Fat Lad Rides the Kepwick Killer

With the end of February rapidly approaching I’d not got a ride planned for the “not-a-new-years-resolution-honest” big ride a month. Local legend and all round nice chap Ackworth Dave stepped in and volunteered to lead us astray round the hills on the North Yorkshire moors. So 28th February arrived and so did quite-fit-for-the-new-guy  JT with his van to take us to the hills.  With Dave picked up, bikes loaded and seemingly enough kit for scaling Everest between us we took to the motorway.  On the drive over it turned out that JT had also grown up around North Yorkshire too and it was my turn to listen as my compatriots reminisced the trailhead commute away.

Pulling up outside Kepwick Village hall, the familiar site of a Bad Brains Jersey swung into view behind the steering column of the approaching car as Emsworth Steve arrived too. There was surprisingly little faff and very quickly we mounted up and headed off. The day before my anticipation was high and my prep included fettling the bike and eating an absolute ton of shit food. The perfect set up for a long day in the hills…

We rolled through the road of the village the tyres buzzing loudly in our ears. Very soon the climbing began and it was up, up, UP! I cleared the first section through much gratuitous use of the granny ring already Dave, Steve and JT were ahead of me and we regrouped at the first gate. Stopping to empty my bladder, Dave’s camelbak bladder had done exactly the same too. Barely a mile done and he had already lost half his water for a long day ahead. We remounted and set off , barely a few yards pedalled and Dave’s chain snapped. Steve rooted about in his Camelbak for a power link while Dave set about getting the dead link out. JT is a come back to the sport so he hovered over Dave’s shoulder whilst the drivetrain operation was performed to learn something new. In the saddle it was climb climb climb again eventually reaching our first summit of 659 feet in 1.6 miles.

Breather done with the trail finally headed back towards sea level the track a touch muddy in places but not at all bad considering the time of year. Running the descent with the dry stone wall parallel to us the trail got steep and narrow using Carol’s mantra of “Be brave!” I had a go at the track that had defeated me all the other times before. Still defeated I dismounted after a near AOT* moment. I’ll be brave next time. Catching up to the other more confident riders in quite literally the valley floor. Rolling over the wet flat path JT pitched himself over the bars exiting one of the stream crossings. We all delved deep into camelbaks to grab a quick bite of energy bar and then it was another brief but steep climb for us.

JT’s somersault turned out not to be without incident, the mech hanger was no longer as true as it had been in it’s best days so adjusting it best we could trailside we were going again soon enough. That is, until his chain snapped. This was not turning out to be our day. We all snapped to the repair installing a power link as quickly as four blokes can and we headed out for our first screaming descent. The never-dry-even-in-August woods were, unsurprisingly, a little sloppy; sucking the speed from our wheels in sporadic bursts. Overcoming these pockets of filth with quick out of the saddle sprints we got to the screamer. Fast, steep, technical but oh so rideable the speedo on the GPS spat out numbers that would make me grin on the skinny tyred steed. Sadly it couldn’t last for ever and the buzz of trail gave way to the hum of tarmac. Not long on the road we cut left to cross the new wooden bridge. Over the arch Dave and I braved the stream crossing whilst JT and Steve decided to try and keep there feet dry. Wimps.

The height lost on the screamer had to be re-earned. Heading out to the porridge soft field climb we found a sheep skull upon the ground. With the club leader and his unhealthy obsession with all things boney not present I handed the soul stealer over to Dave to take this tasteful shot with the remains of one of natures humble creatures.

Laughter finished with we ground our way up the soft slog. Dave and Ste steamed ahead as JT and I had to admit defeat and push from about halfway up. With such a lead on us tail end charlies he had stopped to get a shot of me and JT forcing the handlebars up the grass. Unfortunately for the speedy one I spied his intentions and mounted back up before he could get the photographic evidence of my lack of fitness. However once we all stopped I got this shot instead:

My legs were really feeling the worst of the height gained and I grimaced just a little as we set off again. Crossing the moor we crossed the worlds least travelled road and headed out towards the mast. The climb that takes you past the mast is long and one of those ascents that never actually going uphill it just feels like a rear flat.  On the tops the mist had rolled in and even when the long drag had finished and we were less than a few hundred feet form the tower it was still to all intents invisible.  At the summit of the moor we stopped for lunch in possibly coldest wettest place on ride,with sated appetites but cold limbs we remounted and started the next descent. Each path was a rain worn maze of tough lines and football sized rocks, with each foot of trail getting steeper and more technical still. It was at this time that my rear caliper decided that this was the opportune moment to stop working completely and with every desperate squeeze of the lever to push more fluid out onto the rear rotor. I caught up with guys soon enough and we squelched over the moors to the next section of grateful solid ground.  Catching a breather we stopped for a fettle with the rear of my bike to find that despite there being a distinct lack of any fluid in my braking system the rear brake was binding quite badly. So,with fecked legs and brakes we were only a few yards from the best descent of the day. Fairly wide with yet only a few line choices it was long fast and fun. Dave had been given the head start and my camera to get some action shots of us riding like the bike gods we are. *ahem*

The endorphins of descent soon metamorphosed into lactic suffering ascent too soon as we swapped the dirt divine for a road grueller . I realised by now that my legs were completely cooked and all I could do was settle in and watch the gap between my front wheel and the guys steadily widen. Ste dropped back like the all round fantastic chap that he is and chatted with me to the eventual summit.

The snaking climb back to nirvana relinquished it’s hold on my aching limbs and we stopped for the briefest of moments, time only enough for me to inhale a gel. Then it was onto the trickiest climb of the day. The climb in itself starts of fairly inconspicuous, reasonably steep not all that technical but lurking round a bend it gets steeper yet and then it gets rocky. Starting with baby heads graduating all the way up to slabs of jagged steps that will defeat all but the strongest and most skilled rider. Suffice to say as the the other three lads shot away, I didn’t clear it. At the summit of this stone soul killer there was only one more long climb up the unforgiving moor path. Dave pointed out a parked 4×4 about a third of the way to the horizon promising us all this was the cut off for the last descent and our eventual way home. Long after we had passed said vehicle and the end point becoming my very own Sisyphean task I started to doubt Dave’s parents marital status around the time of his birth. With a huge sigh of “thank feck for that…” we reached the last top of the day we cut left rolling down a boggy path interspersed with the odd section of rocky outcrops.

The Kepwick Killer is club favourite now and I’ve suffered through it a few times now and the path we were following was unfamiliar to me. It turned out it was also unfamiliar to Dave too as with a shout and squeal of sharply pulled brake levers he stopped just before the path disappeared down a cliff face. Turning round we found the correct last piece of descending brilliance and with speed and smiles we shot out back to our awaiting cars. We climbed a total of 3034 feet burning 1803 calories in the process and boy did I feel each and every one. JT legend that he is had brought quite possibly the world’s most moist cake and with no manners required or requested in devoured it as I sat on the village hall step my legs buzzing and aching with the disappointments and achievements of the day already gone.

Fat Lad

* That would be Arse Over Tit moment…