Having decided to ride to the agreed meeting place in Eyam from my home in Baslow I'd already done almost a third of the route (6.5km out of 20km) and half of that was up hill. But at least the heart was pumping and the muscles were warm, which was a good thing because our first offroad section was... up hill.
In our group of three, 2 of us were using the new SatMap handheld/ handlebar-mounted satnav, which, we were to find out, was full of interesting stats as well as fantastic O/S mapping.
Before too long the ride levelled out and we were on our first downhill, a fairly fast descent through a woodland track with few major obstacles. My mistake was not using the SatMap device when faced with 2 options. I sped off ahead of the group and having successfully negotiating a technical and steep downhill section -- overcoming large boulders and steep drop-offs -- I arrived at the end of the section only to find a Public Footpath sign. Oh dear. My colleagues had no option but to follow my example and emerged a few minutes later and explained that I had gone wrong.
Not so wrong that we were way off course; a couple of hundred metres at most. Our next downhill section, which followed a very short section on the road (and no road work had we gone the right way) and we were hurtling down with gravity doing all the work. This wide and steep section was rutted in places and as we progressed the surface of the track became increasingly unstable. Those of us using conventional brakes mostly avoided locking up and skidding, but with even the lightest tough on the disc brakes and the gravel became a skid pan. Half way down the track and we were greeted by walkers; we stopped whilst they walked past us and continued having exchanged pleasantries.
We 'landed' in Stoney Middleton having come down two tracks that I'd never been on before and we headed towards Calver on the main road.
At Calver we turned towards Bakewell, still on the road, and then after a quarter of a mile or so we turned off road. The next section rose up to our right ominously and, after a quick breather, we were back in our saddles. A slow, steep climb followed on a reasonably stable track. I imagine this could be trickier in wet weather but on the glorious sunny day that we had it was certainly very do-able.
The track levelled out to a wide gravelled track, that is also used in the week by quarry lorries. The quarry is the focus of a local battle between the quarrying company and local residents. Whilst we do need quarry products for roads and house building, you can't help think that there must be better placed quarries that will have much less of an impact on the environment.
Political point discussed and we were off on a very technical and challenging downhill. The route from Longstone Edge down to Rowland is popular, shall we say, with our motorised counterparts.
Unfortunately, the mechanised two-wheelers are much more damaging to tracks than mtbers will ever be and we encountered large boulders and steep drop-offs for the length of the decent. Depending on what you're riding depends on how much you can ride. Two of us with front suspension bikes did most of the section; the one with no suspension was rather pleased that he didn't want any more children!
In Rowland more road work into Great Longstone; through the village after a short stop (no beer consumed this time although there are two very good hostelries in the village) we climbed out of the village and back up toward the edge. A pleasant, but slow-ish climb and we emerged onto tarmac for another short section on road. After a short and steep climb on the road and we were back on a gravel track. A fast and enjoyable section, but watch out as the track continues; you end up at quite a speed and at the bottom of this section you need to stop. In dry weather it is very loose gravel and I imagine in winter it would be very slippery too.
The official ride was to go left and rise up over another hill, which takes you through a quarry and then down to the main road that takes you back to your starting place in Eyam. Given that I was heading back to Baslow I went straight on down the valley to Stoney Middleton. Having not been down this section before I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had a good 1 to 1.5 miles of a gentle downhill section all the way to the Stoney-Calver road. Initially, more challenging with boulders and large rocks to overcome and a very steep rut to climb out of having hit it at some speed (I don't know how I didn't fall off); as the track became a metalled road so the speed of the journey increased running alongside a stream.
At the main road I turned right to Calver and warmed down all the way to Baslow.
In summary, a great morning's ride and one that I'd finished by 1pm
(3.5 hours from home to home). You are rewarded for the hills with some great descents and if you're not rushing round a great half-way stop at Great Longstone.
Simon Turton - Baslow, Derbyshire