Editorial - Finding My Silver Lining
The blue sky didn't last long. It did however prompt me to get out on the mountain bike. No, it excited me, throwing me into a fervent frenzy of Sunday morning activity; packing the bike, driving through country lanes in a race to beat the clouds. However, I lost and the weather won.
Arriving at Dallowgill, the blue sky had been replaced by a grey mass and a howling gale was announcing its presence. By the time I'd unloaded the bike, sleet was driving into me, forcing me to seek solace in the car, mulling over the sense of staying put and waiting it out. I was here now, and I would be damned if it a bit of driving sleet and freezing wind chill was going to keep me off my bike - this is Yorkshire be damned! On went the head glove (buff style), skull cap, thermal overshoes and leg warmers and I was ready to leave my radio companion with the words "I may be gone some time!" Pedalling away up the rocky bridleway, with the sound of the nearby waterfall in my ears and the sight of a swooping owl overhead I knew it had been the right decision. The gradual gradient was beginning to warm me and my kit was doing what it was designed for - keeping me warm and dry.
Reaching the gated moorland, where the track evens out and tempts you to tackle the superb technical descent to the Nidderdale ridge above Ramsgill, the rain had stopped and glimpses of sun were fighting through the greyness. Time then to open up the throttle. Tyres were trustworthy and my suspension smoothed the rocks as I aimed the bike to my line choice and threw caution to the very strong wind. I even unclipped my foot as I reached the bottom, so that I could make the most of a skidded stop opportunity, throwing the bike sideways as I swooped into the sharply turning trail. I was alone in bleakest Nidderdale and having a ball - or so I thought. As I stood there admiring my descent, a friend popped over the horizon from the opposite direction, astride his own trusty steed and accompanied by a riding companion. It was great to meet up with Rob and Martin, and we chewed the cud, exchanged bike stories and planned future rides, before we all realised that valuable riding time was being wasted.
The trail now curled away and upwards, and I was soon back in cycling solitude, with moorland birds swooping and singing to each other, and the crunch of the gravelly trail providing the accompaniment. I love the chrunching sound of tyres eating into rock and gravel. It's heart-warming and confidence building. The Nidderdale moors are full of rocky tracks that remain rideable all year long, and today they were in supreme condition; just a bit of dampness to test the handling and enough gravel to make the wheels the dance to your tune.
I rode on in anticipation of the rocky 1.5 mile stretch coming up, with 360 feet of fast descending, split only by rocky trail bumps designed to slow trasspassing 4x4s, providing superb opportunities for the trail rider to take flight from. One after the after I grabbed some air, skimming across the loose track as I landed, trying not to loose speed or grip. All to soon it was over and the long technical climb back to Dallowgill lay before me. A mile of rocky, technical ascending where line choice and bike position is crucial.
Summiting by the earlier gate, all that was left was a swoop down the loose and bumpy trail back to the car. These last moments of a ride are to be cherished; especially when you've fought the weather Gods and won. I hovered over the brakes, modulating them only when necessary, revelling in the speed that a straight moorland trail can provide, where fortune favours the brave. The sound of the racing gravel beneath the wheels indicated the gloriously precarious position of such riding. I was in that place that all trail riders seek and the day had been a success.
Bike packed, heater on, stereo booming out 'my silver lining' by 'First Aid Kit', I'd found my silver lining today, beneath the skies of Nidderdale, and all was good. Even the rain had finally surrendered to cycling. Once home, a message from Rohoff Rob, who I'd bumped into earlier on the trail summed it all up:
"Turned out to be a good day. Lots of people will have missed out!"