Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Hand Signals

Cyclists aren't the only road users to utilise hand signals. This is the local brewery dray. Thwaites have a long tradition of keeping shire horses. Their beers are mighty fine too.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Cyclinks #1

I keep reading cycling sites but forget to post about interesting stuff. This is an attempt to put that right. It's a collection of links related to cycling.

More singletrack
Lee Quarry near Bacup is another resource for MTB singletrack. Also reviewed on Singletrack and mentioned at BikeRadar. Check out some fresh vid from YouTube.

Manchester bike festival
The third I Bike MCR festival is starting the weekend after next. It entails three weeks running the full gamut of cycling events from bike art, races, social rides, parties through to bike pole, alley cat and critical mass rides. Sounds like if you cycle and live in Manchester, you need to be involved.

Even more singletrack
Over in the northeast, Hamsterley is to get 25km of bike trails.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Retail Misery

I cycle past the Roe Lee in Blackburn twice as part of my daily commute. This is the long straight on the A666, which is good for sustained speed given no car doors opening or cars jumping out of side roads. At speed, I have to focus on what's ahead, but going slower I look around more. The recent culvert repairs forced slower travel in this area because of the traffic lights. These have now gone and it is amazing how much more flowing my commute is again.

One thing I've noticed along this stretch is how the retail misery continues. In 2007 a glimpse of how bad things were down at the local shops showed many for sale or rent. Roe Lee is home to a significant number of retail outlets. Not only are many still for sale or rent, but some, which changed hands and accommodated new businesses, have since packed up and once more are empty. Any brief flicker of improvement seen by new businesses opening have been all but extinguished by the recession.

The Blue Diamond became the Eastern Delight but never looked like it had any customers. It has now closed.

Brittney's sandwich shop never seemed to be open when I passed in a morning so I never did pick up a lunchtime sandwich on my way to work. It's now up for sale.

This clothes shop also recently closed. On the other side of the road Nails4U is closed and the car dealership also.

On the flip-side, Tesco Express always appears busy.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Gisburn expands singletrack

Recently, I have seen more reports of investment for cyclists in British forests. This is great news. Across the country, our managed forests are increasingly being used for recreational purposes. The one nearest to here, Gisburn, is currently expanding its cycle trails. From the Singletrack website I discovered they are receiving investment resulting in a shift of the ratio of singletrack to fireroad in favour of the more exciting singletrack. This is an opportunity for keen singletrack MTBers to not only influence where trails go, but also increase the investment in the trails. By volunteering to build trails, the hours spent helps gain more investment money for trailbuilding.

Maybe the route on bikley will be updated. It's nice to see this happening in a forest nearby so it's less far to travel for some off road fun. I haven't had chance to check out Whinlatter and likely as not will get to Gisburn first.

More details on the Singletrack magazine website.

Thursday, 12 March 2009


The 350 mile Iditarod human powered race has finished in McGrath with a hardy few continuing on to Nome a further 750 miles! The competitors stories of their arduous toil and survival are amazing. An ability to endure one of the planets most inhospitable environments is testament to their survival skills and knowledge. Would you know what to do if you fell through the ice of a remote lake or river? I'm not sure I would. Yair Kellner and Jill Homer did just that. Luckily they're both OK. Jeff Oatley won the race with a superhuman effort pushing with the other leaders over Rainy Pass in waist deep snow. It took two and a half days longer than the record in a good year indicating how bad the conditions were. Lead Briton at one stage was James Leavesley in a respectable 4th place, but a detour cost him his place so first Brit across the line in McGrath was John 'Shaggy' Ross in an impressive 4th place. Aidan Harding another Brit also finished well in 13th. Englishman Howard Cook completed the 350 miles on foot in 22nd place after walking for over 9 days. Bill Dent (bike) and Steve Evans (foot) scratched around halfway. To get an idea why even getting to the first checkpoint is creditable watch this video by race director Bill Merchant.

I was trying to work out why I'm drawn to following the ITI. Partly by the accessibility of the reports, the detail of events happening in real time and the variety of writing and images available from the people involved - devoid of corporate spin and sensational media reporting. But also, somewhere in my psyche, I like that sort of adventure. It probably stems from memories of some of the milder adventures I've had. Bill Merchant summed it up when he talked of the stories that are memorable. The blue sky days are OK but it will be those extreme moments that always be recalled and be talked about. I remember toiling up Cairngorm in a blizzard one year whilst camping and skiing up in Scotland one February when it was about -12C out of the wind. And we still talk about getting stuck on Saulire when skiing in Courcheval in a white-out and not knowing whether we were facing down or up the slope. Even walking on local fells in bad conditions has produced memorable moments. Ice and snow change everything and because it's different it produces challenging new adventures.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Before YouTube There Really Were Tubes

I sneaked in a 35 mile ride over the weekend to top up miles for the short month of February. I had an errand to do so started off via Rishton and Clayton-le-Moors before dropping down the Calder valley to Altham and Simonstone and cutting back to the Ribble Valley via Read. It was interesting to go through Simonstone as this was where my father worked at the Mullard's factory. It was a large manufacturing plant, part of the Philips Electronics group, and a major employer in the area. The factory at Simonstone made television tubes. On one side of Simonstone Lane was the glass factory where screens were made. Dad was responsible for the production department in the late 60's and early 70's.

The glass factory buildings have all been demolished and most of the site stands empty. There is a new building on the front part of the site bounded by the old perimeter walls and gate house.

The other side of the road was the tube factory. The tubes and screens came together and received an electron gun before being shipped off to become televisions. Most of the buildings on that side still exist as part of a business park.

Just behind the Mullard's site, the line of the old railway can be seen. It closed in 1957 and the bridge dismantled.

This is a line that used to run from Padiham to Great Harwood. There was a station and goods yard for coal and wood. It is earmarked for an future cycleway as part of the Sustrans Connect2 programme. The initial development phase is in progress at the moment but stops in Padiham but hopefully, in future, the route will link up with Great Harwood.

From Read, I ended up following the route I did two weeks ago, through Wiswell and Pendleton coming out on Pendle Road.

I'd checked a map and seen the bridleway past Pendleton Hall and Mearley Hall looked like it was all tarmac so I crossed the lane going up to the Nick O' Pendle and enjoyed the peaceful tranquility of this excellent tarmac bridleway, but as I found, only as far as Little Mearley Hall. Here cyclocross skills were needed as the bridleway became muddy grass and stones.

I unclipped to pedal this bit as the greasy mud made lubricant for the stone metalling of the path and the skinny road tyres were very jittery. Thankfully that section was fairly short and I soon encountered tarmac again before skirting round Worsaw Hill and continuing to Downham.

From Downham, I crossed the Ribble Valley to follow the villages route back to Whalley. Refreshing rain cooled me off before the climb back out of the valley toward Blackburn. It felt like a climb as well. I haven't regained the stamina I had last summer when we were covering a lot more miles at the weekend and on tour. That's part of the downside to a short commute. It's little use as a training ride other than short sprints and general fitness. For stamina, there's no substitute for hours in the saddle. Spring is coming...

Monday, 2 March 2009

Iditarod photos

Kathi Merchant, one of the organisers of the Ultrasport Iditarod Trail Invitational human powered race has posted some photos from the start: link

Follow the race

Some competitors in the Iditarod Invitational endurance race in Alaska have satellite trackers. These are linked back to a website where you can monitor them in real time. It's kind of captivating to watch progress on a Google terrain or satellite map and see where a competitor is.

This is Jill Homer's. Geoff Roe's appears to have a problem with the link. Any others I haven't come across yet. The leader board is here.