High Five

It’s not often I put a route on here that I’ve failed to ride. However this one is rather special.

Word was out that the local council had re-surfaced Bamford Clough. I remember riding it around 30 years ago on my MTB and new it had been shut on health and safety grounds for several years due to rumours of exposed cables.

Also on this year (2021) the National Hill Climb Championships are heading up Winnats pass. If you’ve ever done it you’ll know that it’s a brute of a climb and heaven knows how I used to tackle it on a bike with 42 x 23 as the lowest gear !

The plan was to tackle Winnats and Bamford Clough and to make a morning of it three lesser known local ascents that are up there on general gnarliness – Sir William Hill, the Beast of Bradwell and the Dale.

Riding out from home (I try to avoid using the car for various reasons) Sir William was first on the list. A tough starts which kind of gets a little easier. Then a cruise along the tops with stunning views from the Barrel at Bretton and a long descent into Bradwell.

The Beast of Bradwell is a thug of a climb. I remeber on one club run nearly getting overtaken on the top section by a woman exercising her dog using her mobility scooter as I was pedalling squares into an immovable headwind.

From the rather barren summit it was down into Castleton avoiding the tourists that wander without looking and onto Winnats.

This is a corker of a climb as the wind usually funnels it’s way down the pass. The climb really gets going once you’ve reached the a grit bin on the left hand side once you’ve turned the corner. From here the road ramps up and it’s an epic battle between you, your bike and the road until the cattle grid at the top.

There’s a little bit of relief then a short effort to the top of Mam Nick where you are rewarded with a cracking descent into the Vale of Edale with Kinder Scout as your backdrop.

The road winds it’s way down the valley towards Hope. From here it’s on to Aston and Thornhill avoiding the main road which can be busy at times.

Next up Bamford Clough. This is where my plans all unravelled. At 35% plus this is a wall of a climb. It didn’t help that there were leaves on the road (sounds a bit like a British Rail excuse) and it was damp. However I’ll hold my hands up and say it beat me. It is however worth a crack for pure type 2 entertainement value.

Then it was onto Hathersage to tackle the Dale. This is a real epic of a climb which seems to go on and on, but you are rewarded with another corker of a descent at the top.

I’ve written the route below so it starts and finishes in Hathersage. That was you can get the train there if you’ve don’t fancy a ride out and also enjoy a celebratory beer in one of the many pubs at the end.

GravelFondo

Like many cyclists I’m a big fan of Strava and enjoy their challenges. One of my faves is the Fondo – 100km in a single ride.

Easer to achive than the imperial century and do-able most months of the year without having to worry about digging your bike lights out of the cupboard. Sometimes I do the challenge on my road bike, occasionally if I’m feeling brave my MTB, but more often than not on my gravel bike.

If nothing else this enables me to vary the surface I’m riding on and explore a bit more.

Below’s a 100 km loop starting and finishing at Chesterfield Station that’s around 65% gravel. Instead of heading off into the nearby Peak District it explores a part of North Nottinghamshire that I’ve been visiting for around 50 years.

It’s a nice mix of gravel tracks, old railway lines and quiet roads and a bit flatter than the Peak. If you are feeling really bold you could extend the route to include more of the Chesterfield Canal at Worksop that’s in the Clumber Rumble route.

Chippy Run

Derbyshire is as far as you can get from the coast in England – the furthest spot from the sea is in the south of the county at Coton in the Elms.

One tradition that many local cycle clubs is a trip to the seaside for some chips. Not only do the flatter roads make a change from grinding up the hills of the Peak District, but the novelty of being at the seaside is one of the highlights of the cycling calender.

For a while I’ve had the idea of extending the route from Chesterfield to Lincoln to head out to the coast. The route I had in mind past the cathedral city is mainly country lanes and explores the northern part of the Wolds to add a few hills into the latter part of the ride.

Once in Lincolnshire you do feel like you are in ‘bomber country’ with the number of disused air force bases you pass. There are a few byways after Lincoln that could get a bit interesting in Winter, but another option is to follow NCN route 1 northwards.

Side note

I do find that riding a linear route with a destination is quite cathartic – especially when there’s fish and chips at the end. Circular routes starting and finishing at the same place seem to have lesser of a sense of achievement compared to them. I also find riding singlespeed is a great way to clear the mind once you have settled into your ideal cadence. The gearing I used for this journey was 39 x 18 which was chosen more from luck than judgement. The bag on the front of the bike is a Road Runner Jammer bag and was great for carrying my waterproof, food, phone and pump. Papa’s Fish and Chips at the end of Cleethorpes pier get my vote too !

Ronde van Vegas

I also love putting on my events. Half the fun happens months before entrants turn up when I study online and paper maps and devise the route. I then have to check out that it’s safe and has a ‘flow’ to it. This ‘flow’ is a bit similar to the terroir in wine making. For whatever reason some roads and tracks are best ridden in one direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a climb or descent, on or off road, there’s something that can only be discovered by riding a route and knowing if it works.

2019 was a bit of an experimental year for Velotastic. We’d successfully run the Hardcore100 and Brutal Tootle in 2018 and thought we’d push ourselves the following year by running a road based event (Peaky Grinder) and an event that was not in the Peak (the Ronde van Vegas).

Both didn’t get the results we wanted. We made a loss on the Peaky Grinder. Or frustration was compounded by one of our local cycling clubs deciding to use it as their Sunday run with only one of their members paying and then sharing the route.

The Ronde van Vegas didn’t get enough entries to warrant me running it again this year. I think because it was not in the national park it did not have the kerb appeal of our other events.

This was a real shame as there’s some really nice trails on the Derbyshire / Nottinghamshire border. A mix of former railway tracks, ancient packhorse routes and quiet bridleways.

There’s always limits on what I can offer in my events, constraints include making the route not too long (or short) but doable in a day for a reasonably fit, competent cyclist. Some trails are only open on a concessionary basis. This means it’s usually fine to go down as an individual, but if you organise an event on it, that’s another ball game.

A good example of this is the Chesterfield Canal. This is owned by Derbyshire County Council. (As an aside they only bought it so they could build the Brimington bypass which has still not been constructed). There’s no legal right of way down most of it – it’s only by permission of the council. Therefore I had to ask and pay a fee to run my event down it.

If I was riding the route on my own I’d probably do to something similar to the route above. Like the event it’s a big day out, but too long for one of my organised rides. I’ve also added a few additions including a side trip to Hardwick Hall, because it’s there and a trip up Bole Hill at Wingerworth. There’s also bits I’ve removed including the climb up to Spinkhill, which I’ve replaced with more of the Clowne Branch Line. There’s also more off road than the original – around 52% according to Strava.

I wouldn’t rule out another running of the Ronde van Vegas, but in the meantime enjoy the route and go with the flow.

Bikepacking Bags.

Bikepacking is a great way to get out and explore. Whether it’s travelling light ‘gravel packing’ – staying overnight in hostels, hotels and B & B’s or carrying all your kit we’ve a range of suitable luggage.

Barbags

Barbags come in various shapes and sizes. Harnesses ideal for carrying dry bags and items such as tents, sleeping bags and mats. Barrel bags are great for smaller items such as stoves, snacks and waterproofs. Higher volume bags are a fantastic way to carry bulkier items without the need for a dry bag and their additional pockets are great for smaller items that you use on a regular basis.

Forks

Fork bags are good for things such as extra water bottles and stoves.

Frame

We tend to carry items like tools in our frame bags. They are also great for food and longer items such as tent poles.

Saddle

Saddle bags are great for bulky items such as sleeping bags, clothes and down jackets. Try and put the more weighty items towards the seatpost end. Both the bags we sell are very stable and sway very little.

Other Bags

Stem bags are good for snacks to keep you fuelled whislt you ride. Bar bags such as the Chuckbucket and Auto Pilot are great for water bottles as they reduce the risk of you getting crud on them from the road.

Father’s Day Ideas

It’s that time of year gain. Here’s a few ideas to keep your cycling mad dad happy….

Stanton Challenge

Stanton Moor is a big lump of a hill that sits at the confluence of the Wye and Derwent rivers. It’s a mystical place with several stone circles and a few villages and hamlets dotted around the massif.

It’s also got a cracking selection if shortish lung bustingly hard climbs to get to the top. The challenge is to to all of them in one ride. No prizes, stickers or patches on offer, just the kudos of knowing you’ve conquered the massif.

First of several climbs that finish at Pilhough. This one takes no prisoners and has a relentless start and finish.

This climbs a little less popular than most of the climbs on Stanton Moor, mainly because it takes a bit of effort to get to it. It is a cracker though with a maximum gradient of 26% and a few lovely switchbacks thrown into the mix.

One of the most popular climbs onto Stanton Moor. Painfully hard at the start and finish and ends in the pretty village of Stanton in the Peak.

This climb starts in the pretty hamlet of Stanton Lees. At the time of writing it’s closed to traffic due to a landslip but accessible to cyclists. Whilst this does stop you getting a full effort in due to having to stop at the barriers it does mean that it’s traffic free. There’s nice views from the top looking down the valley towards Matlock.

Blisteringly draggy climb that goes through the village of Stanton Lees. One of those where you think you’re pedalling squares for most of it.

What this climb lacks in length it makes up for in brutality. The further you go, the harder it gets, maxing out at around 19%. It has a Flemish feel to it with it’s length and being a holloway and reminds me of the Koppenberg but without the cobbles.

This is a steady climb that ramps up just before the village of Birchover. Reward your self at the end with a socially distanced pint in one of the two pubs.

Ashover – The Climber’s Paradise

Despite being based so close to the Peak District many of our favorite places to ride are on the strip of land that lies between the M1 motorway and the national park.

It’s not that we don’t love the architecture and landscape that the Peak District has, it’s just at times it’s a victim of it’s own success and a tad too busy for our liking.

One such place that we frequently visit is the village of Ashover. This picture postcard spot was one of the places used for the TV programme Peak Practice along with nearby Crich. It’s a wonderful place with several pubs and a post office that also runs a cracking cafe called Stamp.

Ashover sits near the head of the Amber Valley. It’s long been popular with walkers and mountain bikers, but we’re going to focus on what it has to offer for road cyclists.

The answer is, besides the road that runs along the bottom of the U shaped valley – lots !

The area is criss crossed with punchy climbs that’ll leave you gasping for air when you get to the top. The roads are fairly quite compared to the Peak and twist and the views are worth a visit if nothing else.

Here’s a selection of what’s to offer. There’s also a miriad of smaller lanes so you can mix and match these routes for even more fun.

Slack Hill

It’s often asked what the Roman’s did for us. Well one of the answers is Slack Hill. Made famous as it features in the 100 Climbs books. It’s as straight as a die and a bit of a killer. Best done early in the morning as it’s a popular road with motorists.

Jaggers Lane

A real thug of a climb. A little to long to stand up out of the pedals and punch your way to the top. There’s no false flats or downhills either.

Robridding

Where Jaggers Lane starts there’s also another cracker of a climb called Robridding. Like Jaggers, the route has a hard start. It then flattens (slightly) before ramping up to join the main road at the top.

Milken Hill

Starting on the edge of the village, Milen Hill is a real punchy ramp test of a climb. The climb heads beneath Fabrik rock which is a local beauty spot and view point. The climb starts hard and then gets harder.

Hillside

This climb starts outside Stamp cafe so means you can have a pre-ride fuel. It begins easy enough heading through the village, then you turn right and the fun starts. Half a kilometre of pain.

Eastwood Lane

Eastwood Lane’s on the gravelly end of the spectrum. Despite it’s shabby road surface it’s a little cracker of a climb. The real fun starts when you’ve gone through the farmyard.

Stubben Edge Lane

This is one of the areas steadier climbs. It’s however quite pleasant and combined with Hunt Lane (below) is a nice way to get out of the valley.

Hunt Lane

What Hunt Lane lacks in length it makes up for in fun. The further you get up it the harder it gets.

Milltown

Milltown’s a lovely little climb up throigh Ashove Hay. It starts down by the river and heads past the Miners Standard pub. From there it’s a steady longish climb up a quiet little lane. It’s one of those climbs that’s not lung bustingly hard but you’ll know you’ve done it by the end.

Butterley

A natural extension of the Milltown climb. Not one for tired legs this is a thundering climb with a few false flats. The hardest (19%) section is at the start just to kill your legs before you move onto the rest of the climb which is above 10% for most of it.

The Ashover

This is a combo platter of several local lanes that add up to a third catergory climb. Not particularly hard, the route starts on the edge of Clay Cross and finishes besides Fabrick Rock. A nice warm up if you are heading over to the area from the south.

Five Miles

The pandemic of 2020 has brough many challenges, one of which is the restrictions on travel. However like most things in life you’ve got to deal with the hand you are given and make the most of what you’ve got.

In some ways I thin we’ve not faired too badly on our liberties compared to countries like France where you are only allowed to go within a certain distance of your home.

The thought of which got my grey juices going on where you could ride if you were only allowed to go within a nominal distance from where you live. I decided to choose a distance of five miles from Chesterfield crooked spire and plot a cycling route that was a mix of urban and country riding so I could utilise the areas extensive network of cycling paths.

Being a closet grimpeur I also wanted to include a few climbs in the route just to spice things up a bit. I also wanted to visit a few of the areas lost lanes that are now nothing more than tracks and some of the towns fantastic urban art.

The route’s suitable for MTB’s in wetter weather and gravel / cx bikes when we’ve had a few days dry weather. It goes without says, ride responsibly, don’t be an idiot, be nice to walkers and smile at motorists.

Outer Edge

One of the great things about living and working in Chesterfield is it’s proximity to the Peak District. It means if I’ve got a few hours to spare I can dip in and out of the park using some of the lesser known trails that are on its border.

The route below is one of my favourites and also has the advantage of being rideable all year round. It’s a mix of farm tracks, quiet roads, old railways and even a little bit of singletrack thrown in.

If you like this and our other routes. you can always buy us a virtual coffee to motivate us to ride and write some more.

Dambusters

The name of this route gets it’s inspiration from the daring raid that happened by the RAF in 1943 to breach some German dams. The 617 squadron practised their flying skills on the Derwent Dam in the Peak District.

The routes best done after a couple of days of dry weather. It’s one of those routes which is on the harder end of the gravel bike spectrum and we’d advise you take a waterproof and spare clothing if it’s not high Summer.

The route starts in Hathersage and heads up the south side of the Hope Valley and over Shatton Moor. From there it drops into Bradwell and onto Hope and up the Edale Valley. From here it heads up Hope Brink and up to an old Roman Road at Hope Cross. The next bit of the route is on a concessionary bridleway that’s construction has been delayed due to the Covid pandemic past the ruins of Elmin Pits Farm (it feels a bit cheeky as at the time of writing there is still a stile instead of a gate at the top and has an off piste feel to it).

Then it’s on and over the Snake Pass and up one of our fave gravel climbs past Rowlee Farm. Then it’s across some high pastures and down into the Derwent Valley. In one of the towers of the Derwent Dam is a small museum that’s about the history of the dam complex. If you want to stretch route out you can head round the Derwent and Howden Dams,

Our route heads under the Derwent Dam wall and down the east side of the Ladybower Reservoir to the Ladybower Inn. Then it’s down the main road for a short while (there is a cycle path on the reservoir side of the road), over the dam wall and past the famous plugholes that drain the reservoir when it’s full.

You then head off down the Thornhill Trail which is the former trackbed for the railway built to carry the stone during the construction of the reservoirs. At the bottom of the track turn left past a Quaker commune and into the bottom of Bamford village. Then it’s a climb up Satergate and Hurstclough Lanes back to Hathersage.

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The Road to the Peak & Full Hemlock

The Peak District has been populated since neolithic times and is covered in ancient tracks. One of the oldest is the Portway which stretches from Mam Tor to the Trent.

The route was in use until Medival times and it’s original line has been lost by both agriculture and development and the building of other roads. Evidence of it’s existence can still be seen with village names such as Alport and barrows and cumuli along some of it’s original route.

We used the Portway as inspiration for the Road to the Peaks route. Starting at the Hemlock stone just outside Nottingham. Our route passes places such as Dale Abbey, the Portway at Holbrook, Alport Heights and finishes at Mam Nick. It mainly consists of quiet lanes, byways and bridleways and is suitable for gravel bikes and MTB.

The nearest railway stations to the start are at Ilkeston, Long Eaton and Nottingham. Edale station is just down the hill from the finish and trains can be got back to the beginning from there via Sheffield.

Whilst doing recon for the Road to the Peak, we rode to the start in Nottingham and from the finish back to Chesterfield. We’ve added a couple of kilometres onto the route we’ve used to make it just over 200 km and a suitable DIY Audax contender – think of it as Gravel Audax or GrAudax ! It’s a proper day out but certainly do-able in Summer months.

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Don’t forget to check out our other site – the Peak District Guide.