The Classic Forest of Bowland Loop

The Forest of Bowland is a legendary area to cycle; quite possibly one of the best areas in the UK. Bradley Wiggins used this area to train, and his one charity sportive (Ride with Brad) also used these roads, as have numerous other sportives, including the legendary and toughest of them all, The Bowland Badass (160+ miles with 18,000 ft of climbing). Many cycling magazines have also had features based on this classic loop. My lovely wife doesn’t particularly like hills, but even she loves this loop (85km and 1,200m of climbing).

bowland loop

The classic loop starts and ends in Lancaster, heads out to Wray, up over the fells down to Slaidburn, round to Dunsop Bridge, up the Trough and the back of Jubilee Tower and returning into Lancaster. There are hills, many hills. Going clockwise you’ll climb #75 and #143 from Simon Warren’s excellent Greatest Cycling Climbs books. Anti-clockwise and you’ll hit #76 and #79, depending on your exact route. Adding in a couple of extra miles you can also attempt Newton Fell, #176. Generally we go clockwise so that we can stop at the excellent Puddleducks cafe in Dunsop Bridge. We also usually descend Cross of Greet, but yesterday we opted to climb Bowland Knotts as Helen had never done that route.

Earlier in the year we did this route, but there were traffic lights on the main road towards Wray, and there wasn’t enough time to get through on a bike before they changed, where upon we were shouted at by car drivers coming in the other direction. Very unpleasant. Yesterday that particular road was a joy to cycle on, although there were definitely more people about, going for a drive, on motorbikes, or cyclists in pairs who didn’t look like they lived together.

Out of Wray there is a nasty little climb before the road dips and dives it’s way along, running parallel to the main road, with stunning views of Gragareth, Whernside and Ingleborough, made all the more stunning by the lack of air pollution. We stopped for a photo when we reached our start of Bowland Knotts. Technically, the bottom of the climb is almost a km down the hill, but from where we started it is still 6km to the top. Never too steep, but it does go on.


As we climbed there was a coconut smell in the air emanating from the in bloom Gorse bushes. There was also a home made sign with ‘Go Home, Stay Home’ written on it. Maybe a little over the top, especially as the Forest of Bowland covers an area of just over 800 square kms. Theoretically, if you were to stand in a 2m by 2m box (social distancing) you could fit 200 million people in the Forest of Bowland.

At the top, the views were even more amazing.


We had a little walk about at the top, waving at another cyclist as he came over, before we set off over the cattle grid…


and down across Stocks Reservoir.


We both looked at the water thinking how great it would be to swim in. Unfortunately reservoirs are one of the most dangerous places to swim, with a cold water temperature all year round, unseen dangers and no lifeguard.

We continued along the very worn road, which needed to have new tarmac laid years ago and still hasn’t, past the Gisburn Forest mountain bike centre and down into Slaidburn. Out of Slaidburn is my wife’s favourite hill ever. Short but very steep and a couple of years ago cycling this loop with her youngest son she nearly took him off here. I kept my distance as we rolled in Dunsop Bridge. No cafe stop but we did have a break for snacks and water, before the climb over the Trough, not the easiest of climbs when you’re on your heavy touring bikes, although at least we have plenty of low gears.

We opted not to go over Jubilee Tower, instead taking the slightly easier but longer route past Bradley Wiggins’ house and for some reason a life ring on a tree.


Both feeling a little tired we took the A6 from Galgate back in Lancaster, a road that we would never use, but wasn’t too bad. There are some good points about the lock down.

Back home and Nelly was very pleased to see us, and after feeding her we took her out for an hours walk before hitting the beers and an early night.

If you’re from the area, you’ll know this loop very well, and if you’re not you should make an effort one day to take a ride around the Forest of Bowland.


Scott Addict – What a Bike

Exactly two years ago, I met a bloke in a car park under the shadow of the Humber Bridge to buy a bike. Don’t worry, I knew him, and knew that the bike I was buying was his to sell. He’d had his Scott Addict for four years and was replacing it with a Colnago, and gave me a good deal, although he was keeping the bars, stem and wheels.

Once I’d got the bike, and the bits I needed, I took it for a spin. Almost every segment on a regular short loop was a PR. I was impressed with it from the get go, especially as it didn’t weigh more than a sparrows fart. Photo below was only a couple of months ago, after some very grim weather.


A couple of months after getting the bike I raced on it for the first time at the Dales Duathlon. This was a relatively hilly race where I thought the Scott would be ideal. I finished third vet, so it probably was a good decision, although I do regret the white bar tape. It was filthy within a couple of rides.


Later that summer I had an attempt at Everesting up a local climb called Spout Hill, near Brantingham. I made it to 7200m before monsoon weather and then a puncture ended the day. My hands were so numb from braking that I couldn’t remove the tire. In hindsight I should have gone home and changed the wheel, but never mind.

I completed a 150 mile ride on the hottest day of the year, finished numerous sportives, and the Rapha Festive 500 on two occasions using the Scott almost exclusively.

I need to point out that like most normal people I give my bikes names. The Scott had been given a custom paint job in the colours of the nutrition brand OTE, and OTE is only a short leap to Otis, so Otis he became. The photo below was from a very cold sportive in the lakes in February 2016.


In May 2016 I managed a 200 mile ride in preparation for my Triple Ironman (really must write a blog entry about that). I hadn’t intended to use Otis too much in that race, but because my arms, neck and shoulders were sore from the swim, I only completed 7 laps on my Tri bike, about 84 miles, the other 252 miles were all done on Otis.

The last big ride that I did on Otis was back in September, where my Garmin ‘lost’ over 50 miles. Since then I’ve been taking it a bit easier.

So…. I’ve had Otis for two years, here are some stats for you.

  • 275 rides
  • 20050.4 km
  • 12458.7 miles
  • Eddington scores of 65 miles, 89 km and climbing of 1060m
  • Total kudos 14617
  • Longest ride 323 km
  • Hilliest ride 7211m

Approximate cost of the bike, including everything, works out at less than 20p per mile.

To finish, thank you to my friend for selling me such a great bike, to Scott for making such a great bike (happy to review any of your other bikes), and here’s to the next 12,000 miles.

Bikes on Trains

Taking your bike on a train, it sucks, doesn’t it. Not in mainland Europe, obviously, but in the UK. I have the misfortune to have to take my bike on a train every week, and the experience is nothing like the photo below, which is from Germany.


It’s a pain booking your bike onto the train, as it can’t be done online, and you have to already have a ticket for your journey. If you’re unlucky you could buy a ticket and then find that there’s no space for your bike, and hope that you can then swap your ticket. Of course some trains can’t be booked onto, so you have to take your chance, and if it’s busy you might be left on the platform.

You might not be able to get off the train either. The Virgin East Coast trains which I use, someone else has to open the door. It’s the duty of the train manager to ensure that you get off the train. Most times they leave it to the platform staff.

What if they forget. Don’t laugh, it happened to me. By the time that I realised that no-one was going to open the door, it was too late, and I was off to Warrington. The train manager was very apologetic and gave me a free coffee (wow!), but Virgin didn’t give me a refund. At Warrington I caught the next train back to Wigan. Since then I have made a point of seeing the train manager, making sure he knows that I’m on the train. As a back-up, I have a route plotted in my Garmin to direct me from Warrington to Leigh. I don’t want to go to Warrington again, although it could be worse if I couldn’t get off in Lancaster on my way home.

Talking with the train manager isn’t always enough, as only a couple of weeks ago I had to dash through the train, pushing my way paste people who had just got on, and then wave to a member of staff to get them to open the door for my bike. Very stressful for a little Beardy.

And, don’t get me started on trying to get a refund. I’ll save that for another post, and I will try to be a little lest ranty.

Fleet Moss Audax

Last Sunday I cycled out past Garstang for the Fleet Moss Audax. Not too far but with the 214 km of the Audax this would end up with me cycling 264 km for the day. My last long ride before my big race. For those of you not familiar with an Audax, imagine a sportive but one where you have to navigate yourself. You’re given a route card and a Brevet, which you will have to either get stamped at various check points or answer a question. This is to ensure that you do the full distance, although you can chose your own route in between each check point if you wish. Audax’s are much cheaper to enter than a sportive, only £5.50 for members of Audax UK. They are also not races, so you set your own pace. Indeed some Audax rides will have a maximum speed of 30 km/h and if you go faster then a checkpoint might not yet be open.routeThe profile for the Fleet Moss Audax. Lumpy is one word that could be used to describe it. Over 3000m of climbing.

I arrived in plenty of time, grabbed a coffee, checked my route card and waited for the off. Phil from Garstang cycling club was there, but he was going to be riding slower than me so that was the last I saw of him all day. At 7.30 am the 20-25 riders lined up for a photo before heading off.

We all headed off in one group, which soon split as we reached the first small climb of the day. I ended up riding with Allan and John, both from Ribchester riding their first Audax and as such they were expecting more people so that they wouldn’t get lost. Fortunately I knew most of the route and as an extra I had downloaded the TCX route file onto my Garmin, just in case. It wasn’t long before the three of us were over the Trough of Bowland and rolling towards Slaidburn. There was an info answer at 23 km that we missed, but we got our cards stamped at the cafe before heading up and over Cross of Greet into Bentham.

The route then went up Spout Lane, which John admitted he would have missed without me. The two others then set a quick pace on the main road towards Kirkby Lonsdale, leaving me behind. I wasn’t worried as I have found that the secret to surviving long rides is to go at your own pace, plus the others didn’t know where they were going. Past Devil’s Bridge we stopped in Barbon to write down the name of the pub before heading up Barbondale. The sun was shinning and the wind was behind us as we cycled through this fantastic valley. John and Allan had never cycled along here and were loving it. The sharp descent into Dent resulted in a blow out for John and after a quick change we stamped our cards at the cafe.

There aren’t any easy roads out of Dent although we were taking the slightly easier route by not going over the Coal Road. The long fast road into Hawes is always welcome, especially with a tailwind. We briefly stopped for another info point before making the decision not to stop until after Fleet Moss. The highest road in Yorkshire is a tough climb, but with a fierce head wind it was almost impossible. John made it look easy as he powered away from myself and Allan. The final section is the steepest but the view made it worthwhile.


The last section of Fleet Moss is the hardest, but the views from the top are magnificent. You’ll have to take my word for it as I’m a rubbish photographer.

The descent down through Oughtershaw and Langstrothdale was fast but tricky in places with more than a few pot holes. John was taking it easy as he was worried about another blow out, but we re-grouped and he took the lead on the main road into Kettlewell, following the road that the Tour will take this summer.

Kettlewell was full of people as we stopped in a nice cafe, although £7 for beans on toast and a cup of tea seems expensive to me. As well left the village we bumped into another cyclist also doing the Audax, who was buying an ice-cream. He declined our offer to ride with us as he was waiting for others.

We took the quiet road that runs parallel to the road that the Tour will take and if the sun is out the helicopter shots on the TV will look amazing. From Grassington we headed towards Gargrave for another card stamp and some Kendal mint cake. John hadn’t expected to be out so long, so he headed off home rather than getting a lift with Allan, but still managed to get lost apparently. Allan and I then kept each other going with another quick stop in Waddington to re-fill water bottles followed by another stop outside of Chipping to rest my feet. On long rides I sometimes suffer from `hot foot’ and the only thing to do is take my shoes off and massage my feet for a few minutes. Allan knew the way back to the start but kindly waited for me as the last few miles were mainly downhill.

Before we knew it we were rounding the corner back to the village hall. We were the first ones back as we handed in our Brevet cards and helped ourselves to sandwiches and more coffee. Allan then offered me a lift back to Lancaster, even though it was the opposite direction to where he was going. I thanked him but declined.

The only downside was when I got home and tried to upload my Garmin to Strava, half of the ride was missing. I had downloaded a TCX route file which isn’t totally compatible with a Garmin 500. If you use a TCX file without any extras, for example, turning notices, then it will work with a 500, but the file I used had plenty of extras, hence why some of it was missing. Next time I’ll create my own route file as I hate not being able to see it on Strava (sad isn’t it).

I don’t know our exact finishing time as I haven’t got my card back yet, but it was a great day out. Ribble Valley cycling club put on a fantastic event and John and Allan were a pleasure to ride with. I will definitely be back next year, and if it sounds a bit long there were also two shorter rides on the same day that leave a little bit later.