The world of ITT is a new one for me, something I’d been curious about, hearing tales of adventure and survival against the weather and the elements. Now I’m not soft but I wasn’t really too keen on freezing to death up a Scottish mountain having spent a week eating the local wildlife so when Stuart Rider announced the Dales 300 and a summer date it sounded a much more sensible option for starting with.
I’m not a mountain biker, I don’t own one. I do however have a Kinesis ATR Tripster, I guess to the eye it looks like s cyclocross bike, it’s so much more though. ATR stands for Adventure Tour Race, so far I’ve done each of these separately but never combined them all. Apidura frame bags were purchased, a few experiments into what the bike felt like with weight on it. A bit more air in the 40c WTB Nano tyres, a borrow of my partner Ali’s Garmin and a fair sized portion of stubbornness and I decided I was ready.
Now one thing I’ve not mentioned is my general dislike of camping. Camper vans are fine, tents however are far too much faff, far too close to the insects and of course all those imaginary monsters. The rules of self-supported state no booking lodgings in advance and things must be accessible to every competitor. Simple I think, write down the names of a few b&b’s and ring them after the event has started. Friday came and I thought I’d just have a quick scan to check availability…..zero…nowt…de nada…the whole of the Dales was booked up, no chance of plan one of booking something after the start. Uh- oh…..tent.
Now here’s the problem. No tent. Or bivi. Chasing down to the local outdoor shop saw me leaving with a cheap, tiny, reasonably light tent. How tired would I have to get before I’d get in it?
Alarms set with good time to get to Riders Cycle Centre in Skipton for the start, somewhat scuppered by the re-surfacing road works. Arriving just as everyone was off, I saw Tom, the only other one daft enough to try it on a cx bike, he was busy regretting not changing for lower gears on a laden bike. I signed out and was off.
In a small way I was glad of the peaceful start, 300km is a fair way on the road but much harder off road. I didn’t want to get caught in any early chasing about, all too tempting when a 40mm tyre will go up hill much quicker. I settled into a pace. Catching up with a chap called Ian for what turned into a new game of endurance tag as I passed him on the hills and he passed me on the descents. Soon it was pie time in Kettlewell, a little battle of the mind with Park Rash round the corner, it’s like getting to enjoy a pie even longer!
When I’d looked at the weather it had talked of light winds. They lie! I was getting my head blown off, I knew I was quite high up and the wind always blows from the West. The back of my mind was thinking that today would be a perfect day for Coast to Coasting, you’d barely have to pedal.
I knew the descent of Gunnerside Gill was coming, I’d seen the video Stuart had put up, listened to the banter of not knowing what was path and what was boulder field. Eventually finding it hidden on the edge of a bank. I must say I just laughed, got off and began to teeter down. It was like a scree run, only there were spiked rocks everywhere mixed in with a loose surface and no obvious path.
I’d made it half way down when I heard Stuart behind me. I’ve never seen anything quite as bonkers as his skill riding near vertical scree on a fully laden bike. I’m sure that fat 3″ tyre on the front helps. Ian followed him down. I carried on teetering. I saw Ian stopped lower down. Poor chap had flipped the bike, pulled the rear brake hose out and knackered a saddle clamp. Game over for him.
I rolled into Swaledale to find a gathering outside pub. Many questions of “ooh blimey, what’s it like on that?” as they pointed at my Tripster. Boys and their fat tyres eh! Rather than waiting for food I just had a pint of coke and some peanuts, the pub was heaving and it didn’t look like I’d get served any time soon. I wanted to crack on as much as I could before it got dark.
Whilst this was my first ITT it’s not my first through the night event, I’ve done a fair few fell races through the night. Something special begins to happen as the world calls time on its waking hours. You pass the last of the houses for some time, the smells of dinner, people off to the pub for a night out, yet onward you go into the night. The crunch of tyres on gravel, tiredness is hanging round your shoulders as the light begins to fade. I’d passed Stuart and some of the others climbing up Buttertubbs, one more chap was just behind me. I knew there were others ahead. Somewhere in my mind it all made me feel quite safe. I didn’t need them to be close, just the knowledge that they were there somewhere.
The Roman Road from Bainbridge was long, really long, brain chewing long. Frustrating as it’s the kind of track I’d tap up nicely on a regular day. I was trying to hold out as long as I could before putting my Hope R4 light on. Even though I’ve been through the night on my old Hope Vision4 on it’s lowest settings and I know the R4 is better I still wanted to be conservative, just incase I decided to do anything stupid like keep going through the night.
Michael Collins caught up with me near the top of Park Rash, we passed one guy bivi’d up behind a wall. Even hard nut Collins exclaimed that it was starting to look like a good idea. I still felt alert, I followed his lights for a bit until he whizzed off down a hill.
I kept going, in my mind I wanted to be on the other side of Whernside before I’d stop. The midges through Dentdale were insane. Clouds of them, it was like they covered your whole face. Thankfully they didn’t go over a certain height. As I began to ride up the back of Whernside I checked the time. 1:30am, if I was having a break it would be a logical time to do so. Once that thought was in my mind *ping* a little space next to the last gate before the drag up appeared.
Amazingly the little tent was really well designed, up in 5 minutes even in the dark. And time to finally take my shorts off, YEE HAAA, the chamois time alarm clock had gone off many many hours before. A little tot of whiskey and I tried to get some sleep. Trouble was I was still quite awake. Fidget fidget. Somewhere I had a sleep and woke again at 4. Stared at my eyelids, imagined over keen farmers, decided to get up. Plus I knew the rain was coming. Thankfully, tent was packed down dry.
Then I began the trudge up Whernside, The rain began to fall. I could see a guy just behind me. Also trudging. He came past. My legs didn’t want to wake up, even with a liberal load of Sportique Century Cream my shorts didn’t feel so fresh. Maybe a BabyBel, a Clif bar and a chorizo stick weren’t the ideal breakfast. I can say from there until Ribblehead Viaduct I had a total sense of humour fail.
The track across the back to Horton in Ribblesdale seemed to take forever. Rain rained on the rain and I felt like a zombie. The nice Welsh guy cheered me up, made me feel better when I thought about jacking it all in. It was really nice to hear someone else say that there was no point when it wasn’t fun and rain wasn’t fun. They rolled off in advance down the hill while I swore at the baby head rocks which were slippy and I wasn’t managing with my dozy head.
Then like a beacon of warmth the Pen-Y-Gent cafe. Blissfully empty, pint or a half of tea? …er…PINT! Tea has never tasted so good.
I’d recce’d the route from here, the rain was battering down. It didn’t look like it was about to stop. There’s a train from Horton to Skipton. I thought about it hard. No, keep going, it may lift and if you hate it at Settle then get the train from there I thought. As we were leaving Heather Dawe came in, like a drowned rat, 5 hours of rain had taken it’s toll.
The rain began to stop, at Felzor I took off my Rapha waterproof, still dry underneath, the weather was warming. By Kirkby Fell my Morvelo arm and leg warmers were coming off, and by Malham I’d flashed a poor farmer when loosing a base layer and being back in just Morvelo shorts and jersey. Hurrah for sunshine.
My Garmin threw a fit at the top of Malham, I guess the file got too big. Kept switching itself off despite being charged. So glad I’d done the recce or it would have been game over.
The sun was shining, I felt good, the bike felt good, not too many squeaks. Shorts were less than fresh and I wished I’d packed a fresh pair. I knew the end was in sight. I even felt like I was riding better than at the start. This had been my intention, I’m not that great at riding off road technically. I was hoping that by total immersion I would improve. It worked years ago when I brought my boat up from the Midlands, I started the trip scared of jumping over the lock gates, by the end I was so tired I jumped them because it was quicker and it became a natural movement.
As I crossed the single track of Barden Moor I knew I was home, all down hill, just don’t get over excited and whoosh down and rip a tyre!
The top of the last descent Stuart had sent a worried text, 15 minutes later I rolled back to his Riders Cycle Centre.
AND the chip shop was still open!
Huge thank you to Stuart for the route and the planning.
Right then – NEXT?
Kit list –
I wore – Morvelo Nth series bib shorts and SS jersey (with matching socks obviously), Bont XC Vapor shoes, Lazer Z1 helmet, Lazer glasses and my loved to near death long finger Rapha summer gloves (sadly discontinued)
Bike – Kinesis ATR Tripster, frankenbike gear set-up including the new Praxis 11/40 10spd cassette with a Hope 38t ring, WTB Nano 40c tubeless on Kinesis Crosslight wheels, FSA carbon compact bars, squidy tape, HY-RD front, Hylex rear brake, both TRP, Hope R4 light, Garmin 800.
Frame bag – Apidura large road. Tent poles, tubeless patch kit, 2 tubes, Lezyne multitool, bits of chain, split links, mech hanger, spare pads, many many Clif Bars, Clif Shotbloks, Clif Gels, Babybel, Chorizo, High5 tabs, Hope battery, booster battery, phone, chamois cream wet wipes.
Saddle Bag – Apidura small. Sunday’s Clif bars, Rab Primaloft smock, Rapha waterproof, Rapha SS merino base layer, Vango sleeping bag.
Bar Bag – Wildcat (thanks Brant) – tent (without poles or pegs).
Only things not used – any spares or breakdown things. 3 gels.