoroughly splendid but taxing Inishowen 100 in beautiful wild, windy and rather gradient abundant Donegal. The final piece of the Moss Masterplan is to hope that whatever fitness accrued lingers into September and the Rivers Ride. After which things settle down and I pootle through the winter months at a more leisurely pace.

The Inishowen ride features a range of bumpy bits. Up and around Malin Head, Ireland’s northernmost point, is simply stunning but the two bruisers are the seemingly never ending climb out of Kinego Bay, which comes after about 75 miles, but way before that, the very first climb of the day, is the stuff of local legend.

It is known as “The Gap”. The full title is the Gap of Mamore. It’s a mountain pass. The sportive tackles it from the southern side – which is dead straight and dead steep. You can see every bit of pain coming your way. I’m told it peaks at around one in three. Although it comes after only fifteen miles, a fair chunk of the field will be pushing up the final yards. They always are. This was the fifth, or maybe sixth, time I’ve ridden the event. This year a sizeable chunk of Atlantic Ocean was turned into ominous dark cloud and further transformed into lashing Donegal rain at precisely the moment I reached the top. The equally steep, but horribly winding descent was so treacherous that many opted to walk downhill as well.

It’s an incredibly characterful and friendly ride with local clubs well represented and mighty craic. I can heartily recommend. Derry based Foyle Cycling club are the organisers. They’re a fine body of folk.

After the legs had rested for a day or three and became my own again, I then mounted a couple of assaults on The Gap from the northern side. That’s the steep and windy approach. The one with a grotto near the top. Believe me, you will be in need of prayer at this point. The reason for this choice of route was by way of preparation for my Rivers Ride nemesis, Honister. The distance climbed is similar and the gradient slightly steeper, according to my Garmin. For some reason I can manage The Gap, either straight or twisty. I can manage Honister from Borrowdale. But Honister from Buttermere. Nope. The steep bit is just too steep for my old legs. Always time for a short walk and push. So will my Irish training have paid off? …or will it have been negated by my post ride rehydration strategy: Guinness.

See you in Keswick! Slange.

The final countdown

The title might be a cliché, but it really is true. With just one weekend left to go, there is very little time for further Rivers Ride training.

It was with this nauseating thought in mind that I planned my riding for the weekend that has just passed. I knew I needed to do a long stretch out, and that I would really like to do the climbs I’ll be doing on the actual ride. I’m pleased to say I accomplished both of these on my two rides.

I started my weekend with a nice 25 loop from Bassenthwaite, over Newlands and Whinlatter. Whilst this was a short ride, the mixed weather and the two climbs meant it was a very useful ride. And it ticked off two of my Rivers Ride climbs.

On Sunday, I went out on my second ride, and did a longer 50 route which also took in two passes. This time I did Honister and Whinlatter from the other side. This ride was a useful part of my training, and I learned that I can make it up Honister in one go. It is hard – I felt like my head was going to explode at some points, and I’m pretty sure I looked like a balloon blown up to far – but I made it.

I also learned that I really need to get my ride fuel plans sorted. As those of you who have read my Hardknott blog will know, I don’t always manage this and leave myself short.

I did this again on Sunday’s longer ride. The first half was pretty pacy, and a number of new Strava records were set. However, after a lunch stop in Keswick, the second half of the ride felt very different.

I chose a delicious vegetarian mezze for lunch. However, this carb rich meal wasn’t the fuel I needed mid-ride and weighed heavy for the rest of the journey.

I managed Whinlatter itself reasonably well, but after this point I didn’t have much left in the tank. (Other than some falafel and houmous which served only to weigh me down.) Thankfully I managed to crawl (almost literally, or so it felt) to the finish line, with the lesson learned.

So my plan for the ride itself is to stock up on energy gels and bars, which are handy, give you the instant hit you need, and are light – especially when I think of them sitting in my stomach! I will have a carb-rich pasta dish the night before the ride, and a slow release breakfast like porridge on the day itself.

Should I also take a Thermos of soup with me, just in case I really struggle? I could have a picnic halfway round!

In the meantime, I plan a few more cycles out, probably with a couple of hills chucked in for good measure, to hopefully reassure me that I can indeed manage 75 miles and three passes in quick succession.

There’s only one way to find out!

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