Here we have an awesome write up from the Peak District Pioneer. Self-confessed MTB Widow Nicki decided to have a go and see what it was all about, despite not having done anything as long and hilly as this ever before. Seems she's found out why we're all obsessed with riding. Maybe this will inspire you to try something new?
As a confirmed MTB widow I wondered how I came to find myself on the start line of the Peak District Pioneer. It was ridiculously early and as I sat there listening to the briefing I wondered what on earth I was doing. Only 3 months before I had barely rode a bike and certainly never like this!
We set off in small groups. Women were definitely in the minority and so I took some gentle ribbing as I thanked the marshal at the exit gate (manners cost nothing my Dad always told me). We hit the first hill almost straight away, a long, steep winding climb. My bike, obviously appalled at the sight of it, decided to lose the chain and it jammed solid. I pulled over and flipped the bike over and wondered what one did in this situation.
I wriggled it, waggled it and swore at it. But MTB’ers are the nicest and offers of help were aplenty and with the help of a fellow rider it was soon back where it should be. I sweated my way up the climb, thankful of the granny cog the other half had fitted me. At the top we swung onto the first real off road section, another challenging climb on loose gravel and rocks followed by a breath-taking downhill section before using grassed trackways to head back towards Bakewell.
Then we seemed to become part of an Escher landscape, perpetual hills to climb with no corresponding downhill sections. The climb out of Monyash was a real test. Not a massive gradient but just endless. I’d set my sights on getting up this in one go, something I’d not achieved in practice. It was a case of gritting your teeth and hacking your way to the top. A route change onto a pitted, green lane with a water splash and then a technical rock climb was certainly testing on the legs and it was here I wished I’d got more technical skills under my belt.
With relief we returned to the High Peak Trail before doubling back onto the Tissington Trail and to the feed station. After a re-fuel I set off again thinking that the 16 miles remaining didn’t seem too far now, but a strong headwind on the trail soon made me think again and by 26 miles I was feeling low. Good camaraderie however took my mind off the ride for a bit as well as a good mix of road and trails and by the time I hit the Pennine Bridleway I thought I was home and dry. I had just finished patting myself on the back for surviving a truly jaw dropping downhill road section, where I hit a dizzying 28 mph (yes I know that’s slow compared to everyone else but for me that was like seeing my own death opening up before me!) until I reached Conksbury Bridge and the truly evil hill beyond it.
I did try, but even the granny cog couldn’t save me this time. I was in good company though and I enjoyed a good conversation revolving around beer and chips on the walk up. Once at the top it was then all downhill, the route finishing on a fabulous grass and gravel downhill section with ample opportunity for a few little jumps (of joy).
Going past the finish I felt like a God! I’d done it, 48 miles of pretty tough terrain. I enjoyed the company of other riders whilst waiting for the other half to finish the longer (72 mile) route and the buzz stayed with me for hours.
Three months ago I’d only ridden flat trails of half the distance. If you are the other half of a cycling nut, I can’t urge you enough to give it a go. I’m not a spring chicken by any means but there are some amazing routes to be ridden out there and enough events to challenge yourself every now and again.