The Beards of Bowland search for Botton Head

Another Beards of Bowland outing, although it was only myself and the Prof. Our route was devised by the Prof as he wanted to look for some dead ends near to the Cross of Greet. We set off and leisurely made our way to the bottom of Bowland Knotts with a hefty head wind, where prof insisted on our first photo of the day. What is the difference between a headwind and a block headwind?

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From Bowland Knotts we returned the way we came, looking for dead ends. A couple of gravel roads were found that will be saved for another ride. Disappointingly there was only one other small dead end so we set off up the Cross of Greet, whereupon I got a puncture.

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This was the first puncture that I’d had on my road bike for over a year. My front tyre has now done 8640km, which isn’t too bad. I reviewed it a while ago here.

Once I’d swapped tubes Prof set off across the grass to climb a stone. You’re probably not allowed to do that.

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Once back on the road the serious business of finding Botton Head began. We were both sure that there was a sign post, but we couldn’t find it as we crisscrossed some more back roads, until there it was.

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There wasn’t much to see at Botton Head except for a small farm, although the farmer was surprised to see two cyclists and was happy to chat for a few minutes.

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We then headed back to Wray for a cafe stop. I’ve never been to the cafe in Wray, but others have said that it isn’t very good. £2.40 for a scone without any jam or cream. I won’t be going back.

During our ride we had discussed the relative merits of flat bars and how much better they are for descending. The Prof has flat bars on most of his bikes, while I have drops on my mountain bike. We also discussed close passes. I had had a very scary pass the other week (read about it here), while the Prof recounted an encounter he’d had that week. Coming to a traffic island he’d pulled out to take the lane much to the annoyance of a driver towing a trailer. If he’d gone through the gap he would have taken out the Prof, as the trailer was much wider than the car. At the next set of traffic lights the Prof shouted at the driver, who shouted back, before they both went on their merry ways. I’m not one for arguments.

It was then time for me to head home as I was meeting a real Prof from the Uni to discuss air quality, while the other Prof detoured up Roeburndale, getting himself a couple of KOM’s. I was obviously holding him up.

Another great day out with the Beards of Bowland, both of us. Next time will be my choice of dead ends. Previous Beards of Bowland rides can be found here, here and here.

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The Beards of Bowland give a thumbs up to sticky toffee pudding

The last Beards of Bowland (BoB) ride was back in December and I bailed early. Too cold, too foggy and too quick. This ride was to be a bit slower, as new BoB member Mark, had cycled 25 miles to get to the start and was going to cycle the extra 25 miles home at the end as well. At 9am on Millennium Bridge in Lancaster four of us set off, myself, Prof, Mark and guest non-beardy rider Ali. The planned route, from Prof, was to cycle to Cartmel, stop at the home of the legendary sticky toffee pudding, before slowly plodding home.

I suggested that we take a small detour to the farm where we left the kitten from a previous ride.

https://beardsandtriathlons.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/the-beards-of-bowland-rescue-a-kitten/

In the summer, the BoB had found a bedraggled and abandoned kitten. The photo of Prof is too good not to share once again. Alas, there was no sign of the kitten, although he wouldn’t be a kitten anymore, so we continued into the Lyth Valley, with our obligatory dead end climb.

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This was the second time that I had met Mark, so it was good to be able to chat with him this time. He was a former pro cyclist who raced in the 80’s and 90’s, often against a certain Chris Boardman, whatever happened to him. Mark also held the Lancashire 25 and 100 mile time trial records. Fortunately he had had a hard session the previous day, so he was taking it easy.

Prof’s route headed up over Tow Tops, a particularly nasty climb with some very steep switchbacks and a horrendous road surface. Ali decided to miss out this climb and take the longer but flatter route to Cartmel. As Prof and Mark climbed with ease, leaving me in their dust, I was wishing I’d taken the same option.

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We found the cafe in Cartmel and had only been there a couple of minutes when Ali arrived. Mark declined to eat, Prof had a bacon and egg butty, Ali went with Sticky Toffee pudding, while I tried the Sticky Ginger pudding. They don’t just make Toffee puddings, there’s a whole range, although Prof declined to put one in his back pocket to take home to his wife. He also declined to carry a small tub of ice cream home as well.

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When we set of I had the chance to chat with Ali for the first time, although he was having some problems with his rear derailleur jumping. Ali knew that I had successfully Everested, so we had a great discussion on the pros and cons of specific climbs and the whole concept of Everesting. You can read my blog entry and see my Strava entry, if you’re bored.

https://beardsandtriathlons.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/everesting2.pdf

https://www.strava.com/activities/184888870

Ali had attempted to Everest up Jubilee Tower in Lancaster, but without anyone to ride with hadn’t managed to finish. Maybe BoB should have a group Everesting attempt this summer. We then chatted about Ali’s successful bob Graham round, which if you don’t know is a 66 mile circuit of the highest peaks in the Lake District to be completed in less than 24 hours, running, not cycling. Ali had also completed the Welsh equivalent, the Paddy Buckley round, which is even tougher. Hats off to anyone who can manage these challenges, especially as Ali almost had the complete set as he narrowly missed out on the Scottish equivalent, the Ramsey round.

Disaster then struck, Ali’s mechanical got worse, resulting in a nasty fall. His helmet saved his head, but his thumb was pointing the wrong way. I was all for calling for help, but Ali is a tough nut, and climbed back on his bike for the ten miles home, even insisting that we don’t wait for him. We waited and made sure that he got home. I am positive that I do not have the testicular fortitude required to cycle home with a dislocated thumb.

Back at Ali’s his glove had to be cut off revealing a very bent thumb. I won’t post a photo, but take it from me it was nasty and after a trip to A & E it was found to be dislocated in two place. Heal fast Ali, and the BoB we’ll ride with you again soon.

I’ve said it before, but it’s never a dull ride with the Beards of Bowland.

Snow on Salter Fell

Another Beards of Bowland ride with myself and the Prof saw us heading off road across Salter Fell in the snow. Near Lancaster there is a huge area reserved for Grouse shooting and hence is completely out of bounds for cycling, even when it’s not shooting season. To me this seems to be a waste and therefore a preserve for a very small minority. All is not lost as there is one track across Salter Fell that is open to bikes.

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We set off from Lancaster with nice weather, heading over the Trough of Bowland, through Dunslop Bridge to Slaidburn. Just as we reached the last gate on the road the snow started to fall, which coincided nicely with the toughest part of the ride. The track gets steep and is covered in rocks making it impossible to ride. Fortunately this section doesn’t last too long.

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Nice weather for beards!

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The Prof is far better with a camera than me, and I would have liked to have taken more, but that meant taking off my gloves. As you can see we were enjoying ourselves at this point.

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As we headed down the other side of the Fell the snow cleared.

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As we reached the end of the track and returned onto the road for the descent into Roeburndale it started to rain, and rain hard. We were soon very cold and wet. The Prof suggested a cafe stop in Wray, but we decided to crack on for home along the cycle track back into Lancaster.

https://www.strava.com/activities/778840221

One last section of rufty up Grimshaw Lane and past the prison and I was home. It was a good ride, as always, but the route is probably more enjoyable in the summer.

Weekend in Liverpool

Last month I spent a great weekend in Liverpool for the British Beard and Mustache Championships (post to follow soon). I have cycled to Liverpool a few times in the past and have always stayed at the Youth Hostel. The only problem is that while the route is almost totally flat the roads are far too busy. This time I decided to not take the direct route and head along the Leeds to Liverpool Canal towpath for some of it. It would also be the first proper outing for my new bike, a Trek 920, loaded up in the photo below.

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The bike was bought from The Edge Cycleworks in Lancaster, and comes with front and rear racks, hydraulic disk brakes, enough mounts for four bottle cages and 2 inch wide tyres.

The first part of the ride was a bit boring, getting through Preston, but once I hit some small side roads it was more fun, and onto the towpath the bike really came into it’s own. Nimble and responsive, even with two full panniers and a top box at the front.

The towpath was also the best way to travel into Liverpool, no traffic and amazing views.

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I took my time and didn’t push it too hard, arriving in Liverpool in less than five hours, including a few stops. I was then pleasantly surprised by the cycle shed at the Youth Hostel, which was new and included a track pump and tools.

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The Saturday morning I made the most of being in Liverpool by taking part in a local parkrun, where to get there I had to run through Toxteth, which definitely wasn’t as bad as it used to be. Not a riot in sight. I was a bit slow at the parkrun, partly due to cycling 100km the day before, as well as having too many beers the night before.

Sunday morning, after the beard shenanigans, I set off only to find that my front tyre was flat. I suspected that it was a slow puncture, so I pumped it up and hoped for the best. The weather wasn’t great as I headed up the coast through Crosby, Formby and Southport.The red lines are my route to and from Liverpool, and the blue is where I ran on the Saturday.

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It was raining hard at this point, so instead of stopping for photos I pushed on home, only stopping for a few minutes when I had less than 20 miles to go. I was tired and wet when I reached home, but very happy with the bike, especially as the tyre had remained inflated.

A couple of days later I noticed that both tyres were flat, so since then I have got The Edge to convert it to tubeless, which so far has not resulted in any punctures.

Here’s to many more adventures on my Trek 920.

The Beards of Bowland rescue a kitten

It was time for another Beards of Bowland group ride, with myself (Daddy beard), the Prof (Mummy beard) and guest Andy (Baby beard). We decided on a route north to Staverley, back through Kendal, Sedberg and back to Lancaster. We set off in the rain, but just after Arnside the sun came out and our rain jackets were put away. All going to plan until we were on a small back road after Levens when the Prof spotted a kitten at the side of the road, who had obviously been abandoned. I struggle to get my head around the kind of people who would do this. Prof grabbed the poor bedraggled and very frightened kitten, Andy went off to see if there were any houses near, while I helped by taking photos.

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A couple of hundred meters down the road was a farmhouse, but there was no answer at the door. At the back there were a few other cats, so the ginger kitten was released. Just then a woman came out of the house who promised to look after the poor thing, and with that we headed off to continue our ride.

It’s never a dull ride with the Beards of Bowland.

https://www.strava.com/activities/695615625

Bearding

The title of my blog is beards and triathlons, so I thought that it was about time that I had an entry about beards. Two weeks ago I travelled down to Bath for the 2014 British Beard and Mustache Championship. It was a fantastic weekend. I met many old friends and made many new friends. In the pub the night before I met a man with a beard so long he has to throw it over his shoulder when he goes to the toilet so that he doesn’t pee on it. I met a very drunk Norwegian with a beard, some Glaswegians, all with beards and a couple of guys from Liverpool, also with beards. There was a lot of beards, and some mustaches.

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The night before the event there had been a casual post on the Facebook group about meeting in a pub in Bath. I arrived with the Norwegian, who was staying at the same hostel, and we both felt a little out of place in the pub, as we were the only overtly bearded people in the place. It wasn’t long before another beard arrived, and soon many more turned up, until we had definitely made ourselves known. I have what I consider to be a fairly good beard, but mine was dwarfed by the specimens there. I was suffering from beard envy.

There were beards from America, Germany, Italy and Australia. There were mustaches of all shapes and sizes, some styled, some not. There were also some very impressive bushy beards.

The next morning the was a parade through the streets of Bath, with all of the bearded people meeting up in one of the communal gardens. We stopped traffic as we all paraded to the Pavillion, where the competition was to be held.

I had originally entered the full beard with styled mustache category, but with over 30 other competitors I decided to change over to freestyle. With only three other beards I was in with a very good chance of a trophy, although mine was a very simple back combed beard.

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I was going with a simple spread out look. My beard naturally wants to part down the middle due to all of the cycling and swimming that I do, so my plan was to extenuate this look. I was also going for the natural freestyle look, as I didn’t use any hairspray, gels or waxes, all of which are perfectly acceptable in the freestyle category.

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Two hours after registering the main competition began, starting with four mustache categories. Up next was four partial beards categories before finishing off with the full beards. There were four classes here, full beard with styled mustache, full beard less than 12 inches, freestyle and lastly the big boys, the class everyone wants to be in, full beard over 12 inches. Size matters.

Every competitor also received a quality goodie bag, containing enough beard oil and mustache wax to last me for a few years. There was also a competition for the ladies, with best fake beard, as well as another competition for children.

So how did I get on. Well, considering that there was only four freestyle beards, I would have been disappointed not to have won a trophy. I managed third, which I was well pleased with, especially as first and second had spent a couple of hours styling their beards, as opposed to the five minutes mine had taken.

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Once the competition was over, I headed off to get some food before meeting up with the Liverbeards and Glasgow Beard club for a few more drinks in a Bath. The next morning I had a long train journey home, with a hangover from hell. I can’t wait for the next one.