What a fantastic week. I did a few days riding into work, but easy paced, and we missed our usual Thursday pub ride in order to be ready for our weekend.
Friday morning we set off fully loaded for the Heysham ferry to the Isle of Man. The plan was that we would set out on our own to the Cafe de Lune and meet the others for second breakfast.
We arrived just before Ian, Joe, Nic, Karl, Alison, Graham and Jemima.
After soup and a sandwich, se set off again for the last 12 miles to Heysham. We were first on the ferry, waved to the front of the queue of cars and motor homes by the ferry crew. Ian was horrified to discover that all 8 bikes would be propped against each other and a large metal barrier, then lasted together with some rope. Ian’s shiny, expensive Independent Fabrications tourer was in for a rude introduction to ferry travel.
The four hour crossing was eased by several beers, bacon butties and constant micky taking. We arrived in the Isle of Man, relieved to see no damage to Ian’s bike and warm sunshine outside. The climb up to the house was a killer with full panniers. the last bit was 1/2 a mile of 1 in 4. We unpacked and sorted rooms and Karl and Alison prepared food. End of a good day. 37 miles for the day
Next day we planned to go through the scenic valley of Tholty Will. After two kilometres and 150m of climbing up the TT course to Creg-ny-Baa, we decided the gradient and the traffic were too much, and pulled of to reconsider our route. We headed off again towards Laxey, planning to turn off and head to Windy Corner. After most of the group missing the turn and forcing us to chase up a steep gradient, we got on the right route. This route was described as “difficult” in the official guide. We had sort of dismissed this as the usual over-stating by non cyclists. NOT! The descent required full drag brake and rim brakes to control, then a steep leg ripping climb. Then, when we got to the turn to Windy Corner, it turned out to be an unsurfaced track. A very steep unsurfaced track. We decided to stick to the bike route and head for Laxey and the big wheel. This “difficult” route proved true again with the climb to Ballaquine. 100m of climbing in 300m. Another metre and we would not have made it. But we did. Just. We met an old guy in his 80’s, still working his farm, telling us about his heart surgery and Mark Cavendish (who lives down the road) was disqualified from the Tour of Romandy for gesticulating rudely. The descent into Laxey was long and steep. The disc brake was getting a good workout.
Laxey Wheel is impressive, in continuous use for over 150 years. But £4 to get in was too steep for a 20 minute visit.
We stopped at the excellent Harbour Bistro in Ramsey for lunch. Then set out to do Tholty Will in the opposite direction to our mornings plan. It was the right choice. The initial climb up the valley was stunning, as the landscape slowly changed from lush meadow to heathland to mountain moorland. Then came the stonking climb. 100m height gain in 300m from the valley bottom to the reservoir, another 100m in 500m to the cattle grid then a further 200m in 2Km to Bungalow and the TT course. We didn’t walk any, but we had to stop three times. Some motorbike riders coming the other way were shaking their heads and saying “rather you than me”. By the top, I agreed with them. It was hard. Our reward was 7km of downhill back to the house. We had the drag brake on pretty much all way. Our speed topped out a 32mph but we could easily have done 50+. The TT guys do 150mph and struggle to keep their front wheel on the ground.
Back to the house and Jayne and I were on very tired cooking duty. But with plenty of wine and beer flowing, it went down well. No left overs.
We did manage to get through 8 bottles of red, a couple of rose and several beers between the ten of us. Nic realised he had to be up early to get the ferry home in the morning, but we all stayed up til well beyond midnight.
Next day we wanted to head out to Port Erin. I had heard that you could sometimes see whales and porpoises in the harbour or off the coast. The weather wasn’t too bad considering the forecast, 3/4 tights, short sleeves and a gillet for me. We soon went wrong, with new roads that weren’t on the map. Once back on route, we got onto a rolling set of hill, the worst of which was the Millenium way road, 100m climb in 500m. The Isle of Man is very pretty but very steep.
At the bottom of the climb, we discovered that Dens’ tyre had a bit of a bulge on it. Not good. Worse when we took a side road that turned out to be a mixture of gravel and cobble. The name should have been a give away, “The Rocky Road”. Dens walked to save her tyre.
We set off down a steep straight road, Jayne and I with the drag brake on, the rest streaming out ahead. Then we lost touch. At the turn, we could see Jemima and Alison ahead, no sign of Ian, Nic and Dens. Joe went chasing after Alison and Jemima, who had realised their mistake as he met them, but didn’t know where the others where. Joe shot off down the road in pursuit. We waited. Then Ian and co appeared from up the right road. They had been waiting just round the bend, wondering where we were. Still no sign of Joe. After a bit of a wait and a look at the map and no sign of Joe, we decided we had to follow him and find him. We set off down the road at quite a pace. Our top speed inched up to 35mph. Graham caught us up, Dens’ tyre had finally failed and the tyre burst. Eventually they came gingerly down the road. And Joe appeared from the opposite direction, having decided to give up looking and head back. We rolled down to Castletown hoping to find a Halfords or some similar big chain that might be open on a Bank Holiday Sunday. As we came into Castletown there was a garage where we thought we could ask about bike shops. As we approached we realised it was a bike shop. However, the bike side was closed, the woman behind the counter didn’t know if she could get us a tyre, whether they were priced, where she could find them, but with some sweet talk from Karl and Dens, she went to look and came back with a tyre. Dens’ trip was saved. By this time the sun had gone, the wind had picked up and it had gone very cold. We shot off to Port Erin. On the cliff top we were met by two other cyclists. Karl wanted a cafe tip and asked if they were local. The broad aussie “no” gave the true picture. It turned out that they were working just up the road from where we live and renting a place where Ian, Joe and Nic live. Ian invited them on our Thursday night ride. After a chaotic lunch in a very nice but poorly run cafe, we headed over the very steep cliff road to the southern end of the Island. We had to walk one section, it was just too much, 80m in 250m. After a gentle recovery over the cliff tops, we dropped to Cregneash and the road down to the Calf on Man. Some discussion ensued as to whether we would go. Then Jemima realised that it wasn’t an alternative route round to Port St Mary but a drop down to a dead and then turn around and come back. “F*@k that!”. The rest headed down, Jemima, Jayne and I set off to Port St Mary.
When we regrouped, we headed off on what we hoped was a fairly flat route home. The descent to Union Mills again had all three brakes on full. By the time we got to the main road, we realised it was only 1/2 an hour to Sunday closing time, the beer and wine stock was alarmingly low! The fast guys decided to shoot off into town. We followed behind. When we got into town, we had lost the others and just Jayne and I and Jemima and Graham were left to pick our way through town. We eventually ended up at Tesco’s. No sign of the others. I rang Karl. They had got 4 bottles of wine from Spa, but nothing else, Ian and Joe had headed to Co-op, hoping they’d still be open. I said I would buy some beer. I bought all the Duvel and all the Leffe they had out. Jemima bought some additional stuff they needed for their cooking turn that night. We only had a small pannier to carry 13 bottles of beer. We managed!
The climb back up to the house was excruciatingly hard. We had to walk the final 100m. The final haul from the three expeditions was 9 bottle of Duvel, 4 bottles of Leffe, 4 cans of San Miguel and 8 bottles of various red wines. Plus the bottle and a half of white still left.
Graham and Jemima’s lentil chilli was fantastic. I had hoovered mine of the plate before Ian had even started and was in for more. We had to be up early the next day, but demolishing the wine and beer stock became a challenge for some. There were some bleary eyes, delicate stomachs and tired legs the next day. We were almost left behind on the way to the ferry. Dens was on a later boat to Liverpool and very kindly agreed to finish off tidying up. We slogged up the first hill, I had to tell Jayne to ease up as I couldn’t match her pace. 4 Duvel and 2 Leffe were taking their toll. We eventually caught up with the rest at the ferry terminal, where Karl was sorting boarding tickets.
Back in England we were grateful for the more gentle rolling hills. Cafe de Lune was packed so we set off for the Weird Fish. Soon we were questioning the lack of hills compared to the massive increase in traffic.. The Weird Fish was good but the weather turned again. We got our only ride in a very brief shower between Great Eccleston and Elswick, eventually arriving home tired but pleased with our long weekend.
Thanks to Karl and Alison for organizing things.
Miles for the week – 171
Miles for the weekend – 172
Total miles for the year – 1725