Saturday, 27 October 2007

Mountain Bike Durham is not well....

So after not posting for months and months I decide to post to say that I'm working on a new website - which will be up and running very very soon!

In the meantime here is a short film about the dangers of the sport:

Thursday, 5 July 2007

New links list....

Added a new links list to the page ( over there, left at top of page). This will link to google maps of routes described in this blog. There will still be links from posts but I plan to make them accessib from the side bar as well.

You 'll see that the Cassop Vale route still not complete with description! But a 1:25,000 map will show you the way without problem! It will be complete tomorrow - thats a promise!

There's also a new link to the CTC's cyclehero campaign. Worth a look - you can win a spesh!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Make some noise...

Out this morning with youngest daughter on trailer bike and old friends G & F and their daughter on her bike. G took us on a circular off-road route from Seaham , taking in South Hetton, Murton and Dawdon. There seems to be a lot of new off road tracks in that area and they seem worthy of further exploration.

Joined the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) today - they do a lot of work around rights of way access and trail building. I've added a link to their website so take a look and join.

Concert for Diana on telly tonight. P Diddy shouted out: "If you miss Princess Diana - make some noise!" Priceless.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Its been a long time baby.....

Far too long! Seem to have lost my way a bit since last post....Gary Bainbridge (edit: Gary Grainger - link works OK!) tells me that's common for newbies. We manage up to about 10 weeks concerted effort and then fall by the wayside! Well thats not for me. I ain't no goddamn quitter.

So I've added a new link to the non-mtb links and google mapped more of my route! Gary left a useful comment about I actually thought it was a trail mapping tool, until I checked it out myself and its an ingenious way of making a trailer bike out of a proper kids bike!

I've had a long think about this blog and decided that I need to stick to it and develop into what I set out to create way back in April. I need to add more photo's and colour and news. So there!!!!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Google Maps 2

So I've taken the plunge with Picasa. Installed on PC that only has a few pictures on it reducing my worries about privacy greatly!

And I have tried out adding a photo to the Google map for the Cassop Vale route, and it seems to work!

This is a "good thing" : it resolves many of the problems that I had encountered when trying to work out how to mtb routes here. Using Google maps means that these can be viewed easily, linked to, printed off easily, turned into jpeg relatively easily and you can even get directions to any point on it, meaning that for loops the "start" can be anywhere you want it to be.

This whole project is taking a lot longer than I ever imagined but now I feel some progress has been made.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Sunny Sunday afternoon....

Sunny Sunday afternoon ride..... P persuaded me to venture out. I was feeling like an afternoon in front of the TV but he talked me into a quick blast out towards Finchale Priory, on the banks of the Wear. Explored some bridle paths and tracks to try and make a bigger, more exciting ride but that part seems a little limited. Perhaps linking it into a bigger loop might work...

On the way back stop off to the bmx track so P could get some "air". Or try to get some "air" anyway. We decide that the jumps are too close together and blame the designer.

Email from Fred - he's been reading about my difficulties with PDF, jpeg etc and made a great suggestion. It wasn't the answer I was looking for, but seems to have given me a solution. A screengrab can be saved as jpeg so why was I struggling to find a way to convert pdf?

I 'll see how that works. I want there to be a printable written description of routes as well as a map. Thats why I want a jpeg version as that can be zoomed in on and manipulated at ease and takes up less space on here!

Friday, 1 June 2007

Progress with maps!

Yes! Managed to sort out that Google MyMaps difficulty I was experiencing. Think I have that sorted now.

I want to include some photos in the maps so I'm thinking that Picasa may be the way to go. MyMaps won't let me upload from PC just a url. I am a little concerned about privacy issues and what it will do to my photos so I need to read a little more about this before I commit fully!

I've mapped the Cassop Vale route. Have a look at the first draft - its without descriptions yet. I will add these in text , with map references and photos. I'll also paste a written description in as a post ( unless a better way is found). That will mean that there's two ways of viewing the route.

I've got a load more pictures to add to the Great Glen Way post - I got copies of M's today. He is back up there over next few days repeating the route by boat (you know what I mean).

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Wot no biking? Coffee, ID Cards & Dinosaurs

Bank Holiday Weekend: Family trip to London - in dreadful weather. We stayed with my brother and his family. It was really good to see spend some them. Went to Redbridge Green Fair. It was very wet and soggy - but did find out about the anti-ID card campaign. Also picked up some Zapatista Coffee, which I'm told is "excellent". More info here .

At the Green Fair looked over some Metropolitan Police bikes with my brother. There was a very "keen" community support officer who gave us a guided tour of the bikes. Much amusement! After dishing out some police balloons to the kids he then promptly gave chase to our group (on foot) and informed us that he was going to take them away from aforementioned children as there was a health and safety issue! Result - 1 child in tears and an important lesson learned no doubt.

Took in the Natural History Museum which was absolutely heaving - but worth the visit. Dinosaurs are good - if you get the chance go see.

Also got to the Doctor Who shop in East Ham - kids loved it and we spent a fortune.

No biking done but did discuss a future trip to Scotland with brother - likely to be in October.

As you can see the pictures in the header didn't work out as I hoped so I reverted to the basic! Oh and no progress on the google maps yet!

Friday, 25 May 2007

Google maps

So whilst googling for this very blog (sad I accept) I come across Cyclinginboulder
Yeah I know its in Colorado USA but this guy uses Google Maps to great effect to show cycle routes where he lives. So thats what I will endeavour to do.

So I tried but can't get it to work. I'll have to get to grips with kml files I think.

I do have the Cassop Vale route sorted out with a written description, grid references and photos. Its ready to go!

If you are interested in the natural history of the area we ride through on that route then this will tell you.

I'm going to to try and add some pictures to the header title of the blog today.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Durham Big Ride

A great family day out - it says here. Hmmm... Remind the kids of that if its pouring down, and their bums and legs are sore and they are fed up.....

But seriously folks (!) - there is a big ride in Durham for all the family on 16th September 2007. Actually there are two rides - I guess that's a little big ride and a big big ride.

Go on! You know you want to!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Mad dogs, horses and flies!

Great tea-time ride today. Great weather - lots of sunshine but not too hot - added to the enjoyment! P and me got out after he finished work and we tackled one of our favourite "doorstep" routes. After much discussion as we started by the time we got home we decided it ranks as moderate route due to a couple of steep climbs along the way and the distance (19 miles). The fact that I took a spill probably confirms that grading - although strictly that was my own stupid fault when I stopped to take a picture of a turning on the route:
I'm still pondering the best way to put routes up here! So far I think I will use OpenOffice's Write - convert to PDF and then on to jpeg. Jpeg can be posted as an image which can then be opened and printed out. Write will save as Html but that doesn't get around the problem of enabling routes to be easily printed out.

The title of this posting refers to:

  • The big bad barking dogs you encounter on route - they are behind a fence.... except once they got out!
  • Horses - apparently young 'uns can be a little unpredictable. Yes they can be!
  • Flies - a huge one and an open mouth sucking in air as I powered up the hill. You get the picture...?
This week I'll format the route and see if it works!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Rain limits play... and a route for little beginners.

Lots of rain severely limited the opportunities to get out on Sunday.

A brief trip out in the morning took in Rennys Lane to Sherburn to Running Waters and then back towards Shadforth and then homeward bound via Crime Rigg. A few pictures taken and I'll illustrate a route map with those later in the week.

The afternoon saw a trailer bike outing with youngest daughter by railway path to Langley Park and return. This is just over 8 miles and relatively flat although with a few "swoops" to liven things up a bit. These are where bridges are now missing.

The trailer bike is an Edinburgh Bike Co-operative Revolution Glider trailer bike. We have black ones to match my politics. It connects to the seat post of my "old" Kona NuNu and pulls along nicely. Both girls offer added "jet power" at times and to give them credit it does make a difference.

This was the longest that youngest daughter has done so far. Previous outgoings will have been no further than a couple of miles maximum. Due to the torrential rain and hail we'd experienced over the last few days there were a number of puddles and she asked that we go through them all. I was happy to oblige and soon we looked as if we could have come out of Glentress - smiles and all! A drink stop at Langley Park and we turned for home.

Route details:
Suitable for: All - families and children, especdially those just starting out or as a warm up for others. Can be extended easily!
Starting Point: Broompark

  • Approx 3 km (2 miles) by road from Durham City centre (A690 south west to the Stone Bridge roundabout, then west on the B6302)
  • Grid Ref. NZ 251 415
  • There's plenty of car parking. No other facilities. Pub and garage at Stone Bridge Roundabout. Pub in Broom 1km past location.
The route itself is simple - follow the Lanchester Valley Railway Path to Langley Park (Grid Ref NZ 211 457 ). Langley Park has shops and pubs in village centre which is a short distance from the route. Diggerland is at Langley Park and the railway path runs adjacent to it for a stretch.
The return is simply that! Turn around and come back.

As stated its relatively flat and well surfaced. There may be puddles in wet weather. Two roads to cross: Aldin Grange: caution as although minor road cars approach quickly around corner, and at Witton Gilbert old station - road ends at path so little traffic except for dog walkers. There was a good quantity of dog turd at Witton Gilbert so careful!

Plenty to see - we saw pigs, hens, sheep ( and lambs) , cows (and calves) and horses. Ruins of old Beau Repaire a former monks retreat, makes a good picnic spot and is just off the route.

So that's first route done! A bit of a cop-out I admit. I'll get something done this week of more interest.
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Saturday, 12 May 2007

Durham City's pedicabs...

Bumped into Stephen Murphy outside Clayport Library at lunchtime whilst doing a bit of shopping. Stephen is the guy who is launching Durham's first pedicab service (that's a bike taxi). I know Stephen from work. We chatted for a while about his plans and the process of getting a hackney carriage licence. The City Council is treating the pedicabs as proper taxis so there is a lot of paperwork that needs sorting out.

Local council are supposed to be encouraging cycling as a healthy, non-polluting, sustainable and enjoyable means of transport. Bike taxis will also add to the attractions of Durham as a tourist spot. Whilst I can see the need for safety checks, in my view any other bureaucracy must be kept to an absolute minimum.

Stephen is looking for other drivers - I'm going to give this some serious consideration. It would be a great way of training as well as having a chance to show off my adopted home city to tourists and visitors. I'd make some money as well, although probably not very much. But I could use that to fund some new bike kit.... or a trip somewhere...

Stephen has a great idea there and one that is good for the city too. I really hope it takes off for him.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Afric Pepperbird - Cycling and jazz (ooh err...)

I've put up a link to Fred Grand's excellent blog Afric Pepperbird.

OK so its news about thin tyre roadie action and jazz reviews but I'm assured that he's going to get back into the rough stuff and onto a mountain bike. And Fred showed me a great route about 12 months ago which I'll post up here in due course (giving credit of course!).

Fred is a keen rider and was quite a racer, holding a BCF second category licence until he retired a couple of years ago. He writes for Sportingo .

Jazz is his "thing" and he also writes reviews for Jazz Review. He also likes Husker Du and the Dead Kennedys so can be forgiven for pretty much everything else.

Oh and he has some great pictures from a recent trip to South Africa.

Well worth a visit!

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Bank holiday outings.....

Two outings today! One as a whole family and an opportunity to try out new bike carriers. Drove the short distance to Broompark picnic area which is now called the "hub of Durham's railway paths". Broompark is about 10 minutes drive from the city centre on A690, past Neville's Cross (jn with A167) and then turn right at the roundabout at the bottom of the hill towards Ushaw Moor and Esh Winning on the B6302. Turn left after .5 mile - its signposted.

is a good place to start if you want to get onto the railway path network. Durham has many miles of old railways that have been converted into paths suitable for biking and walking. At some point I'll provide a link to a map of the railway paths. They are flat and generally well surfaced and traffic free so are great for taking kids on or for clocking up some miles. There are some good rides to be done based around the paths but they are a little staid if you like "proper" off-road adventures!

We had a good time with kids on trailer bikes, and picnic lunch with us, although wifey soon complained of jelly legs and sore bum! I diverted from path with elder daughter and found a smidgen of singletrack through some trees. Elder daughter was whooping in delight and talking about how going fast made her feel "free". Thats my girl!

Bike carriers are new Thule Proride 591s. They seem to work well, although its a bit odd not being able to see bikes in rear view mirror! The bikes are lockable to carrier and in turn are fully lockable to bars, which lock to roof rails. Probably takes 20 - 30 minutes to put bars and carriers on car and attach bikes.

This evening got out for a couple of hours with P. Headed up to quarry workings below Sherburn Hill and then over to woods at Littletown. Downhill/Freeride kids(?) have been in woods adding some jumps to trails there so we gave that a go. I bottled some of it on basis that I have a XC hardtail not suitable for grabbing huge "air", but P enjoyed himself as usual, despite mechanicals with chain and shifting. He really needs to get a half decent bike - he's going to become a cropper on that sports store special he's riding at the moment.

Both the quarry and the woods will feature in some of the routes I plan to include here so I'll not give full details of location here.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

C2C website

While looking at how others put up maps and routes I came across this excellent site about the Coast to Coast (C2C) route. OK so the C2C isn't really a route that I should put on this blog! The idea is to have some new routes for mountain bikers to get out and enjoy and make their own. And the C2C isn't great mountain biking (in County Durham at least) due to its flat nature. But... it exists and its useful for getting to other places by bike, and indeed at least two of the routes I'll put up here will involve parts of the C2C. The website is great and will be of use to anyone thinking of doing the C2C in any small part.

I'm getting a bit worried. Third post and as yet no routes in Durham. Perhaps this blog should be about my attempts to post up some routes, rather than the routes themselves...

Monday, 30 April 2007

Great Glen Cycle route: Fort William to Inverness

The Great Glen Cycle Route is fantastic! It might not be the toughest ride or the most technical or have the most singletrack but put the scenery, the location, the people, the villages and towns, the climbs and the descents together and that is one hell of a ride. Its difficult to pick out the highlights as its all so memorable, but here are a few of the best bits:

The start at Neptune's Staircase is just a great place to be on or off a bike. Riding along side the Caledonian Canal on the path is a great warm-up and the views of Ben Nevis and Aonoch Mor are superb.

Just after Laggan swingbridge there's a steep climb (we'd just had lunch so it felt a whole lot steeper!) which rewards you with a great view along Loch Oich. We arrived there to be able to save a couple of walkers from the horrors of self-timers on cameras. They returned the favour!

The short steep climb from Invergarry consists of a loose surfaced man-made path consisting of a series of short switchbacks. Its not long but you struggle to the top, lungs bursting and crawl out onto the forest track from which there is one hell of a view and gives you a great excuse to rest and take it all in ( and get your lungs and legs back to some sort of working order!). This section ends with short but great piece of single track which spits you out at Oich Bridge.

The long road climb from Invermoriston to Achnaconeran was the only section that we all just pushed up. There was just no point in attempting to ride it. Added to that we were all a bit wet as the previous section had see our first proper rainfall. Spirits were flagging a little but then out of the blue we came across another sweet piece of steep single track descent which had me whooping for joy. I remember thinking that somewhere someone had had a great big grin on their face as they planned the route and thought - "About now should be enough climbing. Lets cheer them up!"

From Alltsigh there is a 2 mile climb which for me was the hardest of the trip. Loose under wheel, it was one of those climbs where you look ahead and think that the top is just at the corner you can see. So you push on thinking you can rest when you get there only only to see the track carrying on into the distance. So on go (not daring not stop) and get to the next corner to see yet another distant corner! And someone put a bench half way up that hill - that just made it worse! But eventually I got there - a little after the other two (but I didn't need as long to rest of course.) But what goes up must come down and soon we were dropping down the side of the mountain on a loose track that was clinging to the side of the hill. To the right was the steep wooded drop to Loch Ness below and I did briefly contemplate the inadequacies of my education in not equipping me with the ability to calculate how far I would travel outwards before being skewered by a Scots Pine!

We had great weather and that upped the enjoyment factor. It did rain a little on the 2nd morning but we were in the Highlands in April so were bound to get a wee bit wet!

As I've said the whole route was superb. I understand that the the cycle way is no longer being promoted or maintained as a route, due to concerns over mtb-ers simply passing through and a desire to promote the growing number of trail centres in the area. In my view that's a mistake. We went specifically to do the through route. We spent our money in several of the villages and towns we passed through. Would we have spent three nights and four days in the region on a centre based trip? I doubt it.

A quick word about our accommodation. I've not stayed in a hostel before, but was very impressed with both the Chase the Wild Goose Hostel at Banavie, just outside Fort William and especially Morag's Lodge in Fort Augustus. Morag's has a bar - but double check the closing time to make sure you don't go disappointed as we did. Recommended in Inverness is Ardross House guest house which did a great breakfast too.

Recommended pubs for food and beer include the Lochy in Caol, across the road from Banavie, the Castle Tavern in Inverness (opposite the approach to the castle - and what was it about the young 'uns and their large exhausted cars that meant they kept driving in and out of the castle grounds?). The Great Glen Water Park restaurant did the business for lunch between Forts William and Augustus.

And when in Inverness make sure you visit Hootananny.
Downstairs wasn't our cup of tea but try upstairs for something a bit wilder. The organic lager from Skye went down very well. A great way to finish off the trip!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Starting out .....

The first posting on my first blog! As they say around these parts "Whey aye!".

I've had a germ of an idea for about a year now to share details of some routes in and around County Durham for mountain bikers. Perhaps I'll be the only one who ever reads this ( and if so then so be it!) but if even one other person gets out on their bike and comes home with a grin on their face as a result of visiting this blog then I'll have achieved what I set out to do.

I've yet to work out quite how to paste up route maps but no doubt I'll find a way. I'll add some photos to illustrate things.

I guess I'll also put some other stuff in here too. Music and politics probably. And the odd rant about something which probably no-one else would find in the slightest irritating - isn't that what bloggers do?.

I'm off to Scotland in the morning to ride the Great Glen Cycle Way. I've wanted to ride that for a few years and at long last it's all organised. Its not particularly tough but I'm really looking forward to it. I'll post if I can.