A few days in the very beautiful top left hand corner of Spain.
Grinton Moor, to give the moor
its google search engine hitvisits optimisation name, Cogden Moor to give the more locally specifically accurate name to the north side of the moor across which the road descends down into the valley, or Robin Cross Hill, to give the name which appears on the blue pointy profile thingy of the first day
of next year’s Tour de France is quite a long way from France, and when the daylight is fading, the road is icy and the air is freezing it seems quite a long way from Grinton as well but that is OK as some days it is in fact colder in the valley than on the moors. Some days it just feels that way because the sun doesn’t climb high enough to reach the valley floor, some days is is actually that way and the cloud forms from the ground upwards rather than the sky downwards. Either way it means that to maximise your vitamin D uptake and minimise your seasonal affective disorder symptoms for that day then being somewhere elevated is counter-intuitively good for you and you need to rise, Icarus like, as close to the sun as you can get, as close as you can get considering that the higher roads giving you the best chance to soak up the solar rays with your wings of wax are likely to be experiencing a much poorer ratio of grippy tarmac to ice, the person considering trying to ride up them the day after christmas is suffering from a much poorer ratio of power to weight, a ratio which in common with many no doubt has has not been moving in the right direction for a few weeks now, and the ratio of the amount of the descent that you will be likely to have to walk down having dismounted in either a voluntary and precautionary fashion or a less voluntary and more improvisational style as a result of a couple of nights of hard frost on very wet surface is not looking great either so you do the maths, think of how little time you’ve spent by your own fireside lately, keep things local and save your great escape for another day.
This time of year more than ever as people look forward to a few well earned days off when they can spend time with their beloved
bikes families it falls to blogs like this to wear their social consciences on their sleeves and to good people like you to think of those less fortunate than yourselves. Imagine, if you can, if every time you went out for a bike ride instead of your fast light bike and proper cycling gear you had only a massively heavy bit of disgarded agricultural machinery to ride and if you had to wear daft baggy shorts with a rucksack on your back like some rambler trying to look fashionable and cool but only having an early eighties aerobics video to work from. Imagine if everytime you came to a hill on your bike you had to get a lift to the top in a van because you were only able to ride down hills, not up them. Imagine if old ladies on shopping bikes kept a tally scratched on their fully laden baskets of how many times they had dropped you. Yes, in this year’s Northernbike appeal we’re asking you to think of people who ride mountain bikes.
If you come back from a ride all covered in mud and crap it means you’ve either crashed, accidentally stumbled into a cross event or somebody stole your mudguards while you were out. For mountain bikers this is how they end every ride. Why not help an MTBer by offering them a much needed christmas bath, or if that is too much, just a cold hose down in the garden would be a welcome gift to them and show them how much you care. MTBers often experience loneliness as when they go out for a ride they can’t hear each other talk over the noise of their big fat soft nobbly tyres and they are too out of breath to get any words out anyway. This christmas, if you happen upon a mountain biker whilst out on a ride instead of whizzing past them, glancing back only to grin at their little red puffing mud spattered face, why not get off your bike and walk alongside them as they ride to make them feel that society hasn’t forgotten them completely. Why not invite them into your home, particularly if you have a bungalow or a stairlift as remember they can’t go up hills, and make them feel at ease by lying face down in your herbacious border, calling everyone dude and decanting that special bottle of Nuits St Georges you’ve been saving for christmas into a platypus backpack and sucking it out of a bendy rubber tube.
It’s easy to forget that not everyone is as lucky as us. This year, all I ask is you think for a moment about your local mountain biker. If you want to make a donation then £1 will buy them some shower gel, £20 will fund a pair of mudguards and £500 will get them a proper bike. It’s not the money that is really important here though. The main thing is to walk a mile in their shoes as they will walk many miles every ride in them. Yes, all I’m really asking is that you show that you respect them and that you love them for one day, then you can go back to normal on Boxing Day. Thank you for caring.
It’s been a long hard year watching cycling on the telly so in search of a little R&R and some amelioration of my resulting vitamin D deficiency we packed the tartan rug in the morris minor, filled the thermos with bovril and headed for the seaside. The beach may not be much suited for bike riding but the sand and salt provides a welcome feeling of familiarity to a bike rider dragged from the North East’s winter roads, the collars of passers by turned up against the relentless wind provide the friendly reassurance of a home from home at every step and there is coffee and cake, which is pretty much all I need to be offered to be pursuaded to do anything. The beach is also known for it’s movie set looks, a little stretch of the east coast of England which will be forever France
and any bike rider is a sucker for anything with a whiff of the continental. There is a feeling of space at the seaside too, except when you forget to check the tides and the sea is washing up against the foot of the dunes. You can stand and look out to sea and wonder if there is someone standing on a similar beach in Denmark looking back at you, thinking of Kierkegaard, The Killing
, and whether they left the gas on. The space offers the chance of shaking off the past, of starting afresh, of faking your own disappearance and claiming the insurance
. It is particularly at this time of year when christmas lights are being turned on, children’s faces are pressed to department store windows
and grown up begin to realise that they are never
going to clear everything that is on their desks before the 24th that we need to get out under the sky in search of guidance and so it was that lo, we did look to the heavens and the light of the Wilton flare stack
did guideth us home, and it was good.