My fella and I had three days off together earlier in the week and planned to do some format of a car-free holiday. I really wanted our holiday to include mountain biking, so Jack planned a local tour of some mountain bike tracks, bridleways, and roads over three days that started and finished at our front door. Since we live in the Lake District, our ‘local loops’ are some of the most beautiful in England :).
The dark clouds that greeted us as we left Keswick held the promise of rain … and lots of it. The rain held off for the first 45 minutes or so, and started (with earnest!) on the quiet road around Thirlmere.
On our way up and over Dunmail Raise (the pass that unofficially separates the North and South Lakes), we rode towards an impenetrable curtain of white cloud, which contained a deluge of heavy rain. Our waterproof socks were no match for the relentless rain we cycled into as we descended to Grasmere. We paused at a bus stop to shelter from the wind and sideways rain. Shivering, we wordlessly ate our soggy sandwiches, exchanging “what-exactly-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into” glances with each other. It was a mere hour and a half into our adventure and I was already re-evaluating the wisdom of doing a mountain biking tour in mid-winter, at the height of the UK storm season. Hrm.
Thankfully, this is Britain, so there is tea shops and pubs around every bend. We dragged our sodden selves into the nearest cafe to regroup (mentally) and get some coffee and/or hot chocolate. With warm beverages in our bellies we felt ready to tackle the first off-road portion of the day – Loughrigg Terrace. We were still absolutely freezing, but thankfully the ridiculously steep road climb of Red Bank – that leads to Loughrigg – warmed us up quick enough!
This horrid weather did come with its advantages though, leaving the usually popular Loughrigg Terrace relatively free of walkers … which meant a swift race down the trail for us riders. Trail is a loose term here – the rocky descent was a raging river, the dirt track was a muddy slip’n’slide. All good fun though, and it felt really nice to be in the forest after most of the day spent on road!
After descending into Ambleside we rode up to Loughrigg Tarn and then more uphill pedalling to get to Skelwith Bridge. This is where energy, motivation, and the feeling in our feet began to fade drastically – no photos after this point were taken. It was a running-on-fumes road climb to more trail climbing to get up and over the Iron Keld bridleway that leads to Hawkshead.
I’ve ridden these trails before, on ‘fresh legs’ and they are fun and not too challenging. Today though – after 20+ miles of cold, wet riding – everything on Iron Keld just felt hard. After much deliriously giggling from lack of food and energy, paired with healthy doses of swearing and grumbling, my fella and I pedalled into Hawkshead, and further on to the Hawkshead Youth Hostel.
And this, my friends, is where we ate copious amounts of food (one could say ludicrous amounts of food!) and had long, hot showers. Many stretches and yoga poses later and we were tucked up in bed, snug as a bug in a rug. And as I drifted off into a deep sleep, the last thoughts that came to me were ‘… I hope my legs will pedal tomorrow’…
That’s it for Day 1! To be continued with Ride no. 19 – Hawkshead to Windermere (via Grizedale), MTB touring Day 2