It used to be a tradition that we did a ride up in The Peak District every New Year's Eve but due to work etc this hasn't happened for a couple of years. This year it fell on a Saturday so I sent round the email and five of us met up at Peak Forest.
As I drove up things looked pretty promising weather wise but as soon as I got past Chesterfield it started to look pretty gloomy and wet. However it was only spotting with drizzle as we got the bikes out and criticised those not present for being light weights! ;-)
Peak Forest was a new start point for us. I'd picked it out off the map and mapped out a route in my mind that would start and finish on new (to us) bridleways but mostly be on familiar trails. After a short section of flat tarmac to start; the first off-road climb was on surfaced double track turning to grass which was soft as expected. The gradient was steady but we were all sweating plenty in waterproofs as it was still very mild despite the rain.
At the top there was some banter about doing Cave Dale which was in front of us but I don't think anyone was too serious on a day like this? My mental route didn't include it and so we stuck to that much easier option and headed along Dirtlow Rake and down Pin Dale.
The Pace was steady as we continued across to Bradwell and then via road through Hope to climb up the Roman Road. The lower sections of the climb had a stream running down them which was the best line, traction wise, due to the water washing the muck off the rocks underneath. Higher up there were the usual big puddles and a few other bikers about.
At Hope Cross we turned left for the fast blast down to Jaggers Clough. The fine drizzle made visibility at speed difficult with or without glasses. No one was bothered by the ford as we were all pretty wet by now anyway. As we pedalled the road to Edale I decided to ignore the first bridleway to Hollins Cross as it would definitely be a muddy push. I opted for the second one which I thought might be better? It's easily cleanable on a good day but I wasn't holding out much hope for today. It was muddy, slippy and rutted and we were all soon pushing sections. The steep, rocky, last section which is usually the hardest part of this climb was actually the easiest part in the conditions!
Once the paved section towards Mam Tor ran out we were soon all pushing to varying degrees again as the slippery ruts gave minimum traction. Shakey and Robbo had brought their hardtails equipped with mud tyres and were fairing much better in the mud than the rest of us with more "all round" set ups.
The climb up and along Rushup Edge was as boggy as we expected. At this height we were also in the clouds hanging over the hills which made me glad of my waterproof jacket. As we pedalled the bog we saw some mountain bikers riding the footpath on the other side of the wall in the opposite direction. This certainly isn't the place for "cheeky trail" riding! There were still plenty of people about even on a day like this!
The reward for the boggy slog was of course the excellent rocky stepped descent of Rushup Edge. This was great fun and this was where full suspension came into play as those of us with it caught and overtook those on hardtails. At the end we exited out onto the road and took the steep tarmac descent opposite. From the T-junction at the bottom we turned left and climbed for the last time: on tarmac at first and then after a right turn on gravel to the top of the last descent.
The last descent was a grassy bridleway which we hadn't ridden before. It was fun in the slippy conditions but would probably be flat out fun in the dry?
Back at the pub car park we hosed down the bikes with the portable washers before changing and heading into the pub for food and pints.
As this year was one of the driest in recent times I guess I didn't end the year with a ride that was "typical" of it? However it was still great fun.
That's the last ride blogged for the year! I'll be back one more time with a summary soon....