The picture above shows the large urban city of Leeds and I suspect is not what most people imagine when they think of Leeds. I’m not from Leeds but it is where I’ve lived for the last 13 years and my perceptions of the city and the people who live here constantly change and Monday shifted them again. My general view of the city is that it’s not as good as the people who live here think it is but it’s much better than the people who don’t live here think it is if you know what I mean. It took me a few years to settle but, while it will never be Wales, it is home for me now so I’ve tried to embrace it as best as I can. Commuting as I mostly do by bike means that when I get to ride for pleasure I tend to turn my attention elsewhere, which I’m quickly learning this year is perhaps a mistake. As my year of ProjectSnail develops I’m trying to vary what I ride and who I ride with and this has looked to see me ride locally which is something I’ve never really done and it’s been a revelation. All of the riders I’ve met from Garage Bikes have been fantastic not worrying too much about my pace or lack of skills but have been nothing more than friendly and encouraging. When I was last out a couple of them mentioned Benji Haworth’s book of rides around West Yorkshire as a good place to look for rides closer to home so having promptly ordered a copy I had a look for the one that was closest and that was a loop from Pudsey.
Happily my good mate PB was around, it’s been difficult for us to co-ordinate timings to get out this year so it was great to see him. He also lives in Pudsey so I thought I can ride over do the loop and ride back. I need to get a few miles in the legs which has been tricky with the weather of late as the Snail has entered an event (Clifcross !) more on which via another post but needless so say I’m pretty terrified. However while still cold I headed off to meet PB. We met outside the Bankside pub, so called because it’s on the top of a very large bank looking out over Tong Valley which bisects where I live from PB, a place of lovely greenery and crisscrossed with Bridlepaths ready for riding. Strangely this is a place that I don’t know that well even though it’s on my doorstep. PB had a look at Benji’s route and professed it to be excellent and we would’nt need the book as he knew the route and off we went plunging down off the bank.
I’ve become so adept now at saying to myself chin up chin up after my coaching session with Ed that I’m beginning to think of Bruce Forsyth whenever I ride. I don’t know if I’m improving or not but I think there are feint signs of it and certainly on the first run I felt I was doing OK and PB, who can ride anything, said I was looking good. The route was great fun, challenging for me both technically in many places and due to the frozen and snowy ground, but also fitness wise there were some seriously steep sections out of the valley which we criss crossed back and for on different paths. There is only one problem with the route and that is that whenever you pop out of a bridleway there is a pub beckoning. We were good and just stopped for the one.
We came across an incredible frozen tree on the ride caused by an irrigation leak in a farmers field spraying water in a fine mist over the trees that then froze. We had a quick sprint across the field to take a photo but top photographer Carl Milner went along and has done a cracking job of capturing it. On the final stretch of flowing singletrack I really managed to get up some rhythm and controlled speed, not speed for most MTBers but rocket like for the snail and then round the bend came four horses at full gallop ! Rest assured I gave the new brakes a thorough testing. I enjoy sharing the trails and paths with other users and think that I’m good at it but my word that gave me a shock.
All in all it was a great ride so cheers to Benji for the route, looks like the book is going to be a little source of treasure. I’ll definitely be returning to the valley and will be singing this song that I could not get out of my head the whole way round.