Coast to Coast MTB Adventure – 1st – 4th May 2015
We started planning this event back in January and we wanted to do something slightly different from the norm, so we opted for the “off-road” version of the route, which we thought would be more of a challenge than the normal “on-road” version.
Fourteen of us put our names down for the trip, with one dropping out through illness 2 weeks before we left. Luckily we were able to fill his place with another rider, without too much trouble.
We employed the services of Trailbrakes Biking Holidays to organise the route. Not only are they experts in this field, but they provided support over the 3 days of cycling, should any of the bikes suffer mechanical failure. They would also take our suitcases to each night’s stopover. This was essential as the weather forecast was pretty grim and there was no way we could have carried enough dry clothes for the duration.
The plan was to drive to the finishing point at Tynemouth, so that our transport would be waiting there on completion of the ride. Once we arrived there, we would be driven to Keswick, in the Lake District for our first night’s stop. The next morning we would be driven the 40 miles or so across to the starting point at Whitehaven.
Our bed and breakfasts were conveniently situated next door to each other, with seven of us staying in each one. One of them was significantly better than the other, with cakes and other goodies being provided on arrival on both nights, whereas the other one felt like the owner didn’t like bikers!
Church Stretton Square, ready for the off!
Arrival in Tynemouth after a 4 1/2 hour drive.
View from the mini bus – snow on the hills in the Lake District.
The two bed and breakfasts in Keswick – home for the first 2 nights.
Day 1 – Whitehaven to Keswick
An early rise of 7am was called for on the morning of our first ride. After much deliberation of what to pack in our backpacks we went down to breakfast where we were greeted by a full English breakfast, which was to power us that morning.
Trailbrakes arrived promptly just before 8am and we secured our bikes onto the trailer, with the others on a roof mounted bike rack on the second mini bus. We then set off for Whitehaven.
Loading up the bikes to drive to the start.
When we arrived, we got our bikes ready and made sure all was well with our kit bags. One of our party decided to venture down the ramp to get his wheels wet, so he could say he started at the correct point. However he forgot that the surface under the water would be extremely slippery from the algae growing there and took a tumble into the icy cold sea. The poor bloke was soaked from the waist down! We lined up for the customary photo and set off at just after 9am.
Let the fun begin!
The first hour or so was on the Ennerdale cycle path, a disused railway line, on which a lot of the standard C2C route was based. Soon however, the railway gave way to country roads with fantastic scenic views of the hills and lakes.
Towards the end of the morning on this first day, four of us were racing down a hill and we missed the turn off to the first part of the off road course. After waiting for around twenty minutes for the others to catch up, we decided that something was amiss. After ringing one of the other riders, we discovered our error and arranged to re-group at Buttermere, at the bottom of Honister Pass. Whilst we were waiting for the others we ate lunch, consisting of soup and rolls and a slice of cake at a quaint little cafe by the lake.
By now it was raining heavily and with a 20mph wind in our faces, Honister Pass with its 25% gradient was by far the hardest part of day one. We felt bruised, battered and cold and now we had to wait for the others to finish their lunch in the cafe at the top of the pass, before we could set off again.
After this climb it was a fairly easy ride back in to Keswick.
I would like to say that the rest of day one passed without incident. However when we arrived back at Keswick at about 3:30pm after 37 miles, some of the group decided to go kayaking, while the rest of us went for a walk around the town searching for a good place for our evening meal.
Anyway, the same chap that got a soaking before we had even started decided to upturn his kayak and ended up in the water again, for his second soaking of the day!
After a few pints and a fantastic dinner at the Dog and Gun pub, we retired to the bed and breakfasts to prepare for the next day’s journey.
Day 2 – Keswick to Alston
The weather forecast for day 2 didn’t look good and we awoke to heavy rain. We had 6000 feet of climbing ahead of us to get us to the top of the Pennines and it was sure to be a tough day. After a good breakfast we set off, in all our waterproof gear.
We soon came to our first off road section, which was a farm track that consisted of some very technical climbing over large rocks. The rain had made them slippery which did not help the ascent.
After half an hour or so, the track levelled out a bit and we sheltered in an old shepherd’s hut, whilst waiting for the slower riders.
We were now cold and wet and some off us had waterproof clothing on that proved not to be waterproof. Looking for somewhere to stop for a morning break, we came across the delightful Greystoke Cycle Cafe, a refuge that some of the guys had found during last years Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle. The owner Annie looked after us magnificently with tea and cake. She also let us dry our wet gloves on her aga and provided several of us with plastic bags and dry socks!
Annie’s Tea Room
Best way to dry gloves!
Suitably refreshed and somewhat drier than when we arrived we set off again along country roads, passing through some small villages psyching ourselves up for the Pennines.
At lunch time we met Pete from Trailbrakes outside the pub where we were to eat. He was on his way to Alston in the mini-bus with our luggage and it gave us the opportunity to change into some dry socks and gloves. Lunch consisted of hot soup or a tasty baguette and the pub was very welcoming towards us.
45 minutes later we were back on the road and heading for Nenthead, 5 miles from Alston. We were a relatively short distance of 15 miles from the hotel, but we hadn’t started the climb over the Pennines yet. Thankfully it had stopped raining and the sun was even trying to shine, injecting us with some much needed warmth.
The long road to the top!
Resting at the top.
Once we left the summit, we had about 4 miles of beautifully smooth tarmac taking us back down towards Alston. The roads were almost empty, so we were able to take full advantage and raced down the hill, managing to hit 45mph in some places!
When we reached the bottom, we had another stage of off roading, this time downhill over some gravelly tracks, through a disused mining area that had a huge water mill in it. This brought us out onto the road, where we had a 2 mile downhill cruise to our evening’s accommodation, the Nent Hall Country House Hotel.
What a fantastic place this was; a huge old building with big rooms and high ceilings. We were given a warm welcome by the manager Pamela and went off to unpack and get showered before regrouping in the bar!
Dining in style!
Back to the bar after dinner, where they stayed open as long as we wanted them to, before retiring to our rooms at about 11pm.
Day 3 – Alston to Tynemouth
We set off just after 9am on Day 3 and the weather had changed. The sun was out and we had the wind behind us for the first time since we left Whitehaven. There wasn’t going to be so much climbing today, as we had to get back down to sea level by Tynemouth.
We had to re-trace our route for the first few miles, back up to Nenthead and up Black Hill, the highest point of our trip at 1998 feet. Climbing up this hill, we were humiliated by someone who zoomed by on an e-bike, leaving us all standing. The northern Pennine scenery was now very much wider and open and was scattered with the remains of former mining activity.
Some more off-roading followed, up another farm track. This took us up to some spectacular views overlooking the north Pennines. When we reached the top, we had a 10 minute break and did a spot of sunbathing.
Sunbathing at the top!
This trail led to a huge open area that reminded me of the Shropshire Hills. Some beautiful views, some fantastic single track and some rocky paths. It was on one of these rocky paths that two of our group took a wrong turning and they were unable to hear our shouts at them that they had gone the wrong way. We hung about for a while to see if they realised, but they did not appear. We carried on until we had some phone signal, when we contacted them and arranged to meet them in a small town called Consett.
In Consett we would pick up the old railway track, known as the Derwent Way which would take us to Newcastle.
Once this 15 mile railway section was finished, there followed a section of industrial wasteland around the back of Newcastle’s Metrocentre, before we crossed the river to pick up the vibrant and busy Tyne riverside path.
The last section from the new shopping centre by the Tyne tunnel to Tynemouth was quickly over and we soon found ourselves at the end of our journey.
We didn’t hang about in Tynemouth for very long. Pete from Trailbrakes greeted us with some whiskey, ginger beer and some chocolate brownies, which was much appreciated. We then biked the 5 minute ride back to where our cars had been left for the trip. 5 of the group set of back to Shropshhire that afternoon, arriving back at around 8:30pm, whilst the rest of us drove to Durham to spend the night there.
We had an enjoyable evening in a nice town and sampled a Durham curry together with a few of their finest ales.
In front of Durham Cathedral
All in all a fantastic trip and very well organised. If anyone else is thinking of doing the same, or any other biking holiday, it is well worth giving Trailbrakes a shout, as their support and knowledge is excellent.
Stretton Hills Biking MTB jerseys are now available from our online shop
They are Madison branded jerseys, with the SHB logo on and are priced at £29.99.
The 2015 Batch Burner will take place on Saturday 6th June.
Entries open on Sunday 25th January at 6pm.
Entry form is here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/124969/LongMynd-Batch-Burner
Established in 2013, The Long Mynd Batch Burner takes place on the first Saturday in June each year. Organised and run by volunteers the Batch Burner promises to be the most fun and friendly Mountain Bike Challenge event that you can enter.
Local councils are pulling funds away from small rural primary schools making it harder for them to survive but with the help of the PTA, the local community and a little bike shop with a big heart we are not going to let them win.
So on 11th May 2013 the first Long Mynd Batch Burner challenge mtb event took place on the Long Mynd in Shropshire. Showcasing 48k and 4000ft of the best of the Long Mynd’s trails it left you with sore legs and huge grins.
A collision of circumstance has brought together the PTA of Norbury Primary School (a tiny rural school located behind the Mynd) with Church Stretton’s local cycle shop Plush Hill Cycles to organise the event. Also building on the work of the local mountain bike community and the major land owner National Trust everything has come together to offer what promises to be a well organised and relaxed event taking in all of the best singletrack in the area.
The event will be a mass start challenge event, so no racing, it’s all about having fun and raising funds for Norbury Primary School (all profits will go to the School). Places are limited to 350 riders in 2014 to minimise the impact on the natural trails and avoid singletrack bottle necks. Your entry fee will include the usual race support and on arrival back at base live music and a barbeque plus a Batch Burner goodie bag. There will be a bar and plenty of cake too.
Ludlow Cycling Festival takes place on 21st September 2014 at Ludlow Rugby Club.
The festival is to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and events taking place include:
South Shropshire Tors – 100km road ride to the Welsh borders and back.
Beginners/Family ride – A led 11km ride to Ludlow Food Centre
The Orchard Ride – A led 30km ride to Tenbury Wells
Mountain Bike Rides: Off-road rides in Mortimer Forest
Turbo Trainer Time Trail
Win an Islabike
Hot and Cold Food
More details and booking forms can be found here: http://ludlowcc.org.uk/ludlow-cycling-festival/
We are excited to see the Cycle-Tec MTB Marathon series coming to Church Stretton in 2014. The Long Mynd will be a treat for competitors and having so many riders descend on the town can only be positive news for our local businesses.
The event has been taken over by Cycle-Tec Events Limited who are experienced in the organisation of events of this type.
The event takes place on Sunday 29th June 2014 and starts and finishes at Church Stretton school. The start time is at 10am.
Sunday 29th June 2014
Event village (with caterers, bar and entertainment)
Trade stands and demo bikes
Camping from Friday evening to Monday night
Showers and toilets
Full route marked courses
Feed stations (with Torq energy products)
Saturday 12 to 7.30pm & Sunday 8 to 9.30am
Entry on Day
Yes, if not sold out (surcharges apply)
Established in 2013, the Long Mynd Batch Burner is returning in 2014! The event will take place on Saturday 7th June, 2014.
Organised and run by volunteers the Batch Burner promises to be the most fun and friendly Mountain Bike challenge event that you can enter.
On 11th May 2013 the first Long Mynd Batch Burner challenge mtb event took place on the Long Mynd in Shropshire, to raise funds for Norbury Primary School in South Shropshire. It encompassed 48 kilometres and 4000ft of the best of the Long Mynd’s trails and left the riders with tired legs and huge grins.
The event is organised by the PTA of Norbury Primary School (a tiny rural school located behind the Long Mynd) together with Church Stretton’s local cycle shop Plush Hill Cycles. Building on the work already accomplished by the local mountain bike community and the major land owner the National Trust, everything has come together to offer what promises to be a well organised and relaxed event, taking in all of the best singletrack in the area.
The event will be a mass start challenge event, so it is not a race; it’s all about having fun and raising funds for Norbury Primary School (all profits will go to the School). Places are limited to 350 riders in 2014 to minimise the impact on the natural trails and avoid singletrack bottle necks. Your entry fee will include the usual race support and on arrival back at base live music and a barbeque plus a Batch Burner goodie bag. There will be a bar and plenty of cake too.
Last Year’s Batch Burner Start
The day started early, for a Saturday. I awoke at 7am and wandered downstairs to make a cup of tea. I had slept badly, probably due to the anticipation of the day ahead. I drank my tea and made some toast for breakfast, wondering if I should be having toast before such an event. The weather looked rather changeable. It was dry but cloudy and the forecast was saying that there could be some heavy showers.
After double checking that I had everything I was likely to need, I loaded my bike onto the car and set off to pick up my friend from his house. We added his bike to the bike rack and drove to Norbury Village Hall, which was to be the starting place for the 2013 Long Mynd Batch Burner. After a bit of a detour down some country lanes we arrived at the venue. With still nearly an hour to go before the start, there were already over 100 riders present.
The venue had been professionally set up, with ample car parking in an adjacent field and the registration area in the village hall itself. Outside the hall there were marquees, sponsors’ stands, a refreshment stall and a stage for the afternoon’s entertainment.
After registering we applied our official numbers to our bikes and found our friends who were also taking part in the event.
At 10:00am we all made out way over to the starting point and listened to some final instructions and guidelines. After a countdown by the children of Norbury Primary School, we were off, on the first leg of a gruelling 30 mile trek up and down the Shropshire Hills.
With a group start of over 200 riders, it was a case of making sure you didn’t crash into one another at the beginning. Some riders got away and were setting a very fast pace. Those of us that have cycled these hills every week smiled wryly, knowing that it was more important to pace oneself for the duration.
After three miles of country road followed by a farmer’s track we arrived at the first of four climbs, a long steep rocky track which took us from the west side of the Long Mynd to Pole Cottage. The mile long climb was around 800ft and lasted for around 20 minutes, but it was tough and some people found it too much and had decided to walk it. I got into a rhythm and although my legs were burning I forced myself to keep going, despite the rocks trying their hardest to disrupt me. This is what I had trained for and I knew I could do this section.
As we were climbing, the sun came out and I quickly felt over dressed. Finally the end of the climb was in sight and we arrived at Pole Cottage to be greeted by a team of marshals who shouted encouragement at us for completing the section. We decided to regroup and wait for all of our group to arrive there and I was able to jettison one of my layers to one of the marshal’s vehicles.
Next followed a short climb to Pole Bank, the highest point on the Long Mynd and the fourth highest point in Shropshire. That meant that there had to be a downhill section to follow and indeed there was. We accelerated down the trail to Shooting Box and then along towards the Port Way. This was fast dry trail and we were soon at the Batch Valley section of the event, specifically Jonathan’s Hollow, a section that had been granted special access for the day by the National Trust.
Jonathan’s Hollow is a narrow trail, which is technical in places. It involved a hairpin turn on a steep slope, at the start and a marshal was warning us of the sharp left turn. Just after this was a tricky rocky section which had been made even trickier by the previous days’ rain. It was here that I had my only mishap of the day, when my front wheel decided to stop dead whilst I carried on over the handle bars. Fortunately I didn’t sustain anything more than bruised knees and a bruised ego. I was soon back on my bike and continued down the windy track to the bottom of Batch Valley.
Next followed a windy singletrack section, climbing up over Novers Hill and down to the back of the Water Factory. Then we crossed the golf course and descended into Cardingmill Valley.
None of us was looking forward to the next part of the route. The climb to the top of Motts Road was extremely difficult at the best of times. There are parts of it that none of us have ever cycled, due to the rocky terrain and the gradient of the track. The wind had increased significantly and this had made it even more difficult. I was happy to walk this part, although even this wasn’t easy fighting against the wind.
Once at the top of Motts Road, we followed the trail back down to Pole Cottage where we had our official food station stop. Much needed nourishment was taken on board in the form of flapjacks, jelly babies and bananas. By this time the wind was bitterly cold and rain was definitely in the air.
After our brief refreshment break we set off down Callow Descent towards Little Stretton. A group of us had completed some trail maintenance on this section a week prior to the event. This had made the track much faster, by getting rid of the surface water and ruts that spoiled this particular trail. This section has to be one of the most picturesque parts of the Long Mynd and it is always difficult to keep ones eyes on the trail because of the wonderful view.
At Little Stretton we joined the road for a mile or so of tarmac finishing in a steep climb up to the top of Minton Hill. After a quick regroup, we headed up through the gate and began the climb of Packetstone Hill. The first part of this was not cyclable. I would describe it as resembling a bomb crater, so a dismount was necessary for the first part. Once past this initial section we climbed back on and began the ascent of this steep hill. Whilst I was climbing this section, it dawned on me that we were well over half way and the reminder of the route was relatively straight forward. After all it was over an area that was very familiar to those of us that regularly cycle the Long Mynd.
Twenty minutes later we reached the top of Packetstone. We decided to regroup again. However at that moment we were engulfed by a squalling shower of rain and hail, made worse by the bitterly cold wind. We therefore decide to wait until we got to the bottom of the next decent before regrouping. We then followed a mile or so of windy singletrack across Yapsel Bank to the top of the infamous Minton Batch. Here stood a marshal warning us of the tricky nature of this part of the course.
Minton Batch is a rocky, uneven, twisting trail that requires undivided attention right from the word go. With the exception of a small wooden bridge that crosses some boggy ground it is an entirely natural descent. In places you really have to have your wits about you, as one mistake could see you tumbling down the bank into the stream that runs adjacent to the trail.
It’s always a relief to complete Minton Batch unscathed and as I tend to take things quite slowly descent wise, I found the rest of my group waiting for me at the bottom.
After a quick drink we continued along the narrow country lane towards Hamperley and then up to Priors Holt. There we picked up the forest trail, which is a mile long stoney ascent towards the West Midlands Gliding Club. Whilst not particularly steep, this section always seems to take longer than it should do. However we knew that this was the last climb for the day and once at the top, it was literally all down hill to the finish.
Another regroup at the top of the forestry and then we set off down towards “Trail 2”, which is a narrow zig-zag descent with several hairpin turns in it. This is a fun track although full concentration is needed down here or it is possible to get carried away and have a nasty spill. At the bottom of this section a kind marshal gave us some encouragement and told us that there were only three miles to go.
These three miles were a mixture of narrow road and unmade farmers tracks. Just when we though we’d had the worst of the weather, the heavens opened, while we were crossing an exposed area of farmer’s field. The wind drove the cold rain into our faces stinging like hail stones. It didn’t matter. We were nearly home, after 4 hours, 30 miles and 4000 feet of tough biking.
When we turned into Village Hall grounds we were met with applause and cheers from parents and children. I felt a great sense of achievement having completed what was probably physically the hardest thing I had ever done.
After checking in, we were given a “goody” bag each and we tucked into a well deserved hot dog and pint, whilst listening to music from Fight the Bear, whose album was the official album of the 2013 Long Mynd Batch Burner.
The event had been superbly organised by Norbury Primary School, with the route planning by Plush Hill Cycles and a massive thank you must of course go to all those involved in the arranging of the event.
I would definitely recommend that anyone who is interested in mountain biking should enter next year’s event!
Batch Burner Route Preview Video!
Callow Descent – Little Stretton
Haglofs Open5 Shropshire Hills
May 5th 2013. The Haglofs Open5 event is coming back to Church Stretton and the Shropshire Hills again in May 2013. From the Open adventure site:
The Shropshire Hills were another surprise location last series which many racers admitted they’d never visited before. We were so impressed with this little gem that we just had to return.
We think it will make a fitting location for the final event in the series too.
Again regular marshall Jim Rounsley is at the helm. With his attention to detail he is sure to organise another Haglöfs Open5 to remember.
Saw this on dirt and it got me thinking.
So I wasted my night and wrote this perhaps I should have been doing something else on February 14th!
Here’s my take on the 29er thing. As I am starting to get a bit fed up with the whole subject
First of all this is what I think to 29ers. I have owed one for quite a few years but only as a XC hardtail. That style of bike has got loads of advantages over a 26” XC hardtail and there are no negatives over a bike like that for its intended use. I don’t think I would ever buy a 26” pure XC bike again and they have got a place in the market.
I ride lots of different bikes from XC to DH, like a lot of other riders out there. So you start to think what would these bigger wheels be like in another discipline.
I go out and have fun on my bikes and you can feel the difference in grip and speed when I am out on my 29er but I also know what is intended use is.
The thing is I own and have paid for my 29er XC bike so I don’t want to trash it down a DH track to see what it would be like. I have got a problem with that video of “Cedric Gracia Blasting on a 29er”. Cedric is a top pro Mountain biker and probably one of the best all round riders so if you put him on a Santa Cruz Tall boy he is going to ride the hell out of it and do things on it that take the bike out of its XC bounders. If that video was of Cedric blasting on a Santa Cruz Blur (the 26” equivalent) the video would have all the same footage of someone riding a XC bike on a DH track but no one would have thought anything much to it apart form someone riding a XC bike on a DH track. But as he was on a Tall Boy people think that he might do a DH race on a 29er this year!
Its more about the rider not the just the bike. Just look at that kid doing some crazy tricks on a old shopper bike. We are not going to go out and buy a Pashley bike thinking it will make us ride like Danny Macaskill are we?
I have ridden a Tall Boy and they are really good bike and make the most out of the big wheels but I felt that the fun factor was lost a bit when riding it. If I could only have one bike I don’t think I would have a 29er as they are just not as versatile as a 26” bike.
I think that 29er’s are here to stay and I have to agree with the article in dirt about them (even if it was a bit one sided to 29er’s) they are really good to ride as a XC bike or a 120mm trail bike. In a few years they will out sell 26” bikes for this style of bike.
The thing is the industry have seen the advantages of the big wheels and are questioning the 26” wheel now. I really don’t think we will see 29er on the DH circuit, you might see the odd manufactures experiment with them but I just don’t think it would work in the long run.
The problem now is that they are questioning the 26” wheel size. They know the advantages of a bigger wheel but I think they with start/if not already realise that 29er wheels are just a bit to big for a bike over 150mm of travel.
I think that’s where we might start to see 650b. Until last year 650b was a very niche wheel size in the world of mountain biking. I am led to believe that it if a 650b tyre had a xc tyre on it , it would be similar in size to that of a 26” wheel with a high volume 2.4 tyre on it. So imagine a 650b wheel with a 2.4 high volume tyre on it. That could be one sweet set up? Also if you look into it there are a lot of manufactures planning on making 650b products in 2013. Especially considering the availability of 650b frames at the moment it is quite shocking.
As someone who likes to buy and build up bikes this worries me. I was looking to build up a “all mountain” hardtail. Its the style of bike that I have always enjoyed the most but stupidly sold mine a few months ago. But do I buy a 26” bike something that I know works and I could have a lot of fun on, but it might be completely out out date within a year. Or buy a 29er something like the Transition Trans am 29, a bike that could work but it might be a bit of a gamble. Or see what comes of 650b? I have decided to do nothing and just enjoy the bikes that I have got.
Unfortunately I feel that the industry will be playing around with different wheel sizes for a good few years before they settle down on a certain size. I think there will be a option of different size wheels and it will just be the case of picking the right one for a given job.
At the moment we are in that test period and we are expected to fund it. I think at this given time manufactures would be better off sticking to what they know and trying to bring down the cost of part and bikes instead of passing on all the R&D costs of new parts onto the consumer.