Ride Diary - September 2019, Lake District

What a difference 4 years makes! Last time I had a crack at this route it was well over 30-degree heat and we abandoned the last section in search of ice-cream and shade, I don’t work well in heat. Walking up to the bar in the youth hostel this time we are met with universal stories of walkers saturated to the bone, rivers running down footpaths and a massively overcrowded drying room.

Tradition says the Borrowdale Bash starts in Keswick and does a clockwise loop round Derwent Water, accommodation availability means we’re starting from the half way point at the Borrowdale Youth Hostel. After filling our bellies with the famous Dog ‘n Gun Goulash in Keswick on the way over after work on Monday we are enjoying a couple of pints of hand pull before heading to our dorms.

After making an impact on the breakfast selection it’s time to ready our steeds, don the waterproofs and head out for a gentle leg warmer straight up Honister Pass, we head right onto the first bridleway section and soon reminisce about cowering under bracken trying to find some respite from the blazing sun. Not this time though as the first descent is the promised river of water where once a track was.

We make good progress up the left-hand side of the lake until we make the same mistake as last time, the nice flowy singletrack we are on turns into a push and scramble around an escarpment before we spot the same cut down through the woods to get back to the tarmac. I must remember for next time that this lovely looking track doesn’t stay lovely for long and it’s best to stay on the road for that section. It’s at this point 4 years ago we made the call and followed the road back to base, not this time, this time we will see what the low side of Cat Bells has to offer.

With the weather improving and even a threat of the sun breaking through we are a little disappointed to find sanitised ‘accessible tracks’ is the answer for the downhill sections which make the techy (read push up) climbs seem not quite worth it and leave us thinking this section would be better reversed. Still we know in the grand scheme of things this is the best way in the context of the whole ride.

As we roll into Keswick it becomes apparent that the mix of cereals, porridge, bacon & eggs is starting to wear off and given the weather gelato is not the order of the day this time. A welcome mug of tea and toasted panini sat in the drizzle lifts our spirits as we watch the world go by in the market square and the nice chaps at Whinlatter Bikes let me have a few squirts of air in the back tyre.

Heading back out we have been told about an alternative track to avoid the narrow twisting road down the eastern shore, we gain height on the road before the lane turns into a track and we wind our way along the top on some lovely singletrack before the track opens slightly into a Moors-esque descent. Fast flowy, tight twisty, rock strewn and long we are pedalling and pumping with grins fixed, chatting with hill walkers sharing our sense of beating the elements.

Then it happens, rider down! My ride buddy today is George who has a rather unfortunate history of braking himself while riding, broken cheek, possible concussion, broken hip to name but a few. I have an unwritten agreement with his wife that I bring him back safely and as none of the above have happened on my watch I’m keen to keep my word. As we approach a narrow gate with a tricky rocky entrance the group of walkers who are kindly holding it open mutter the words you never want to hear “don’t fall off”. We negotiate the gate give them the thumbs up and head around the corner where I promptly find the worlds greasiest rock with my front tyre and before you know eject myself from the bike and have a slide down the track. My knee pads do their job and the only thing bruised is my pride and we continue on our way.

We emerge from this hidden gem of a trail half way up what can only be described as the horrible climb past Ashness Bridge to Surprise View Point for the inevitable Instagram photo stop. Now anyone who’s done this ride will know the next section on the road seams to last forever and today forever is accompanied by the weather closing in and as we reach the bridleway turn at Watendlath we are warned by a family “it’s completely under water”. Like mountain goats we skip round the rather large puddle before starting up the last climb of the day.

Tired waterlogged legs soon see us joining the couple of walkers on foot sharing sweets and their tales of woe – the café was closed so they haven’t had a coffee! We bid them farewell as the track levels out and make our way around to the big finish. A classic lakes descent now awaits, “no punctures this time George” I joke as we set off. I’m working hard on the hardtail as rocky steps turn sharply into rocky steps, loose rocks and drainage bars riddle the track in-between, stay off the front brake and trust in your front wheel. We’re past the gate where a rear tyre got shredded 4 years ago and out the bottom of the hill, what a final section to a ride, that’s why we do this sport. A quick spin down the road and we’re done.

Home & hosed, well bikes in van, kit in drying room & hot showers done it’s time to relax with a brew and slab of chocolate orange cake. We book in for evening meal at the hostel as I have no enthusiasm for driving to a pub and the chicken pie followed by warm chocolate fudge cake meal deal seems too good to miss, washed down by a couple of pints of course. A sound night’s sleep is followed by man v’s breakfast part 2 before setting off back to the Hub for my afternoon shift at work.

It’s a classic route, we’ve had some great descents, the accommodation was spot on, now all we need to do is do it again with the weather somewhere in-between last time and this.

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