Posted on

Bike Hire in the Lake District… New Bikes for 2015

My bike hire fleet here in the Lake District National Park has dramatically expanded for 2015, with a larger range of road frame sizes and gear ratios to suit all types and sizes of road cyclists. Yes, I make no apologies for concentrating on offering for hire some of the lightest, most comfortable and responsive road bikes available today.

Trek Madone carbon road bikes both for lady and male cyclists are the majority of the additions to the fleet in 2015. But I have not forgotten the teenagers or children with some terrific deals for families hiring bikes.

Flagship Range

A ‘Flagship Range’ has been added to top the bike hire fleet. Aimed at the cycling enthusiast these top end Trek 6.2 Carbon and Lynskey Helix Titanium bikes are hired with a Garmin, heart rate band and cadence meter.

This is a unique opportunity to ride bikes which may be beyond your everyday requirements.  Why not try out the Shimano Di2 electronic gears on the Trek 6.2?

Riding road bikes in this southern part of the Lake District is immensely pleasurable, with the spiders web of rural undulating lanes. But it can be so much more fun if you take up one of my guided tours, which are carefully planned to suit your fitness [or lack of whichever may the case!]

Besides all the hills and passes there are lots of quiet rolling roads here on the Furness Peninsular to suit all levels of cyclists.  So much to see, to smell, to taste and to hear in this most beautiful part of the UK.

I look forward to meeting you in 2015, fitting you to one of my bikes, and stimulating all your senses.

Posted on

Tour De France – Yorkshire Memories

So ‘Le Tour’ has been and gone from sunny Yorkshire, splendid as it was! But what could be a more fitting memento to the Grand Depart in West Yorkshires Dales than a 15ft high sculptural dry stone wall, erected – or rather built – near Ripley Castle.

This was built in time for the race to pass by in July by Gordon Simpson with 40 tonnes of local stone. It took him “four weeks of dust, sweat and extremely hard, long days” to complete and was only finished the night before the Grand Depart.

Gordon has turned this ancient skill, passed down from one generation to another, into an art form. Margaret, my wife, and I were fortunate to cycle past this monument in September 2014, and stopped to appreciate the creativity of this piece, only to be dumbfounded by an accompanying piece of paper stating that planning permission is being applied for to enable this sculptural monument to remain in situ.

Fortunately for the whole world, sense must have prevailed in the planning committee, as on 1 January 2015 the official unveiling of this monument took place by Brian Robinson (a 2x stage winner in previous Tours).

Yet the materials and labour have all been privately funded and a shortfall still remains in the fund set up by Aire Valley Cycles. Donations are still being welcomed to cover this shortfall and should be sent directly to Aire Valley Cycles shop, Keighley. Every small donation will help.

Posted on

Britain’s Best Bike Ride… again

Having ridden this route anti-clockwise it was time to ride it again clockwise. On a perfect August day with blue skies, no wind, and a cool summer morning Nick and I left Lowick heading North to Coniston Water. Nick is a cyclist from Toronto, Canada over in the Lakes for a few days after attending a family wedding in the UK. Having checked out my web site and seeing more of this route on YouTube the omens were set for an epic ride. He hired the Titanium Zeppelin road bike with a triple and set off confidently oblivious to the severity of the challenge ahead.

But nothing could prepare Nick for the phenomenal views across Coniston Water towards the Old Man of Coniston and Dow Crags. We stopped several times for iphone photo opportunities as our legs warmed as we rolled smoothly along the lake’s shore. A few minor climbs took us to the top of Hawkshead Hill where we turned left passing the Wild Boar Hotel prior to dropping into Little Langdale.

A sharp turn left in the village proved a problem as this blind turn hid a sharp climb and we were both in the wrong gear, so had to do a three sixty to establish the gear needed to attempt the first part of this epic climb. Once out of the village the road opens up and levels out in the valley with looming mountains surrounding us as we near Wrynose Pass. But where is the pass as there is no obvious road winding its way over the mountains?

We need to fuel up our bodies before the climb so stop for another photo opportunity and to scoff a couple of bags of energy beans. Good job we did as we soon encountered the 25 degree slope sign, but it failed to say that this slope would be maintained relentlessly for a couple of miles!

“Is that it for today’s climbing?” asks Nick. “Yes” I respond, it’s down hill all the way to Broughton-in-Furness, well only a few little hills. The descent from the top of Wrynose is another epic after the climb, a 30 mph plus wizz. But I did get a back wheel wobble as I braked strongly to avoid a climbing car, as I left Nick picking his way safely around the corners of the descent. [Not many narrow windy roads in Canada.] We continued down the Duddon Valley through the changing landscape as it altered from open mountain to bracken covered fell to verdant farmed valley bottoms. Eventually we arrived at Duddon Bridge, almost at sea level, to turn left and climb a small brow into Broughton village.

Hurray for the Square Cafe, where we stopped off for a quick cup of coffee and a bite to eat, sitting outside in the Cumbrian sunshine overlooking the cross in the square. “How many miles to go now?” asked a revitalised Nick. “Only 8 but another little hill to climb over” I reply. “OK lets go.”

What I failed to say that this last eight miles includes the climb over Woodland Fell, which is quite a sting in the tail of this ride but totally doable as we climb into a headwind blowing in from Morecambe Bay beneath us. As we crest the summit of the fell the welcome vista of the Crake valley is ahead with Lowick nestling in the valley bottom. We are back home the ride completed.

42 miles with 5600 ft of climbing, in approx 4 hours. Two full water bottles emptied, 4 bags of energy sweets eaten, and 5 pounds lost in weight! This is some ride and made all the more enjoyable by being a perfect August day. Would I attempt this ride in winter – no. In early spring or late autumn – no. The roads are steep and slippery when wet and the top of Wrynose Pass is a very high mountain pass and open to all the prevailing elements the weather can throw at us.

Nick says:

“I have climbed most of the Alpine iconic climbs but nothing compares with the consistent 25% climb from Little Langdale to the top of Wrynose Pass, it is unforgiving, but with a triple gear set well worth the all the effort…. and there was lots of effort…..unforgettable… Thanks John.”

and:
“When planning my Lake District trip earlier this year I found John’s website and after exchanging  a couple of emails a bike hire was arranged and date for a guided ride was set. The tour we did has been written up in Cycling Plus and had been given the heady title of ‘One of UK’s Best Rides’ so, I thought we should give it a go. John knew the route so off we went, and, I can confirm its title does not oversell itself, scenery was stunning, route has everything you’d want in a challenging ride including one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done (Wyrnose Pass). John’s guidance, local knowledge and companionship was first class. On my next visit to the Lakes I will check John’s availability for sure and if anyone is planning a trip to the area for a ride I would suggest they do the same.
Thanks again John.”

Posted on

Enigma Esprit Titanium Road Bike… For Hire

This new bike with beautiful Italian styling, made from 3AL-2.5V Titanium, has just joined our hire fleet. Newly built in May 2014 by Dave of DC Cycles, Ulverston, with Campagnolo Record Drive train, and Record hubs on Pianni wheels.

However this Enigma Esprit, designed in the UK, is not just about good looks and the highest specifications, look behind the classic lines and you will find a very modern machine in both materials and construction. This is a multi purpose bike with high levels of comfort suitable for high speed touring, fast descents, rugged climbs or just long treks and even the odd pootle! The Esprit definitely catches the spirit of titanium and delivers sheer cycling pleasure in abundance.

‘This fast sexy thoroughbred is beautifully balanced’
‘Enigma’s Esprit distils the spirit of Titanium into one of the most efficacious bikes available. With its light weight and classic proportions it makes you feel part of the new Titanium renaissance. Like a champion pugilist the Esprit is light and quick on its toes but remains rock solid and comfortable in the face of any threat.’
Bike Radar

“Rides smooth and holds the road like superglue”
“Classic looks and classic performance”
“On the road the Enigma Esprit is magic and is perfectly dialled on the road”

These are just a few of the rave reviews on this bike which is available to hire on a daily or weekly rate and will accommodate riders varying in height from 5’8″ to over 6 ft.

Book it today and enjoy your cycling in the Lake District.

The Enigma Esprit features:

  • Classic level geometry
  • Double butted, Esprit specific EST tubeset
  • 1 1’8″ non integrated head tube
  • Campagnolo Record bottom bracket 53-39
  • Bright brushed finish of natural Titanium weight from 1240 grams.
  • Campagnolo Record hubs with DT Swiss spokes on Pianni Aero Paris Roubaix rims
  • Blyte 4ZR cycling performance Carbon front fork
  • Campagnolo 12-30 cassette [10 speed]
  • Campagnolo Record drive train
  • Campagnolo Record ergo gear/brake levers
  • Selle Italia Matic turbo Titanium saddle.

For more information on the full range of British designed and built Titanium bikes please visit: www.enigmabikes.com

Posted on

Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge 2014

The entries have opened once again for this epic ride. So big now, that the start has had to decamp from Coniston to Grasmere, only a few miles as the migrating geese fly.

Still we have vacancies for your bikes and bodies, here at Coal Yeat Farm Holiday cottages. Why not treat yourself and your cycling buddies to a pre challenge training weekend away, seeing for yourself just how steep theses Lakeland hills and passes are? All this accommodation can be seen at www.coalyeatcottages.co.uk or speak directly to Emma on 07887731553.

We even have pedigree saddleback pigs from the Coal Yeat herd living on the farm. Quite a coincidence that these hardy outdoor pigs should share a name with the UK’s hardest cycling challenge. You need to be a hardy soul to contemplate the Fred Whitton on 11 May. Up here in Cumbria the Saddleback pigs living at 500 ft are still awaiting signs of spring! On the fell tops, punctuated by the passes of the Fred Whitton, there may be snow or hail to greet the panting cyclists.

I have a very experienced bike to hire that has done the Fred Whitton twice. This titanium beauty has a Campagnalo triple gear which will help with the 30% climbs. See the bike on the bikes for hire page. For the 2014 challenge I will “re-shoe” her with 25mm Continental 4 seasons tyres which will give extra grip, puncture resistance and comfort you are guaranteed to get round on this bike as she knows the way! (Provided you have the peddle power.)

Check out the 2013 news which gives Graham’s first-hand report on his experience of his first Fred Whitton Challenge. It may inspire you to train harder and face the winter rains straight in the face.

Only last week I did part of the ride on my Tacx trainer! The first pass was so steep that grinding along at a cadence of 50 rpm on such a high resistance has wrecked my turbo tyre. A new tyre is fitted and a Tacx ride in Mallorca up to Soller of only 10% was a very welcome distraction from the torrential rain and gales outside. For once it’s not only raining in the Lake District!

If you’re going to give the Saddleback Fred Whitton challenge a go in 2014 – good luck. I look forward to meeting you at Coal Yeat Farm.

Posted on

Britain’s Best Road Bike Ride? – The Lake District Loop!

Cycling Plus readers have voted this 40 mile South Lakeland cycle loop the best ride in Britain, and its on my door step!

A ride devised by James Hodgson, from Broughton in Furness, passes within a few yards of our base here at Lowick, and many of the routes miles are my regular rides. What a lucky chap I am!
James has won a brand new Boardman bike for his efforts which he is going to auction to raise funds for the local St. Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston. So if you log into the Hospice’s web site you may be able to bid on line?

But what of this testing Lakeland cycling loop? It takes in everything that is so very unique about  Lake District cycling. A mountain pass aptly named Wrynose Pass with its steep ascent and tricky descent, quiet undulating lanes along the shores of Coniston Water, together with the very varied scenery of the South Cumbrian villages and hamlets.

I guess I’m very biased, but my bike hire and tour business is based in this Lake District National Park, the perfect place for road cycling. And my top-of-the-range titanium road bikes for hire are perfectly geared for such an epic ride.

If you fancy trying the ride I can lead you or you can ride yourself, you can down load it at bit.ly/11syyJG or view a video of all the finalist in the Cycling Plus Best of British Road rides at bit.ly/1gVp5XJ.

Have fun looking, it’s a lot of work riding it, with 5593 ft of climbing (1700m).

Meanwhile back at the ranch, with the mild November air, I have been out cycling more than ever and am probably as fit as I have ever been at this time of year. Which is good as Margaret and I are off to Tenerife for a weeks cycling before Christmas.

Happy Christmas and a very Happy Cycling New Year.

Posted on

Autumnal Cycling In The Lake District

Where has the summer gone? Now the trees are turning and the bracken is again its rusty winter brown, it’s still great fun to cycle the Lakeland lanes.

The Lake District is internationally famous for its fantastic range of Autumnal colours. This ‘back end’ has been particularly warm so even as we approach Halloween the fields are still green and the leaves still on the trees. This has been great cycling weather with amazing views over the lakes, fells, and mountains as the seasons change.

On a recent ride, with the rustling of the dry leaves on the road, the first scents of Autumn wafted by. No frosts as yet to really ripen the trees leaves, and still warm enough to ride in summer mitts.

The cottages at Coal Yeat Farm are on offer at the moment with weekend and mid week breaks available – www.coalyeatcottages.co.uk – between now and Christmas is a great time to get away and cycle on the quiet Lakeland roads or fells. Tyan, a cottage for two, has a lovely open log cottage range fire to toast your toes on after a bracing ride.

No need to hire my bikes or take my routes, but you can if you wish, bring your own, explore yourself, have fun and relax.

Posted on

Cycling The Scented Lakeland Lanes

What a pleasure to the senses cycling this summer is, here in the Lake District. The late cool spring has delayed all the flowers and as a consequence the roadside verges have been a mass of blooms. The heady scent of Bluebells, bright blue and the sweet wafts from the Hawthorn hedges massed heavy with their snow-topped blooms.

Cow Parsley stand firm by the roadside waving their white heads as we cycle by. The sweet smells of the freshly cut grass slowly drying in the long sunny days, to make winter hay for the livestock.

So much to smell, so much to see as the cuckoo’s call heralds a real English summer. Now the yellow fields are scattered over the walled patchwork, as a token to the farmers toils. Gone are the tall verdant grasses, chopped for silage or bailed for hay, growing again for another day.

Meanwhile, my wife Margaret has taken me away for cycling in a new area, for a change. She was the guide as we cycled round the Trough of Bowland and The Fyld. Totally different countryside and yet so close to the Lake District. It was strange being guided, rather than being the guide. But it just goes to prove that local knowledge cannot be replaced by maps and ride plans!

I got some very bad news this month in that my Canadian cycling buddy Steve Edgar had died, suddenly. We have travelled many miles together both on skis and in the saddle and shared many, many unforgettable moments in Canada, England and Europe.

Posted on

Sir Bradley Wiggins – ‘itis’

So the Giro in Italy, plagued by bad weather, is almost over and our favorite had to retire. How Bradley Wiggins managed to pedal for so long with such an acute chest/nasal infection is very creditable. Here in Cumbria I have taken two weeks off my bike, as I too have been struck down by a similar “bug”.
Where does this Bradleyitis come from?
Well mine came from my grandchildren via my daughter, fresh from the local school. I guess Bradley could have caught it from his children as according to the press they were in Mallorca when he was training for the Giro. Such are the pitfalls of cycle racing and to win so many planets have to line up in your favour. [ I cured mine with whiskey and Stones ginger wine! But Bradley had to resort to antibiotocs to stay legal]
Here in the Lake District everything is now a verdant green as May ends and June is upon us. This year spring is very late, and talking to the local farmers, we all reckon we are a month to five weeks behind a normal spring. What we all need is some dry warm sunshine!
Road biking is proving very popular in the Lake District with the country lanes illuminated by scattered fluorescent cyclists. Now the leaves are on the trees the dark cast shadows in the leafy lanes make brightly coloured cyclists the safe ones. How difficult it is to see a cyclist dressed in black in the shadows.
Ride safely – be seen.
Posted on

Fred Whitton Challenge 2013

While about 1000 merry men and women took up the Fred Whitton Challenge in early May I was sensibly showing my pigs at Newark and Notts County Show (Oxford Sandy and Black news). This cold blustery weekend was not the ideal conditions to take on the Lakeland passes,but undeterred my son in law Graham took up the challenge.
After a winters training and a spring training week with me in Mallorca he finished in a very credible time of just over 7 hours for the 112 miles .I reintroduced Graham to road cycling 4 years ago and enjoyed pulling him around the beautiful roads of the Lake District.But being almost 30 years younger once he gained his road legs and lost his beer belly, he started to drag me along! Now a converted ardent ‘roady ‘ and a member of the Lakes Cycling Club he regularly time trials every Wednesday evening during the summer.
Another cyclist taking up this Fred Whitton Challenge stayed in our holiday cottages at Coal Yeat Farm, where Graham lives in the farmhouse with his family. Graham was able to pair up with this guy and drive to the start in Coniston only 9 miles away. Apparently with so many cyclists taking part in the Fred Whitton Challenge the road from the north and west into Coniston becomes very congested, while the road from the South from Coal Yeat Farm remains traffic free. Therefore the holiday cottages at Coal Yeat Farm, with luxury accommodation and bike washing and storage facilities offer the ideal solution to pre and post race relaxation. www.coalyeatcottages.co.uk
Although the one day spring Fred Whitton Challenge takes place in May it is possible to undertake this challenge at any time of year either as a whole or as individual passes over several days,and can be included in any of our cycling holiday programmes.
Graham writes:

Being a local to the Lakes, the legendary ‘Fred Whitton’ had always been an event I’d been interested in entering. Its mythical status of one of the hardest sportives in the country, coupled with local punishing climbs somehow appealed to my masochistic side!

Over a few glasses of wine during the Christmas holiday I managed to persuade myself and my long term cycling buddy Scott that doing it this year was a good idea. I don’t think there is a ‘right time’ to enter such an event. You can always find an excuse.

One of the issues with the Fred is the time of year it is on. It requires you to regularly train throughout the winter/spring months. Luckily this winter wasn’t particularly wet, but it was very cold. The rain held off until spring, when the last three long training rides were in atrocious conditions. This turned out to be a blessing (I think?!) as the second half of the event was in very windy and wet conditions.

I was happy with level of training done to get us round in 8 hours or less. It is always hard to judge whether you have done the right mix of distance and hills. Strava, the online app, did a good job of keeping me motivated, especially on a local climb where my time kept dropping each time I attempted it. It became a good marker for my fitness.

The weather forecast for the day was for calm, mild conditions until 12.00pm and then heavy rain and westerly winds for the rest of the afternoon. For this reason we set off at 6.07am, pretty much in the first bunch of riders. It was a great feeling to get going and the legs felt good on the first climb. Unlike my gears. Clunk, grind. My chain jumped off the top of the cassette and managed to bend my hanger into the wheel. Thankfully it was still ride able, although I was without my granny ring and in certain cogs it was jumping about like a man on hot coals!

The first part of the ride is beautiful and after getting over Kirkstone we got in with two other riders to share the work to Matterdale Rise. The Fred Whitton isn’t just about the 5 big passes, there are plenty of other hills to test the legs and Matterdale is one of them. This took us to the A66 where we grouped together with nearly 30 riders to cruise into Keswick. It gave you a feeling of what it must be like to ride in a pro peloton, being ushered through closed roundabouts  and being cheered on by all the supporters round the course!

The flat roads quickly turned into the first steep ‘beast’. Honistor.  It’s a grind to get out of the trees, the section over the bridge is insane, but the rewards at the top are worth it. A steep, tricky descent on the other side led us to the first feed stop at Buttermere, 52 miles in. Full of goodies we tucked in and I tried to get the bike fixed to no avail. She would have to get me round to the end. Newland awaited straight after the feed stop and we blasted over that still feeling good.

It was a long, quick descent down to the first ‘dib’ stop at Braithwaite and we got there in 3.43. On target for under 8 hrs. After summiting Whinlatter the route descends into West Cumbria. This is the toughest part in terms of keeping mentally strong. The road rises and falls (but generally rises) until the summit of Cold Fell at 81 miles. It was here the rain and wind started and thankfully we had ‘finish line’ fever and all those wet training miles helped keep the cold out.

After the second feed/dib stop we rode on in trepidation of the final two ‘beasts’. I’ve ridden both Hardknott and Wrynose a few times and knew what horrors awaited us. True enough they were horrible and I felt no shame in joining many others in walking up the steep sections. Looking back at my best time up Hardknott, it was only 3 mins slower walking than riding.

After Wrynose we knew we were hopeful we could make it under 8hrs and put enough into the final few miles to get there in time. The worst hill of the day comes at the road out of Elterwater. With all those miles in your legs it feels as hard as any 30% gradient. We got over that and then sprinted down the final miles to dib in with a time of 7.43. Well under out target! Shows we were tired as we couldn’t even read out watches properly!

The HQ ran like clockwork and you will never eat a better pie than the one served to you by the volunteers at the end.

All in all it is an amazing event. Considering it is run by volunteer’s and headed up by a friend  of the late Fred Whitton, Mr Paul Loftus , you cannot fault the professional nature of every aspect.  I will certainly be back.

Things I leant about the Fred Whitton

1)      Give it some respect and train regularly.

2)      Share some of the work with other riders on the flatter sections

3)      Be careful on the descents. They are as hard as the ups.

4)      Wear enough clothes for the day. Too many people didn’t and ended up shivering , some in hospital with hypothermia at the end. I had an under garment on, cycling shirt, rain gillet, arm warmers and a rain jacket. Knee warmers on the legs and booties.

5)      Ride in SPDs in case you have to walk.

6)       Take enough fuel but don’t go stupid. I carried far too much considering an energy bar and gel is generally enough for a 50 mile ride.

7)      Say thanks to all the marshals and volunteers

8)      Smile all the way round and remember why you are doing it!

9)      Expect it to rain.

Stay at Coal Yeat Holiday Cottages for a few days training prior to the event.