JOURNAL: Rochdale & Marsden Moor – A Hale Velo Adventure

Rides & Races

Rochdale & Marsden Moor – A Hale Velo Adventure

Ben gives us the post ride run down from last weekends mountain bike outing with the Hale Velo boys and Luke the Bikeshak mechanic.

“I get loads of people say to me ‘mountain biking?! In winter?!! You must be mad and rich’ – true and sadly false. However you can’t deny the wonderful theatre that mountain biking in winter in a group creates. The drama, the crashes, the scenery and of course the cake. It’s something I wouldn’t trade for any amount of cold wet tarmac not matter how many sodding pairs of brake pads I get through.”

We arrive on the side of the road at 9am just by Hollingworth Lake inside Littleborough, it’s bitterly cold but the sun is shining and things are looking up with the long line of cars and mountain bikes being dragged out of boots. Nine riders, myself, Luke, Phil, Adrian, Dave, Martin, Simon, Tom and route master Geoff are all present, an impressively large group for any winter ride let alone a mountain bike one.

For the first time ever I was the one with the modern bike. That’s why it’s so cold. Hell was freezing over.

The plan is to head towards Lydgate and loop back around past the Whittaker golf club and gain some elevation as we drop down towards and over the M62 and head for the hills. As we set off I get three pedal strokes in before nearly face planting on black ice and barely holding onto an awesome two wheel drift. Buckle up kids.

As we drop down towards Dick Hill everyone is in high spirits, the weather couldn’t be better for a damp February and even a furious dog walker condemning us to hell for the joy of cycling (there was a crudely painted sign on the gate before the first descent warning ‘No cyclists’ but bridleway access is a debate for another time) can’t bring down anyone’s spirits. Adrian on the other hand must’ve been wondering what he did wrong to deserve a front wheel puncture after forgetting his gloves. No matter, Luke to the rescue, after all what good is a shop mechanic if you can’t use him on a social?

We begin the long ascent toward the A672 traversing across the moorland with Piethorn Reservoir to our right and stunning views of the valley separating us and Higher Ogden. The winter weather has more of a hold up here with snow covering the hill tops and the sky turning whiter as we climb.

Totally worth it

It’s a long steady drag to the snow topped hills but the snowy descent to the A672 junction is just begging for full gas. As we make our way down there’s a few spills and nervous moments but everyone makes it down in one piece. Although Phil promised us a fairly easy ride technically the snow and ice is make normally mundane farm tracks insanely tricky. It was brilliant. Bacon and a cup of tea is calling as we head toward Marsden for our cafe stop at ‘Crumbs on the Corner’ the owner of which was gracious enough to allow a group of filthy mountain bikers into her little cafe, the cakes are well worth a visit.

Quite literally all Phil had was whiskey and yellow snow.

After the cafe stop we make our way to towards Wessenden Reservoir and the return leg our our ride, crossing the dam bridge gives yet more stunning views of the hills between us and Castleshaw, the hills which we will soon be winching our way up for one of the most scenic descents of the day.

I jumped off the front to tackle the monster climb coming up as we swing left and up. It was so no-one could see me push, shh…

As we climb up and over the trail leads us to a crossing of a valley stream that feeds back into the one of the outlets of Wessenden Reservoir I wasn’t expecting a water crossing so high up in the hills but this is the joy of mountain biking, the terrain always throws a curve ball at you. We cross one by one feeling like true wilderness explorers in the moorland wastes after passing cheery walkers eating a picnic watching these mad cyclists probably hoping for a comedy, rather damp moment.

Waterproofs will not save you here.
Oh yes, more of this please.

The return leg sees us head toward Higher Ogden via Denshaw taking in some magnificent scenery and quite possibly the most brutal climb I think I’ve ever attempted. As if someone had tilted a river bed at 10% strewn with boulders and wet slab as wide as a narrow pavement with no end in sight! Myself, Luke and Phil managed to get half way up before being defeated, we’ll definitely be back to attempt this one when is drier.

As we skirt back around Ogden Reservoir with the cars close enough you could probably open them remotely our fearless leader Phil manages to blow a tube, sod’s law is universal it seems, no one is safe.

After six hours of riding we arrive back at the cars with a day of drama and off-road carnage behind us. The highlight has to be Tom’s rear brake pouring smoke from the calliper after a particularly rocky and steep descent! We hope to see everyone again on the next outing because it’s bigger groups like this that add to the fun of it all and make the testing conditions that much more fun.

If you would like to join us on one of our rides Phil of Hale Velo organises a ride for the first Sunday of every month. He tries to keep the route fairly local and within any off road riders abilities, for more information drop into Bikeshak and we’ll give you the low-down on the next group ride.

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Written on February 9th, 2018 by Ben Othen


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