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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.

Entries will open for the Brutal Tootle on May 1st. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more information.

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B-Rad with Wolf Tooth

At Velotastic, we’ve always been fans of stocking stuff that interests us and is a little bit different. We like to think of this as one of our USP’s that we carry many brands that do not have a distributor in the UK and are not seen in your local bike shop.

Wolf Tooth Components is one such brand. Based in Minneapolis, this brand was built by a bunch of cycling enthusiasts that decided to start manufacturing their own components to improve their riding experience.

One of their recent products is the B-Rad system. If you are riding long distances or carry frame bags occasionally you run into the problem of either not being able to carry enough water or your bottle holders being in the wrong place.

The Wolf Tooth B-Rad system maybe the solution you have been looking for.

The system begins with a series of slotted Mounting Bases.  Available in three sizes, B-RAD bases can shift a bottle cage away from inconvenient rear shocks,or even provide space for a second bottle on sufficiently-long downtubes.

Next you can mount various B-RAD accessories to your B-RAD base or bases.  The B-RAD accessories improve or optimize bottle cage locations, add water/tool/spare parts capacity, and there are many more accessories coming in the future.

For more information check out our Wolf Tooth page.

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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. We’ve plans for similar rides later in the year. 

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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.

Cables

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

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.

Torque 

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.
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Our Glorious Gravel Ride.

Gravel and cyclocross riding is becoming more and more popular. It’s a great way to get off the road and spice up your riding rather than doing the same routes week in week out.

The Peak District, which is close to where Velotastic are based has an abundance of unclassified roads that are ideal for this kind of bike. The Eroica Britannia festival runs over a few of these tracks.

I’ve concocted a route that is based on some of my favourite trails that I’ve been riding for 30 odd years.

It starts just outside Chesterfield, but as it is circular could be done from any location. It is 99% rideable (there are a few very short sections that you may need to get off and push). The route is mainly on unclassified byways and quiet country lanes. There are a few bits on busier roads but I have tried to minimise these.

It can be easily done in a day by a fit cyclist. There are plenty of pubs and campsites on the route if you fancied taking a little longer though.

I hope you enjoy the route. Please remember to ride safe and share the roads and trails with other users.

Route on Strava

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Kellham Island Urban Cyclocross

Cyclocross is normally associated with being held in a muddy park in the middle of winter and a way for roadies to keep their fitness up during the off season. Run when the days are short and the rain is horizontal it often results in cold hands, dirty bikes and spectators huddled in any sheltered spots they can find.

Urban cycle across is something a bit different. Kelham Island Museum was recently the location for the first round of the Sheffield urban cx series. Taking place across three locations in central Sheffield, the 6 May saw a small group of riders fill every space of the first event to prove themselves on a circuit around an fantastic old industrial setting.

Gone was the need for pit crews and pressure washers. Instead there were cobbles, North Shore sections through buildings and racing round sculptures and exhibits.

We went to take a look to see what it was all about. First thing that has to be noted was the lack of any sort of consistency not only with the bike used but also the background and style of the riders. There was everything on display drop handlebars on cyclocross with drop bars both old and new carbon and steel, hybrids, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, a lot of 29ers, a lot of single speeds … even 6 inches of full-travel front and rear on an old school 26 “inch wheel mountain bike. Outfits range from full on team lycra to jeans and T-shirts even a man in a skirt and the bra top on his stag weekend … of course what do you do on you stag weekend? A cyclocross race of course!

The races were limited to the number of riders that could take part as this was a tight course wooded boardwalk sections inside old factory buildings, cobbled streets, steps lots of concrete, lots of different surfaces, cobbles, wood, polished painted concrete, slabs, plywood, more cobbles in a lot of variety in different places. If it had been wet might of been a different result for many.

The race was split into four categories – Amateur Men, Sport Men, Women’s and Vet’s. Each category had two qualifying races with the fastest six from each leg going through to the final. The riders started 20m away from their bikes a Le mans style start. They then dashed down the cobbles jumping on their bikes and disappearing off to the first corner. Once round that first corner you sneaked around the outside of the main factory building over a short section of Boardwalk to turn back on yourself and then do a sharp right up a steep ramp sleep that took you up to the first floor of the museum building. Once inside you are met with more boardwalk a a couple of rises, a lovely bermered corner, then negotiate a couple of lifts before then you disappeared out of sight from the spectators down some steps and out the back the old buildings return again down along cobbled street to start lap two.

Spectators were treated to some great vantage points out on the old bridge that links the two main buildings that firm Kelham Island Museum. Inside on the upper floor away from the cold wind that was whistling round the site spectators could watch the race as it sped round some pre-fabricated north shore style trackway.

Beer, coffee, sandwiches all available a few steps away in a couple of rather nice cafe’s – a far cry from the groggy old coffee van in the middle of the woods or muddy field in the middle of nowhere.

The racing was fast and furious and despite some of the clothing people were clearly trying and taking this seriously. Like most cyclocross races, the course was very spectator friendly and there were good viewing points around 80% of the course. There also wasn’t much time in between each race and they kept feeding out riders group after group to keep people entertained.

I can’t help but think that the people with the biggest chance of winning are those deliveroo riders, you know the guys with the blue boxes on their bikes racing to deliver food around town probably the best equipped for a course like this.

We caught up with Adam for a few words about why the event had come together and where the others were going to take place. He said the next event would be at Park Hill flats in September and he’s got a venue in mind for a third event.

Personally I think the format has a lot going for it, good entertainment good quality riders, food and beer on tap, central city location, after the kelham island event there was a local peddlers market … that’s peddlers p-e-d-d-l-e-r people selling goods not just bike bits! craft beer, street food, local makers and artisans just round the corner so you could make a day of it turn up at lunch, watch the racing and go on into the evening in the market round the corner sounds too good to be true good way to bring people into an old inner city area.

There was a good feel to the event and no bike snobbery and plenty of smiles from both the spectators and competitors. Rider Anna Lowe summed the course up “”It was just so intense, the whole thing felt like a blur of cobbles, steps, ramps & corners. Such good fun, how often do you get to ride inside a museum? I won’t forget that one in a hurry!”

For further information  check out sheffieldurbancx.co.uk

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When the circus comes to town.

It’s not very often that a UCI World Tour comes to your home town, but when a stage of the Women’s Tour both starts and finishes there you feel rather lucky.

This year the 4th stage of the Women’s Tour is starting and finishing in Chesterfield. The final details of the route have yet to be confirmed but from what we can gather and with a little bit of local knowledge it looks like it’s going to be a cracker.

The 133 km route could be considered as the race’s Queen stage with over 2300 metres of climbing in the Derbyshire hills. It could also be the deciding stage as it is also the penultimate before the final days racing in London.

There will be 107 riders, from 17 teams including British squads Drops and WNT.

For more information check out the Women’s Tour website.

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Learning to Fly

Questioning someone’s cycling ability is a bit like questioning someone’s driving or bedroom ability  – you just don’t go there!

However, you sometimes wonder whether you are doing things right and could you do things better.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to the National Standards Instructor training course for Bikeability. For those not in the know, Bikeability is the 21st century name for Cycling Proficiency.  However, where the old course was sometimes run by enthusiastic parents and normally was restricted to the playground, Bikeability includes exposure to real roads and real traffic and is run by trained professionals.

The course is split into three levels. Level one is playground based and covers the basics, including setting off, stopping and steering.  Level two moves onto the road and covers the outcomes of junctions and road positioning and level three builds on the previous two courses and includes route planning, roundabouts and more advanced junctions.

Well how did I get on after 40 years in the saddle and no previous training?  Being a driver was a help as I had a knowledge of the Highway Code and traffic.  The main thing that myself and the three other trainees took away was road positioning and observation.  Being assertive and “controlling the lane” enables you to communicate where you want to go and what you want to do.  Reflection was another message that was given.  If things don’t go to plan – what can we do differently to avoid that situation in the future.

If you ever get the chance to do the Bikeability course as either a trainee (many local authorities offer level 3 training for free) or doing the instructor training – do it.  It will open your eyes and may get you thinking of cycling in a different way.

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Seven

Having a family can limit the time you have to go off and try new adventures. Gone are the days of heading off for a few days. For many of us a long weekend ride is our only window of opportunity. As such it means that the fun is trying to cram a new challenge into the little time you have got.

Earlier this year I was looking at the 100 climbs list and the climbs in the Peak District area. After consulting Strava for route choices and a bit of planning I decided to have a go and climb the seven ascents that are in the original book.

The first and one of the nearest climbs was Curbar. This hill has the steepest bit at the bottom and then eases off slightly. It was a route I had done lots of times before as it is a handy shortcut on the way home. The only decision I had was at the top to either reverse my route and cut across to Grindleford and Hathersage or head off in the wrong direction and put some additional climbing in. I decided to take the pragmatic approach and turned round and dropped down the same road I had just climbed which left a couple of ramblers scratching their heads wondering what I was playing at.

After following the Derwent river for a few miles and on through Hope and Castleton next stop was Winnats. I’ve always found this a hard climb. I used to be able to climb it on a 42 x 23 but was glad I was on my winter bike with a compact chainset and 28 teeth on the back end. Due to the way the land lies there always seems to be a perpetual headwind blowing down the pass too. I recalled that the road was hardest up by a council grit bin and if you could crack that you had the climb in the bag. Unbeknown to me, since the last time I had done the climb the council had installed a second grit bin 100 metres lower down. My heart sank when I reached this and looked up the road to see a higher bin. Life was not made any easier by the black ice down the edge of the road which meant I had to either soft pedal standing up or sit down to maintain traction.

From the top of the climb it was a fast traverse of the Rushup plateau. Over to the left I could see the houses at Sparrowpit  – the top of my next climb Peaslows. This was a new one on me. I had driven up it a few years ago and remembered that it went on a bit, but driving numbs the sensation of the subtle rises in the road. All was going well and I felt strong at the bottom of the climb then ‘snap’ and I was heading nowhere. My chain had snapped. It was a case of cold hands and shortening the chain to do a hasty field repair. Not only so I could carry on, but I was miles from nowhere and did not fancy making the phone call of shame.

Next stop was Monsal. Another regular climb and home of the iconic hill climb. This one is not as brutal as the likes of some of the other ones I was riding and a road I knew well. I took my time and stayed sat down as I wanted to pace myself as I still had three climbs to go.

After the obligatory photo at the top it was off through Chatsworth and onto Rowsley. This is a real thug of a climb and I actually prefer it’s near neighbour Beeley which is longer and gentler. The worse bit is after you have ridden the steep hairpins and think the suffering is all over you have a long slog to reach any flat ground that seems to go on for ages.

Matlock has the only urban climb on the route – Bank Road. Host hill for the 2016 National hillclimb champs. It also featured in the 2016 Women’s Tour and previous editions of the Tour of Britain. The climb starts steep and then has a nasty kick towards the top where it gets steeper still before taking a sharp right turn and flattening off. My main worries were traffic  – the road is popular and getting doored by inattentive motorists leaving their cars. I was in luck, for a Saturday afternoon after I had passed the cluster of shops at the bottom the road was quiet. By this time my legs were starting to suffer, but I had one last climb to go – Riber

The descent back to Matlock green was short and sharp and not really enough time to give me chance to recover. I’ve always found the approach to the bottom of Riber through Starkholmes a slog and that my legs were singing before I started the climb proper. Even more this time.

Riber is a short sharp brute of an ascent. 22% it says on the sign at the bottom and you know it’s going to hurt when there are steps on the pavement by the side of the road. There are a couple of sharp switchbacks which seem to get steeper and steeper and then all of a sudden you are at the top.

That was it. I had done the seven climbs in a day. No trips to far off lands, no days away from the family, but an adventure on my own doorstep.

Epilogue….

I’ve created a circular route on Strava for anyone who’s interested. It starts at Bakewell and the order of service is Rowsley Bar, Bank Road, Riber, Curbar, Winnats, Peaslows, Monsal. It’s 107 km and has 2127 metres of climb.

Right click here for the GPX file.

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Favourite places

We feel very lucky to be based in Chesterfield. We have a choice of heading out west into the Peak District or east into the flatlands of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

Many of our rides end up an eatery of some kind or another. Here’s a few of our current favourites for if you are ever up our way.

David Mellor  – Hathersage

Sat on the edge of the popular Peak District village of Hathersage, this cafe is in the grounds of David Mellor’s eponymous cutlery factory. Also in the same building is a small design museum and factory shop. At Christmas time they usually get a classic sports car inside the cafe to carry the presents. There is also a free factory tour on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. http://www.davidmellordesign.com/visitor-centre/

No Car Cafe- Rushup

High upon the hills above the iconic climbs of Winnats and Mam Nick sits Rushup Hall. Due to it’s location whichever way you get to it (even from the Western side) it involves a monster of a slog up hill. The cafe is in a barn conversion and is so called because it has no car parking  – just somewhere to lean your bike or tether your horse. The food is freshly cooked and tea is served in huge tea pots. Definitely worth the effort to get to. http://www.rushophall.com/

Loaf  – Crich

Crich is one of those picture postcard villages that was used in the 1990’s TV series Peak Practice. As the name suggests Loaf is a bakery, so you are spoilt for choice of what to have your sandwiches made from. Like the No Car Cafe (above) this eatery has table service which is a nice touch. It also offers cookery courses if you want to find out some of the methods and secrets behind their delicious fare. http://www.theloaf.co.uk/

Highfield House Farm – Stonedge

Located on the edge of Chesterfield this farm has its own shop and cafe. A lot of the meat in their food is from the farm is used in their food so as you look out of the window and gaze across the fields you can see what you will be potentially eating in a few months time. The cafe makes what we at Velotastic consider to be the gold standard benchmark full English breakfast. http://www.highfieldhousefarm.co.uk

Ilam Hall  – Ashbourne

Ilam Park is a 158 acre estate situated just north of Ashbourne. This stately pile was built in the 1820’s for the Watts Russell family and in the early part of the 20th century was nearly demolished. Luckily it was saved by a local philanthropist and given to the National Trust to maintain. There is also a Youth Hostel on site if you fancy staying a little longer. Being run by the trust the fare is their usual high quality, but what makes this property is the view across the Italianate gardens towards Dove Dale.  https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ilam-park-dovedale-and-the-white-peak

The Apron  – Gamston

Airport eateries usually conjour up the image of cardboard sandwiches and tepid coffee. However the Apron bucks this trend with delicious food and lovely drinks. Situated at Retford – Gamston airfield just off the A1 which is primarily used for light aviation, this cafe has rightly become popular with local riders. http://www.retfordairport.co.uk/the-apron-cafe/