Sonder Gravel Series Keswick
Sonder Gravel Series Keswick, March 2020
Ey up. Bit pushed for time on this write up so I'll let the images do the talking and just provide some staccato commentary. Any problems with that? Let's take this outside.
Turned up in Keswick for the last of the hugely popular Sonder Gravel Series. Outdoor Provisions were gladly supporting today - every rider gets an OP bar or two to stuff in a jersey pocket or frame bag. The store was packed with fresh-air-heads. All entry fees go to the Alpkit Foundation.
Not ridden much this year but thinking 'it's only 47km, how hard can it be?'. Offer to take some photo's and act as sweeper... excuses in early.
Many Sonders. What is the group term for this?
Mark is in actual flip flips. It is legit freezing.
Short brief to remind folk that it's an unsupported ride and to Be Nice and Say Hi.
Roll out from the store up past the famous Moot Hall.
Start to climb immediately up to Castlerigg Stone Circle. Nice to warm up.
First section of off-road through St Johns in the Vale.
Lovely. Fast. Then very muddy.
Views across the valley to riders already on the slopes of up the Old Coach Road.
Farmer on a quad bike stops to enjoy watching us slip and slide our way down the valley. He smiles. Thinks we're idiots.
Lower tyre pressure/better bike handling required in this slop.
This the standard use of 'gravel' bike on most UK 'gravel' rides.
Most folks ride The Old Coach road the other way round, for good reason.
However aided by a ripping tailwind and a bit of hike-a-bike the ascent isn't so bad.
On the top, big views open up and patches of light and shadows move quickly around us.
This section is VERY GOOD.
Blencathra is dusted in snow - Sharp Edge clearly visible and looking... sharp.
Ahead gives views right out to the North Pennines.
Patches of snow still left on the road.
Realising that this tailwind is going to be a whopping headwind on the way home...
The stabby climbs and little hike-a-bike sections may take their toll.
Bonus points for bike rides that have river crossings.
Points deducted for anyone who puts a foot in, like I did.
My right foot is now an ice block.
Exit the old coach road at Dockray, tack on a little muddy loop and a sheltered Outdoor Provisions stop. Dependable, portable, tasty is exactly what we need right now. Tom combines with a banana, top combo.
Buzz through a dreamy little hard pack flowing gravel section before heading down to Troutbeck Inn where I tell everyone that would listen I used to work as pot wash for £2.75/hour back in the day.
Turn left and hit the headwind hard, grinding along the back roads either side of the A66.
The last section is lovely, but a little sadistic.
The (flat and sheltered) Old Railway into Keswick is still closed for major bridge repairs so we head up and round the side of Latrigg on some more mucky, punchy singletrack. Keswick is right there but we're somehow not in it!
Finally we break into town via the pump track, last riders back, or close. The Alpkit store is still packed with happy, muddy faces sipping soup and drinking Kirby Lonsdale Brewery Singletrack Black IPA.
In need of hot soup. Add what's left of the crisp bowl as a kind of crouton. Burn my mouth a bit. Don't really care. Stoked.
Same again next year please Sonder, ta.