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A Game of Two Halves

In the week when we lost arguably England’s most famous goalkeeper and Sheffield lad, Gordon Banks I thought I’d put up a local route that begins on the edge of the city.

Sheffield markets itself quite rightly as the Outdoor City. A big chunk of it is in the Peak District and the national park is easily accessible. This route starts (and finishes) at the Norfolk Arms. A popular watering hole with cyclists. From here it heads across the edge of the Mayfield valley and round the Rivelin Dams.

From there there is a punishing climb up to Stanage, which featured in the start of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly. Another hard climb (this time on road) follows round the bottom of the edge to one of our fave spots in the Peak – the Burbage Valley.

Then it’s onto the former country estate of Longshaw. From here you have two choices – cut the bottom of the route off and head off back to the pub or go south for some more exploring.

If you choose the latter it’s on to Moss Road, one of the few proper bits of gravel we’ve got in the area. Past the railway tunnel chimney and over Brown Edge over a little used trail. Then it’s across Big Moor and Ramsley Moor and up to Wellington’s Monument for a view down the valley towards Chatsworth (also in Pride and Pedjudice). Then it’s over to Curbar Gap and across the edges back to Longshaw.

From here pass through the estate and onto Houndkirk. At the end of Houndkirk (a short distance from the end) there is always the option, if time permits to go and have a play on the MTB trails at Lady Cannings.

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Hathersage Circuit

A ride with a view

Another shorter gravel ride that we like that can be done in a morning or evening. Includes the option of a play on Lady Cannings MTB trails.

Starting at the National Trust’s Longshaw estate which has a popular cafe on site the route heads over Houndkirk Road and past the Lady Canning’s plantation which offers an optional play down one of the blue MTB trails.

Then a road section round the Rivelin dams and up onto Stanage Edge for one of the most panoramic views in the Peak. Then it’s a lumpy (but mainly downhill) to Yorkshire Bridge and down the Thornhill trail which is on the track bed of the old railway that was used to build the nearby dams.

Then onto Shatton and a lovely quiet trail via Offerton to one of our fave climbs – Abney. At the ridge summit you are rewarded with a cracking view of Stanage edge where you were earlier. Then it’s onto the pretty, historic village of Eyam. A closed road section is followed by a steady climb up Froggatt and back through the Longshaw estate.

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A gravel take on an MTB classic

The Linacre Circuit has been a Peak District classic since it appeared in MTB guidebooks in the 1980’s. It is a combination of mud, climbs and cracking descents.

We’re lucky enough to live a couple of hundred metres from the route and have ridden it more times than we can remember. It’s great for an evening or afternoon ride and is very accessible from Chesterfield.

We thought we’d put out our own spin on the classic route that’s suitable for gravel bikes. There’s still a little bit of mud along the way, but generally it’s rideable in all weathers.

The route’s suitable for gravel bikes and hardtail MTB’s.

The route starts from Holmebrook Valley park and heads up a green lane and off into Linacre. From there its a nice gravel stretch over to Chandler Hill. Then it’s down into Holymoorside and a road climb out of the village. From there it’s an off road section and a bit of a push to the eastern most point off the Peak District National Park.

Then there’s a nice bit of twisty singletrack and we rejoin the road for a climb up onto Beeley Moor.

After a mile or so you turn left and go onto one of our fave bits of local gravel and onto Baslow Road for a small distance.

After that it’s a ride across the tops and a descent into Cordwell Valley. Then follows the best bit of the ride a couple of fast descents back towards Barlow (watch out for horses). And then it’s back over to the start.

Our fave eateries on the way are Hackney House at Barlow and the Peacock in Cutthorpe.

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The Peak Divide

The Peak District is our back yard and where we do a lot of our riding. It’s one of the UK’s original national parks and has a very diverse landscape.

Like many riders of a certain age, for us time and money is at a premium. Whilst we’d love to have the funds and freedom to do epic tours, for the majority of the time we’re limited to a weekend away at the most. One of the great mountain bike rides in the USA , the Greatl Divide Route is the daddy of long distance MTB routes. It also passes through the neigbourhood of our fave bag supplier Oveja Negra. This got us thinking. How about a MTB route that goes from the northern most point to the southern most point in the Peak that could be done over a weekend ?

The northern most point of the Peak is on a bridleway just south of Marsden in West Yorkshire. The southern most point is a hedge bottom just of the A52. This didn’t sound to glamorous so we decided the end of Manifold Valley trail nearby was a better finish.

Above’s our idea for a suggested route. From a lot of experience riding in the Peak, we reckon the following.

  1. It’ll be a big day out in the saddle. Probably best done over a couple of days with an overnight stop around Eyam.
  2. You’ll probably need an MTB due to the section over Cut Gate and Hope Cross.
  3. The hardest bit is in the first half.
  4. It’s probably one for longer days and dry weather.

If you did not have an MTB alternatively you could head down the Trans Pennine Trail through Wharncliffe then head towards Bradfield and on to Castleton if you fancied a longer and easier route for a gravel bike.

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Gnarmac Attack !

Entries to our latest gravel themed reliability ride are now live.

The Gnarmac Attack will take place on May 12th 2019. This time we’ll be exploring some of the trails in the White Peak. To stop us getting lazy and regurgitating the same route and you getting bored in the process we’re using a fresh combination of some of our favourite trails.

The ride is suitable for MTB, cross and gravel bikes and takes in a mix of byways, bridleways and quiet country lanes. As usual expect some killer climbs and technical descents as we don’t do flat.

You can enter here.

Further details, including rules and FAQ’s can be found on the event website.

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Type 2 Fun

One of my mate’s jokes there are two types of fun. Type 1 is the instant hit that you get while you are doing whatever. The other, Type 2 is what you get when you’ve finished. That delayed buzz and feeling of satisfaction from pushing yourself.

When I came up with the idea of putting on a cycling event I knew I wanted to go for the type 2 option and organise something that would be challenging but achievable. An epic ride that could be done in a day, fit around family commitments and would feel like a big day out.

I was also aware of the number of other sportive type events out there and knew I needed to do something a bit different for a few reasons.

The first one of course was to try and stand out from the crowd. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for around 30 years and cross bikes for the past six or seven. I’ve also been walking in the Peak since I was a kid and know the area well so wanted to capitalise on that ‘local knowledge’. There was an opening for a ultra CX or gravel type event that did not just chug around the area’s disused railway tracks.

A lot of events that happen in the Peak don’t actually contribute much to the local economy. Riders follow the arrows, eat at feed stations and don’t get to experience some of our excellent local pubs and cafe’s. I think a lot of this comes from a compulsion to use the feed stations and stop nowhere else. Plus, having a timed ride and in some events a medal for different speeds of completion there is an encouragement to press on and not engage with the environment you are riding through.

One of my pet hates is event direction arrows. Fair enough they serve a purpose, but they also end up cluttering up our local landscape when they are not removed. In these days of GPS, why not just follow a map on your handlebars.

I also wanted to keep the route secret from entrants until the week before and change the route for each event. This would prevent the route from getting too much hammer and provide an added interest. It would minimise the environmental impact and allow me to make last minute changes if the route became unsuitable.

To keep that low key and special feeling I wanted to limit numbers. This would also minimise the chances of big packs of riders clogging the roads and trails up.

Back in the early days of cycling, clubs used to run reliability trials. The aim of these was to complete a set route within a set time. They were called reliability, because back in the day bikes were not and a lot of the time the challenge was to finish a ride without your bike dropping to bits. Many clubs still run these events, normally in late winter months as a low key warm up to the racing season.

This format exactly fitted what I was looking for in my events. Where riders had to rely not only on their cycling skills and stamina, but self reliance, an ability to read a map (or at least a GPS) and pace themselves, including how long to spend consuming cake so they got back in time.

After hours studying maps and working out whether suitable routes would be too hard or easy I settled on the 100 km mark as a suitable distance. I also decided that if I was going to do an on / off road route it should be around 30% off road. The reason for this is that you go slower off road so it would balance out and feel more like 50/50.

With the help and support of friends and family, I’ve run two events in 2018 – the Hardcore100 and Brutal Tootle which I’ve had really positive feedback from lots of people that have entered which is really encouraging.

For 2019 I’m planning on running three events.

The first two, the Gnarmac Attack and Ronde van Vegas will be in the on/off road ultra cx / gravel format that the previous events have been. The Gnarmac Attack will be heading off into the Peak and the Ronde will be doing a lap of our home town Chesterfield. I wanted to showcase some of the trails, byways and quiet lanes that are outside of the national park.

The third event which will be held mid-September, the Peak Grinder will be a road based event. This will take in some of the Peak’s iconic and best known hill climbs, plus a few lesser known local favourites.

I really hope you can join us for some Type 2 fun in 2019.



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GDP uh !

Like most folks we’ve been bombarded over the last few weeks with emails asking if we wanted to stay on mailing lists we never knew we’d been signed up to.

The closer it got to May 25th the more and more desperate the messages got in a nearly pre-apocolyptic frenzy. All of this was due to the dreaded GDPR.

The sharper eyed of the regular visitors to the Velotastic site will have noticed a couple of changes this month. Gone is the mailing list subscription box and added to the list of pages is a privacy policy.

The privacy policy just echoes what we’ve done from day one. The only way we’ll use your information is to ship your order off or to reply to your messages. If you want your details deleting from our site, just give us a shout and we’ll do that with pleasure.

A few years ago we were approached by a short lived show to exhibit with them. They said they would do us a better price if I threw in my customer details. Not surprisingly we didn’t go to that show as it was non of their business.

Regarding the mailing list. Most of our sales come from organic searches, ie people finding us on Google or similar. If we do get any new products or have something to say we either put it on our blog (here) or on our Facebook or Twitter feed. To an extent our mailing list felt like we were regurgitating this information and it was old news. GDPR was the final push to cause us to rest that idea.

We hope you understand why we’ve done these things and where we’re coming from.

ride safe



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The Brutal Tootle

We had great fun putting together the route for the Hardcore100 and were chuffed to bits with the feedback we had when we had run the event.

A big thank you to everyone who supported this event and encouraged us at every step.

We enjoyed organising it that much that we’ve decided to put on a sequel event, the Brutal Tootle on September 30th.

Like the Hardcore100 it will be run as a reliability ride with no marshalls or signage. Riders will either navigate using their GPS or a map using a route that will be provided around a week before the start,. The event HQ in Holmesfield will be the same too, but a different route will be used.

Again it will be a big day out using a mix of bridleways, unsurfaced rights of way and country lanes in and around the Peak District. We’re aiming for a mix of on and on road sections and we can guarantee that it will be another big day out with around 100 km and 2000 m plus of climbing.

There are several reasons why we will change the route. This will discourage people from trying to smash it round and set a PB. It will also hopefully reduce the pressure on trails by spreading the load. We’re also limiting numbers like before to 150 riders to limit the impact on the environment.

On the Hardcore100 we tried to encourage people to use the shops and cafe’s in the communities they were passing through and help our local economy. We’re pleased to continue this ethos, with no feed stations, but plenty of tea and cake at the finish.

Whilst this event and the way we do things may not appeal to all we hope it sparks an interest with you.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more events.

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The joy of one….

I’m the first one to admit that I get bored easily. However if I didn’t there would probably be no Velotastic, I’d be doing the same thing I always did and life would be rather dull.

The same goes for my cycling. It would have been so easy just to stick with riding my MTB just like I did in 1986 and not have a crack at road cycling, the track, cross, gravel or numerous other bicycle related disciplines.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to have a go at for a while is single speed cyclocross. This is a chapter of the broad church of cycling that is definitely tucked away in a darkened corner as an outlier.

SSCX as it is known has its followers though. There is an unoffical World Championships in the USA and a European champs which is being held at the cyclocross mecca of Koksidje, Belgium this March.

My aim was to build a bike out of old spares that I had available and minimise my spend. I was not planning on crossing continents or doing anything epic – just blasting round the local woods and trails and having a bit of hoot.

I set myself a budget of whatever I could get for a pair of secondhand SRAM shifters on eBay which turned out to be around £70.

I’ll stick my hand up and admit that I did happen to have an old cyclocross frame complete with old school cantilever brakes and a set of Winter wheels to hand which helped keep my roughly on budget. All I had to buy was a sprocket and spacer set, chain tensioner and a set of cheap levers.

The ride

I’ve already got a singlespeed bike that I use for commuting so I had a rough idea what to expect. I’d worked out roughly how many gear inches I wanted to push using the Bikecalc website and a few internet forums and settled on around 55″ which worked out as 38:19 on the bike. I hadn’t a clue if this would work in the real world, but thought it would be a good starting point.

There is a certain zen like joy from the sound of a quiet single speed drive train. Hitting this sweet spot of cadence and forward motion makes it all worth while. However I had the hills surrounding Chesterfield to spoil this bit of cycling Nirvana.

Initially anything too steep and it felt like you were pedalling squares and either the drivetrain or your body was going to snap. Routes that I’d done time and time before were taking on a new dimension as I had nowhere to go on the gear hunt and the options were dig deep or walk.After a few rides I’d developed a rather crude technique of attacking the bottom of climbs and managing to keep my legs momentum going. I was slowly increasing the severity of the hills and was managing some shorter 1:8 climbs.

The other problem was the other end of the scale  – downhills and flats. The bike initially spinned out at around 25 km/h. I slowly built up my cadence levels and have learned to pedal a bit quicker and have got this up to around 30 km/h on the flat. Especially on road, downhills turned into a massive freewheel complete with a aero tuck to gain the maximum amount of speed.

Because the bikes a bit old school there are no disc brakes – just canti’s which means braking a little bit earlier and that noisy grinding sound when you get grit between your rims and the pads after going through a puddle of mud.

In conclusion

Would I do it again  – definitely yes. In Winter months when the roads and trails are dirty a single speed is a lot easier to keep clean. OK riding single speed does involve modifying your riding style but it also has the benefits of building your leg strength up and increasing your cadence which cannot be a bad thing.

They are also relatively easy to build and once you have the bike built there are less things to go wrong on the bike which is not a bad thing in the cold Winter months when you want to be riding rather than fettling.

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Hardcore 100

Regular followers of our social media feeds will know that we’ve got a bit of a soft spot for gravel and cyclocross riding. We’ve been riding our local Derbyshire trails on drop bar bikes for a few years now – way before the ‘gravel’ became popular.  It’s good fun and adds a bit of variety to our rides.

We’ve decided to take this one step further and share a few of our local trails with you in the form of Velotastic’s first event – the Hardcore 100.

Faced with a blank piece of paper and a head full of ideas we sat down and had a think about what we wanted the event to be and what we enjoyed.

The first  thing we decided is that we did not want it to be a sportive. These are just not our cup of tea. We wanted an event that would be a bit of an adventure for the riders taking part and not just a case of smashing it round a course following arrows and getting a time and a medal for riding as quick as you can. If you want to race there are plenty of events where you can pin a number on your back but this is not one of them.

The format we decided on was the classic ‘reliability ride’. This dates back to the times when bikes were not that good and the challenge was to see if you could get round a course. They are very similar to an Audax except there is only going to be one checkpoint (mainly for peace of mind for us to see how you are getting on). The ride will be unsupported, so it’ll be up to you to carry a multitool and innertubes as there’s no sag wagon or mechanical support on offer.

There will be no feed stations – we feel that with a lot of events, people turn up, hammer round a route and do not spend any money in the local economy. We would prefer that you chose when and where you wanted to stop and helped out our shops, cafe’s and pubs.

The route will be revealed a couple of days before the event to entrants in the form of a GPX file that can be uploaded to a GPS. It will be a mix of roads, bridleways and byways and is roughly 30% off road. Naturally we would not recommend that you have a go on a skinny tyred racing bike as you’ll probably end up with a long walk. We’ve tried to avoid the main trails as much as possible and chose a  route that can be ridden regardless of the weather. Struggling across a boggy field is not our idea of fun and is also not that good for the environment.

Numbers will be kept down to a maximum of 150 riders. In our opinion this is a decent number to give the event a special feel and also kinder on the trails you’ll be riding on.

A big thanks to everyone who came and rode this event. Don’t forget to check out our rides in 2019. 

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Wear and Tear

Summer seems to be taking it’s final bow and Autumn is creeping up on us. If you are fortunate enough to own a Winter bike you maybe thinking about digging it out of deep storage for a few months riding.

Now’s a good time not only to give your Winter ride a check over but also to service your best bike so it is ready to ride when you get it out next Spring. That way you will not forget about any little niggles that have developed and will not miss it if you are using your other bike.

Like it or not, if you’ve been lucky enough to get a few miles in this year, your bike will have suffered some wear and tear. It does not matter how much you have looked after it – it will, it’s just a fact of life.

Here’s a few things that we usually encounter in our workshop:

Bearing wear

Bearings are the things that keep your bike going round and are an essential part of a bike regardless of how much you have spent on it. Over a period of time these steel balls will become less than round and harder to spin round. In some key areas this wear will be accelerated by the ingress of dirt and water. This can show itself in a knocking bottom bracket, a notchy headset and lateral play in your wheels.

This component is relatively cheap to replace  – think of it as a consumable and part of the cost of running a bike rather than something that should not go wrong.


There’s a popular urban myth that cables stretch under normal usage on a bike. They don’t. Just think about it, unless the cable is made of spaghetti or elastic there’s not way you could stretch it just by shifting gear – there’s not enough force in the system. What does happen is that when you’ve had the cables on your brakes or shifters changed, the outer cables bed in which causes the inner cable to become loose. This is why your gear cables normally need the tension adjusting after a few rides.

What does happen though is the inside of the outer cable gets a bit grubby from dirt and a little rust. This can cause the inner cable to drag a bit. This causes your gear shifting to take a little longer or your brakes to become a little bit harder to put on. In extreme cases we’ve seen derailleurs unable to shift because of gunked up cables.

An easy solution and a good way to get that ‘as new’ feeling back in your bike is to change the inner and outer cables at least once a year.


Chains are a fantastic piece of engineering but unlike cables they do stretch over time. If this is not kept in check it can cause premature wear to other parts of your drivetrain like cassettes and chainrings. The reason for this is chains are made of harder material than gears so a worn chain will slowly grind the softer components to match its profile.

We have a tool that can check chain wear. We also recommend that gear cassettes are replaced every 2-3 chains just to keep moving smoothly. It’s also worth keeping an eye on your chainrings as these can be ground down and in extreme cases cause the chain to skip at the crank end of the drivetrain.


It’s always worth checking that any nut’s and bolts that hold things like your brakes, stems, pannier racks and mudguards are tightened to the correct torque. An over tightened bolt can cause a lot of damage on an expensive carbon frame so it’s advisable to use a torque wrench to get things just right. It goes without saying an under tightened fixing could be very dangerous – especially if it is something to do with your steering or braking.

We operate a mobile workshop in the Chesterfield area and all of the above items we would check in a standard service. Not only will it lengthen the lifespan of your bike but it will make it more enjoyable to ride.




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Ride Fuel – Banana Bread

If you’ve ever been to Australia you’ll know that the staple in many cafe’s is not flapjack but banana bread. Bananas are often used during a ride but with this easy recipe can be turned into something a little more exotic.

Great either cold or toasted, a slice of this is an ideal post ride snack.

You’ll need..

  • 4 bananas – the mushier the better
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 115g butter
  • 115g brown sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

To make…

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees
  • Mix the butter and sugar together in a blender
  • Add the eggs and bananas to the mix
  • Stir in the salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon
  • Pour into a 1 lb bread tin lined with grease proof paper
  • Put in the oven and go and clean your bike or drink some coffee for around an hour
  • Check the bread is baked by stabbing it with a knife – if it doesn’t come out clean give it a bit longer
  • Once done leave it to stand for quarter of an hour in the baking tin resisting temptation to dive in
  • Remove from tin, slice and consume either toasted or as is.