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11th January 2005

Winter Rides 1 - Teesdale Cresta Run

Back in the old days, they built motorcycles to ride in all weathers. And they didn't grit the roads much then, either. Martin Peacock takes his classic on Teesdale's Cresta Run - and survives!

Darlington market place collected a small but disreputable group of old bikes and blokes on that frosty Boxing Day morning. I was there with my one, precious bike and elder daughter. This didn't exactly square with my original plan to ride on fine summer days but she had insisted (Don't they start young?). At least the sun was shining, in fact the roads positively glistened! This was the annual VMCC run to 'High Force,' England's highest waterfall or fine hostelry of the same name, depending on your preference.

You can decided which are small and which are disreputable...

Heading west toward Barnard Castle, it was definitely steady as you go. The frosty countryside sparkled in the sun and the not so distant Pennines were white. Crossing the Tees at Winston took us along the less well travelled byways and need to watch for frozen and slushy patches. Even so we made good progress but it was the side road down to Whorlton bridge which brought the whole party to a halt. The 172-year old bridge is the oldest wrought iron suspension bridge in England which makes it interesting. What really got our attention was the two hundred yards or more of glare ice and frozen snow straight down the side of the valley. Not a spot of grit or salt in evidence. Skis, skates toboggans maybe -- but not bikes, surely?

But our leader was made of sterner stuff. Despite my visions of a classic heap at the foot of the hill, we made it down and across the bridge. Some took to the verges but we trusted in Newton's first law and kept it straight, steady and in first gear. Paradoxically it was the one modern Triumph that had the most trouble. Those semi-slick, wide tyres had all the adhesion of Teflon on that glazed surface.

Next was the steep climb up with a really tight hairpin bend for interest. We'd still be there but the road was mercifully dry around the hairpin and up the steepest section. From there on, the occasional slush and odd ice patches held little fear for we who had braved Teesdale's Cresta Run. Onwards through Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale we wound our way up the hills to High Force.

Note the windblown snow on the side of the car...

The pub was warm, dry and evidently well used to old blokes on old bikes. The beer was real as was the log fire. Excellent company soon grew to a crowd as other, more sensible members arrived in their cars. (I didn't get a picture of High Force -- the waterfall, owing to the overwhelming appeal of the log fire but here's one I prepared earlier).

High Force: Well worth a visit

Despite the cold, the ice and salt caked bike it was a great ride and one already on its way into club lore. My daughter really enjoyed the ride despite the cold, not helped by her eBay leather trousers being somewhere 'in the mail'. It's going to be really hard to ride solo next year.

We took a more direct and well salted route back, enjoying the fine views but still wary. In fact it wasn't until we were back in town that I felt the back slide out on a left turn. It was easily corrected but made me realise that it really wasn't a day for tearing about.

A great ride out, good company and no small sense of achievement. Now we had the tiresome but vital job of cleaning the salt and dirt caked bike and riding gear. Perhaps I should get something less shiny for next year? (And some better gloves).

Winter Biking Stuff on
Out and About over Christmas?

Looks well on the way to be less shiny next year already...


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