As an event organiser my eye is always on
the detail. I need to ensure that no matter
what happens come event day there is contingency in place to deal with any
scenario. The show must go on...
Words by Paul Errington.
Photography: Marc Gasch. Video: Orange Trike
TOUR OF NORTHUMBERLAND
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry
The XPDTN3 post Dirty Reiver event trip had
been in planning for a number of months. A 3 day circuitous route starting and finishing at Kielder Castle, the
start/finish point of the Dirty Reiver. In 3 days it was planned to sample the diversity that is found in the
English county of Northumberland, with a little of Scotland thrown in to the
mix also. Day one would see us head out to the coast
crossing numerous hills and valleys eventually arriving at the coast looking
out on to Holy Island. The following day
would see us ride south with the coastline and sea views just on our left
shoulder before heading inland through the city of Newcastle and eventually
stopping at the small town of Wylam. Our
final day would again see us in green countryside crossing Hadrians Wall before
arriving back at the start of our journey, Kielder Castle. Well that was the plan anyway.
Already feeling a little jaded from the
Dirty Reiver weekend it was becoming clear the glorious sunshine we had enjoyed
just days earlier had now departed and we were left with far differing conditions. While packing for the trip the day before we
departed I periodically checked in to Marc’s (Gasch Navarro) and Jon’s
(Hornbeck) facebook pages. Marc and Jon
having ridden the weekends event were still at Kielder resting prior to the
trip. Videos of snow and chilling winds
were being posted. This drastic
reduction in temperature was also being compounded by a dramatic increase in
wind speed. Already Plan A looked like
it was in trouble so Plan B began to be formulated.
The planned party for this trip had finally
been confirmed as myself, Oliver Townsend (Orange Trike Media), Marc Gasch
Navarro (3T Social media extraordinaire), Jon Hornbeck (Road Bike Action
Magazine) and the legend Magnus Backstedt.As locals, myself and Olly had been
conversing the day prior on route choice and impending weather conditions. After many iterations and worsening
conditions, it was decided that to ride to the coast against gale winds while
also trying to capture the experience would be fool hardy. Plan B, shuttle bikes and bodies to the coast
and ride a loop of local coastal trails.
This plan seemed far more palatable for all so van fully loaded we drove
across to our originally planned overnight stay, Fenham Farm.
The weather was decidedly undecided. A periodic shift from grey clouds scattering
rain to blue skies with the only constant being the extra strong winds.We set off to explore the local coastal
trail. Jon, a native Californian, opting
to wear his entire wardrobe.After barely making a few kilometres the
adventure began with the trail petering out to nothing to leave a steep sided
bank and stream to cross, good humour was had by all as team work ensued to
forge across this small obstacle. Not even
a few additional kilometres had been gained before Magnus suffered a
mechanical, a coming together of wheel and branch awkwardly rearranged his
spoke count and left the bike unable to be ridden.
Plan B was now no longer valid. Plan C, retreat to the accommodation and
establish a local fix for the bike. An afternoon spent trying to locate a
suitable fix in the local town Berwick upon Tweed proved fruitless, even a
local store offering to fix any wheel for a few pounds had not anticipated
anyone taking them up on this offer. Plan C was sent to the recycling bin and
Plan D now had to be formulated. Plan D, enjoy the rest of the evening at
the accommodation and early next morning some additional portage to my house to
raid my garage of spares.
With 11km under our belts from the previous
day we needed a hearty breakfast before the car drive down the coast to my
house. Humour was remarkably still intact and
surprisingly as per forecast the weather had improved to mostly dry and not so
windy. Upon arriving at my house we ventured in to
the garage and starting pulling apart bikes to source a suitable rear wheel or
failing that a pair of wheels. No bike
was safe as like cycling Vikings we pillaged, the resultant scene of
destruction a warning to any bike that dare not function. But for all our destruction we failed to come
up with a suitable wheel. Plan D was
covered in petrol and lit. Plan E, local
bikeshop. ‘Local’ only in very general
geographic terms as we ended up only a few miles from the originally planned
Day two overnight stay in Wylam. The trip
theme had certainly been set and though our legs had had little workout we were
now very capable at packing 5 people and bikes in to a VW Transporter van.Cycle Art of Prudhoe, was the local shop that
could offer a fix. Magnus received a
loaner wheel and we left his in overnight for a repair. Time to ride bikes!
The area surrounding the bike shop offered
us some excellent riding opportunities.
We linked off road trails via quiet minor roads. Initially we climbed up and out of the Tyne
Valley. The sun was out and the views
were reward for the efforts. Even in the
company of seasoned professionals such as Jon and Magnus the riding was
sociable and speed kept in check. That’s
not to say pro peloton high jinks didn’t surface every now and then. On one particular steep climb after gathering
much speed on a fast descent Jon quickly arrested my forward progress grabbing
my seat as I was out the saddle hauling in the big ring leaving me floundering
on a steep climb in a huge gear … f**king pros ;)
Quickly the dramas of the previous days’
efforts were forgotten and we all enjoyed being able to progress a route under
our own steam. The mid point reward for
this loop arguably one of the finest cycling cafes in the UK, Pedalling
Squares. With the menu choices aptly
named after many historic and current pro cyclists Magnus outlined what he
could and couldn’t eat, partly based on taste and partly on ethics.
Following on from ensuring our calorific
intake was far more than our expenditure we rolled on to the quayside of
Newcastle Upon Tyne. My home City and
where I have spent most of my life. The
architecture adorning the banks of the Tyne now a beautiful mix of restored and
renovated amongst modern, a real credit to this great city. We rode to sample one of the last remaining
sections of cobbled streets in the city, well you don’t bring a Paris Roubaix
winner along for the ride and don’t ask him to perform.From the city centre it’s a straight ride
of some 15 or so kilometres to Wylam.
Plan E had stuck and was working out just fine.That evening we celebrated our ‘success’ of
the day with wood fired pizza oven delights followed by ice cream, apparently
this is the ‘Ex Pro Diet’.
As with every other day on the trip it
started with not riding bikes. Cycle Art
had repaired Magnus’s wheel and so the loaner could be returned and the Exploro
returned to full 3T glory.This was our day of redemption. A return to
the original Plan A route. No deviations
or alterations. The ride would take us
from near our overnight in Wylam back to the starting point at Kielder. Almost a straight shot of 50 miles but again
retaining the minor roads and trails our bikes loved and taking in some history
on the way. The sun was shining, wheels
were turning and gears were shifting … we all moved along harmoniously, humour
intact, the ex pro contingent taking any opportunity to mess with the bike
handling skills of us lesser mortals.
Hadrians Wall offered the historic element
of the day and a chance for a photo stop before the quick tarmac descent to
another opportunity to indulge, Simonburn Tearoom. Though unsure if it was
‘Tearoom’ or ‘Tearooms’, the debate amongst owners and locals was in full flow
as we ate. This was a great opportunity
to educate the token Californian about scones with jam and cream… and the rest
of us taking the opportunity to demonstrate technique.
The hills were rolling, you never have to
endure a sustained climb of any length but you always have to be ready for the
punchy steep climbs. We rode minor roads
until we reached Kielder reservoir at which point we could transition to gravel
for the final leg of the journey.
Lakeside Way trail is fast and following. This trail offers the final run in for riders completing the Dirty
Reiver event. Many of the sharp corners
had offered some adventurous lines in to the undergrowth as riders overcooked
their approaches. During the final few
miles we were again reminded of Kielder and its micro climate as a heavy shower
dampened the bikes and trails but not our spirits.One final steep tarmac climb and we were
within the castle grounds. Trip
Though our original plan and several plans
that had followed had all ended up in the bin we still felt like we had
completed our objective of sampling the riding this part of the world had to
offer whilst having an adventure doing it. Though our riding had been sporadic always it had been enjoyable. I could take the riding I had become so
familiar with and enjoy it in fresh company.
Another person’s perspective on something that you feel is so familiar
is always refreshing. Though the
distance covered was ultimately far lower than planned I feel the experience
was far richer for the tribulations we endured.
Check the full PHOTO GALLERY here below: