A hammock microadventure! Gear test for the upcoming Tour of Scotland.

Rolling in at 3.30am “a little worse for wear” and then waking at 8am to help get up your 2.5 year old is hardly ideal prep for a quick cycle tour, or #microadventure as i prefer to call it (as championed by the fantastic Alistair Humphreys – if you’ve not heard of his book, look for it and buy it!)

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The night before was my leaving do from work, not a big move (changing department) but a move nether the less and i was out in force to celebrate. Upon agreeing to this date, it suddenly dawned on me i’d planned a ride with Matt (Andy was unfortunately unavailable as he was in the big smoke for a 30th birthday!) Not wanting to be a let down Larry, we agreed to cut the mileage on the Saturday from the planned 100, to just 53 (a very wise move!) This would enable me to have a couple of jars & set off from Nottingham to the Fieldhead campsite in Edale on a more direct (but not less fantastic) route.

The bike loaded up the night before going out, it was absolutely overkill carrying all the gear for one night however this is a gear test after all. Carrying everything i’ll be taking to the Highlands next month and ensuring it all works!

12pm was the agreed meeting time but i was already late from the off. 11.30am was my depart time (from the centre of Nottingham) and i was meeting Matt in Watnall, a quick text let him know i’d be there at 12.20pm. The 8 miles ride there was slow and hard, a sign of things to come!

I got to the Oak in Watnall at the same time as Matt so no mesing about waiting. Great timing in the end! From here it’s undulating out of Nottinghamshire, the route took us via Greasley, Underwood, Westwood, Ironville, Riddings and finally Swanwick before we crossed the A38. I commented to Matt that if this was the Crystal Maze then this section would definately be the Industrial zone! After Swanwick a right turn and the peaks open up. This is where you know you’re in a truly magical part of the UK – how lucky am i that within 20 miles of my door i’m on the edge of the Peaks!

Today the route takes us around the edge of Crich, climbing from 430ft to over 1000ft in just 3 miles. Nice little leg warmers and the beer sweats! We pass over the edge of the peaks now (to the right of Matlock), looking behind us its looking dark – thanks god we’ve left that behind us. The suns out and it’s looking promising. 10 minutes later, whats the black bit of sky over… oh. Yup, we’re heading straight for it. Quite surreal with the sun shining and the weather closing down on us – there was no way we would miss this. A brief talk that said as soon as we feel the first drops we’d stop to don jackets & also if we saw any building / barn we’d wait it out. As we were up on the tops it was slim picking for anywhere to hide from it. The rain started and we got the jackets on, just in time. Then it was biblical! Bloody god job we got the jackets on, fortunately there was a little copse so we lifted the bikes from the roadside and stood under a few trees. Not perfect but any port in a storm and that! This gave us the oportunity for a bit of re-fuelling. (a Gold Bar and Cadbury Brunch bar if you’re interested).

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To press on through would have been foolhardy. On fully loaded bikes where you can barely see due to the weather would have been daft to try. 20 minutes later it had passed and we were on our way again. Within 10 minutes of setting off, the jackets were packed back away and it was lovely weather again!

Almost time to descend, coming off the moors toward Beeley was an incredible descent. Only 6 minutes to cover the 2.5 miles off the top the views opened up! (Really wish i took pictures here but was too busy taking it in). From Beeley we followed the river Derwent for a while, firstly passing Chatsworth House (again fantastic views), then past Baslow, Calver, Grindleford and into Hathersage.

Not long to the campsite now, from Hathersage it’s only about 10 miles. Because of this, when we were passing through Hathersage i failed to shout up for a stop when i saw a Bakers with the most delicious looking sausage rolls. Only 10 miles i though, we’d soon be having dinner! So on we rolled, passing the road up to Snake Pass onwards towards Hope. As i was fuelled only by a Bacon buttie, bowl of Fruit and fibre, Gold bar and Brunch bar i was feeling it. I could tell i was getting “the bonk”. Dreaming about the thought of a Sausage roll i suggested we pop in the next place we see and i was flagging. (we had been riding into a headwind all day!)

We got to Hope, and no we didn’t find a nice Bakers like we passed in Hathersage – it was a Spa. Nevermind. a Banana, Sausage roll, bag of crisps and a flapjack later and i was re-fuelled for the 6 miles to Edale. Supplies picked up for the campsite too – the 5p carrier bag was just tied onto the saddle bag for the last leg. The next 6 miles were ultimately easier now i had some sustenance and we rocked up to the campsite about 4.50pm.

Paid up, we went searching for our pitches. Matt has gone all traditional and has his Vango Tempest tent. Me however, i’ll be taking a Bivi bag (Alpkit Hunka) and a Hammock (DD Superlight) paired with a Tarp (Alpkit Rig 3.5). The campsite had a great pitch next to the stream and 2 trees placed at the perfect distance apart – decision made. Hammock it is!

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The hammock went up in 2 minutes, awesome! Matt was still trying to take his panniers off the bike and i was sitting inside the hammock already. The tarp went up with ease a few minutes later and kit was unpacked. Next was the indignity of changing in the open (the only problem stopping on a campsite using a hammock). The towel came out and did its job of protecting my modesty (and protecting the campers from the view of my bare white arse). All ready, Matt was still getting the tent ready so i got a brew on the go. I’ve a cracking little cooking set up, Alpkit Kraku stove (about the size of a AA battery), 100g primus canister & MyTi 650 mug. perfect for the solo adventurer and making a brew for two!

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Coffee drunk, Matt set up. Time for some snap. Bacon Supernoodles, Pork pie with pickle, crisps and a flapjack. Stuff of champions. Next up – pub! Edale has two great pubs, the Ramblers Inn and the Old Nags head.

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They both cater for the outdoorsy types accepting muddy boots, dogs and two cyclists. Being at the opposite ends of the village and the campsite being in the middle. We jumped on the bikes and took advantage of having them with us. Ramblers Inn first for another light lunch (Bacon and Brie with chunky chips!) and a couple of pints of “Pennine Way”. There was a folk type group playing music and the atmosphere was great! Next up we rode to the Old Nags Head, pint of Blonde beer and a Whiskey night cap did the trick. Rolling back down the hill we made it back to the campsite for only 9.30pm where it was now pitch black.

Bikes secured and ready to jump in the hammock for my first nights kip in one ever! Fell asleep relatively quickly (owing to the lack of sleep the previous night no doubt). I woke at 12am with a cold nose and needing the loo. Ignoring it and warming my face i drifted off and woks again due to the cold at 1.30am (where i braved it out of the hammock to “admire the view”). 4am was the next wake up – cold nose and feet this time, 7am again was the same before getting out of the hammock at 8am.

I knew the hammock would be chillier (due to the air flow) but bar a couple of time waking up it wasn’t that bad. Cold nose will be remedied for Scotland by taking another buff to wear around my neck and pulling up when/if needed at night. And the cold feet will be sorted by a thicker pair of socks. I used a Vango Ultralight mat in the hammock along with Mountain Equipment Helium 250 sleeping bag.

Breakfast consisted of another pack of Bacon Supernoodles, Pork Pie and pickle, Flapjack and a cup of coffee. Not my usual breakfast menu but efferctive and full of calories for the day ahead.

Todays weather – one word. It’s glorious! Barely a cloud in the sky, it’s going to be a good day to be on the bike riding home. The route is the same as we came in on yesterday – this was more about riding the bikes loaded and using the kit in a scenario other than in the backyard.

Packing away, this is where I was a bit slower than setting up. Going for a lightweight approach means everything has it’s place and it’s a case of packing & repacking so it’s all just right. I’ve not gone for panniers or a rack on the bike. I have a Alpkit Kanga and Roo pouch up front holding a 5l drybag with the Sleeping bag, tarp and hammock in (along with various bits of para cord for the guys). Topeak top tube bag with on bike snap (such as choccie bars etc). Alpkit top tube bag below the saddle with bike tools in. Alpkit Possum frame bag with a mini track pump, pegs, wd40, poles for the tarp and other misc stuff. Finally at the back is a Carradice Super C saddle bag with clothing, cooking equipment, food, etc. On the top is a dry bag with the sleeping mat strapped to it.

You may notice I’ve a few Alpkit items, this is for good reason – they are local to me (Eastwood) and on my commute home I can extend it slightly and pop in for bits and bobs. This makes them particularly convenient to get stuff from – and i love their Ethos! Simple. (I’ve a similar thing with Carradice products). I’m not in any way connected to either of these brands, nor have I been supplied with their products etc (i’d love too though!) so mine is a fair and honest opinion of the service and products form them.

Anyway, brekkie eat and bags (finally packed) we hit the road at just after 10am. Same route back towards Hope (Mam Nick can wait for another day when i’m not on a loaded bike), we must pass 30 or so cyclists before we reach Hope. Much quicker progress on the bikes today, what a difference a nights sleep, plenty of food and a bit of a tailwind in the sunshine does for your speed!

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We eat up the miles, going through Hope, Hathersage and back toward Baslow. Enjoying the blue skies and lovely weather. Quick 5 minute stop here to take on a banana and we’re up and running again back towards Chatsworth. We stop on a bench just inside the estate to check on the phones (refreshing as we had no signal at all in Edale so just checking in with loved ones and letting them know when to expect us home). A peleton of 40 or so cyclists pass us as we sit – what a day to be on the bikes.

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Out of Chatsworth and its the days big climb. The Beeley Moor hill climb. 2.3 miles long with a elevation gain of 733ft. One to spin up nice and steady on a loaded bike admiring the views. Matt gets to the top first and i’m a minute or so later. We plod on again making great time and even overtake a few chaps on their Sunday best bikes (think they were surprised to be overtaken by us on loaded bikes but the legs were feeling good and we had them on a uphill section of all places).

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Stop off at Kaths café near Riber for a very nice Corned Beef and Pickle Toastie followed by a Bakewell Pudding. Back on the road after the 45 minute stop (the weather was so nice we sat in the sunshine outdoors!). Good progress again, back through Crich and the industrial Notts. Dropped Matt off at Watnall and I rolled home. Got back in for 3pm, 104 miles covered over the two days  – quick shower and still have the afternoon to spend with the Mrs and my lad.

Sat here now on the Sunday night writing this with a bit of sunburn. Cyclist tan off to a start now then!

Great weekend, definitely do it again and learned some valuble lessons for the big trip next month! Just goes to show you don’t need a “big” idea for a microadventure, just head out and do it!

Strava – Ride out – https://www.strava.com/activities/292935708

Ride to Edale

Strave – Ride Home – https://www.strava.com/activities/292935776

Ride home from Edale

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