After the fun of the Yorkshire Dales 300 I was keen to do more bike packing. My partner Ali a little less so, credit card camping was one thing but actually getting in a tent with the insects on the fell side quite another.
We’d treated ourselves to Apidura frame bags for our Kinesis ATR Tripsters, as far as Ali was concerned they were for evening wear and the following day’s cycle kit. However after many conversations with the incredibly knowledgable Snow Peak Agencies Andy we’d borrowed some posh Vaude insulated camping mats and a Vaude Power Lizard 2 person light weight tent.
Ali was worried, possibly quite rightly so that with me being prone to extremes that she would have to ride until she dropped, sleep in a hedge and do it all again next day. I’d figured that the best thing to do was to have a little experiment with something more familiar, a simple loop of just under 30 miles with a pub for tea and we’d camp up on the fell fairly close to where we’d parked the van just in case the moorland monsters came out at night and frightened us back down again.
We parked the van up in Giggleswick, had a sausage roll at The Naked Man cafe and headed out up the back road to Helwith Bridge. It was Ali’s first time riding with the frame bags on, I knew she was a bit worried, we’d ridden with panniers on before and they can be a bit wobbly but frame bags are much different, the weight is dispersed across the length of the bike so it all feels much steadier. I’d taken off the 35mm file treads that we’d been riding most of the summer and put the lovely 40mm WTB Nano’s back on the bikes again, immediately even with the extra weight the Tripsters felt much nicer, they zip along the road with little compromise but as soon as you turn off road they roll over things so much more smoothly.
Climbing up the back track around Pen-Y-Gent the sun was shining, clouds dancing about with just enough fluff and not a soul to be seen. Just beautiful. There’s something rather nice about not being in a rush, we had plenty of time to make it to Litton to the pub for tea. It was nice to see Ali’s mind slowly swap out of thinking she had to be in a hurry up the track and not worry if you walked a bit, rode a bit, stopped to take pictures or just admire the view.
I’d not ridden any of the off road that we’d done before, it felt more of an adventure that way. I’d scanned as much as I could from Google Earth, so far so good. The back roads and tracks in the Dales are just beautiful. I’d tried to avoid anything too bumpy as well as it’s only 7 weeks since I broke my collarbone and I still can’t lift the front of the bike over things properly, the gates were enough of a challenge!
We made it down to the pub in good time, the only thing that we had pre-booked was a table at 6pm, arriving to see “Fully Booked for Food” signs on the door we were rather grateful for Ali’s fore thought! Amazing fish and chips consumed and we set off back into the setting sun. It was a hike-a-bike up the steep fell side on the northern slopes of Pen-Y-Gent, the setting sun creating beautiful skies. There was a bit of a breeze blowing but we were warm from the climb.
As soon as we were out of sight of any farms we found our selves a little flat bit behind the shelter of a wall. I wasn’t so worried about a farmer spotting the tiny green Vaude tent, more that the might spot my very loud Morvelo kit! I pitched the tent while Ali got on with blowing up her mat. It was quite amazing how many things came out of the small frame bags we were using. I knew that if Ali was to enjoy it then we needed as much comfort as we could. I’d found a tiny 11g stove that would make two teas with one fuel block, packed extra coats incase Ali got cold, spare kit for next day and plenty of food. Just as we went to get in the tent we remembered that Greg May had joked about doing naked lunges on the fell, so we did those in the rather bright light of the full moon.
Once cosy inside we shared Ali’s tiny hip flask of whiskey then tried to get some sleep.
The moon lit up the tent like a 40 watt bulb.
The grouse made weird noises.
I think it was a fox that sounded like a farmers dog.
It’s bright, it must be dawn. Nope 4.30am. (repeat at 5.30am)
6.30am and my collarbone is bored of fidgeting on a mat and decides it’s time to get up. The wind had dropped to nothing, not even a whisper. I opened the tent door. MIDGES!
Now I had visions of sitting and admiring the morning light and the stunning surroundings. I’d thought we were high engh to escape the midges and that the breeze up high would keep them at bay. Sadly this time no. I’d also hoped that the fumes from the little stove may scare them off but no. Two teas inhaled, Tent packed down at super speed, bags packed, quick check that we’d left no trace and we started on our way back down. Serves me right for thinking I’d leave the Smidge at home.
It was a bit of a boggy track back down the fell. We were much slower than we’d thought but deeply glad as the wind picked up a little and the midges buggered off. The last roll down Pen-Y-Gent lane brought back memories of the 3 Peaks Cyclocross, however rather than sprinting back to Helwith Bridge we headed to the cafe for breakfast and pint mugs of tea.
A gentle trundle back to Giggleswick and we were back to the van for a shower. Ali had survived her first bike packing experience.
We’re going again when we go up to Scotland in a few weeks time. A few things that we would change –
A bigger hip flask.
Midge head nets.
Don’t camp on a full moon, it’s so bright!