Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

Feel free to leave comments.

Saturday 18 February 2012

The other wheels

I've posting about my bikes and the rides I've done on them, but my time over the last couple of months has actually been spent mucking around with a 4-wheeled vehicle, my Trafic van. 

The van was purchased after a couple of family holidays when we'd overload the old Multipla with bikes, kayaks and camping gear and the stress of packing it all just started to get me down. I did a lot of research on both the van to buy and what I wanted it to be capable of. As a result, I now have a long wheelbase Renault Trafic which has had the bulkhead removed, a row of Q/R seats installed and a couple of extra windows fitted. I always wanted to be able to use it for a bit of overnight "camping" and after doing some reading I found out I'd have to insulate it - well - in order to make it warm enough and to stop the condensation from giving me an impromptu shower.

Many hours of work later, I think it's almost complete. I've added some 12v sockets in the back so I can run a power washer or charge lights and phones and a super-duper 3W floodlight just inside the rear doors so I can have a bright "work" area before and after any night rides and for illuminating an area I might actually camp in. 

With all of this effort going in, I was glad to eventually get a chance to use it "in anger" for a weekend in Speyside and on the Moray Coast. My initial impressions are very favourable. Despite leaving the cab windows a tad for some air, it is warm enough, dry enough and big enough for my plans. A full length camp bed fits easily beside a couple of bike in the back and there's enough room to manoeuvre myself around. My only bugbear so far is finding suitable places to stop overnight as there are so many signs "forbidding" overnight parking - but I'll persevere. Now I just need to decide where else I'm off to in 2012.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Playing away

As previously reported, 2011 turned into a year of chasing goals and targets. From compleating my first round of Munros, through doing my first LeJog, to getting that 10,000km of riding and walking, it seemed I was always chasing something. I'd already decided that I was going to be less number-driven in 2012 and my main objective for this year is to walk and ride in areas I've never visited before. With that in mind, when my friend Jonny was organising a birthday MTB ride, I was keen to take him up on an offer of a guided tour of his back yard. 

Setting off south for a weekend is a bit of a novelty and crossing the border even more so. With some time to spare, Al and I decided we'd take in a ride on the way down to Huddersfield to break up the journey and make the most of our time. Asking around on Singletrackworld, we got a few recommendations for a route near Ingleton. This was useful for me as I've still to really comprehend the rather arcane English Right of Way rules and all those dotted and dashed pink lines on the OS map just look too confusing. 

The route turned out to be a cracker: some decent climbs, lots of lovely rural bridleways and a track over the higher moors. The weather could have been better. Cold and damp, there was snow, ice and slush higher up and we eventually opted to shorten the route slightly as we'd not get a view of the limestone pavements under the snow anyway. Returning to the van brought another problem - it was getting darker and with glasses now liberally smeared with mud, it was a bit of "point and pray" on the last, fast descents. 

By way of contrast, the weather for Saturdays birthday ride could not have been more perfect. Brilliant blue sky, hardly a breath of wind and crisp, cold trails made for a fantastic day out, all made even better by Jonnys narrative. It was certainly beautiful and the contrast with the nearby towns and villages made it even more so. All this great riding, in amongst all that urban development. Jonny is obviously, and very rightly, proud of his neighbourhood and I'm so glad he was able to share that enthusiasm with us.

I'm now really looking forward to similar adventures as the year progresses.