As December came around I kept it interesting, trying to find variations on rides I’ve done before. I set out to link a couple together, hampered by a major road awkwardly positioned in the middle of the loop.
On the plus side this ride was perfect for the winter, as the majority of the tracks involved had a firm base, mud sprayed around but the going remained possible all the way round, with no bogging down into the mud. It added 40-odd km to the total, which I extended a week later with a twin-set of classic Chilterns rides, bringing the bigger bike along to join the fun.
Adding another 60km in total these were old favourites, executed in fog which clung to the beech woodlands. It was muddy and slippery on chalk and roots, with visibility down to much less than it should be and atmosphere in buckets. Things were starting to look likely if I put in a bit of a final push.
That push started on Christmas day. I’ve traditionally ridden in the morning on this day every year and I extended the usual Mendip loop out a little. The usual fun and brilliance of Blackdown took me clattering down and round the valleys, then climbing and throwing the bike down a cheeky downhill. Dropping right from the top the extension heads into Cheddar down a track that is fast and rocky in the dry and like riding on ice in any type of damp as the limestone loses all grip. Of course it was wet and I clung on bravely to get down incident-free. Heading back up the gorge is always a tricky decision, with no option that doesn’t involve a big tough climb. I elected for the route set back from the edge, climbed mostly successfully and then cruised across the top to finish in a surprise sideways rain storm back at the car.
Around 20km on the board and a little break for Christmas, before I was back on the bike on the 27th at Cwm Carn.
I can only put the speed on the climb down to carb-loading in the previous couple of days, especially on turkey. I couldn’t resist taking the Pedalhounds DH option back down the hill, shortening the total distance, but keeping it fun, and putting 13km down.
My secret weapon was going to be several days riding in Wales to try and hit the total with the maximum of fun riding. On cold frosty mornings with the car thermometer reading in the negatives I rolled out, first, onto the trail centre of Nant Yr Arian. This is an interesting trail centre, the singletrack is good, but limited, with the real highlight being the Mask of Zorro section, and there is a brutal fireroad climb at the end to really make you feel the riding. The real beauty is the extension out into the wild. From the top of the centre a track takes you out into the hills. It takes mostly wide tracks around higher hills, along rocky trails that were frozen and beautiful in the low-angled bright winter sun.
It was a taste of wild mid Wales that would be a precursor to a return to the Mach 3 trail at Machynlleth on the following day. The last time I rode here I was out in the hills for 5 hours so it was going to be a big challenge. This time it was a far quicker, thanks to riding alone, and having an idea where I was going (with one navigation error). It remains a big day out, big long tough climbs, and steep loose descents are the order of the day resulting in a satisfying ride that feels remote for much of the time on the bike.
Rolling into the car park I was just 7km short of the overall target. I woke up with a cold and a plan to stop off at Shropshire on the way back East. Lemsipped up and parked in Carding Mill Valley I elected to go for a shortened version of what I’ve done before. This meant a hard climb up the road, a helter-skelter run down Minton Batch, then a fireroad ascent. At this point I had hit the total and started some other calculations. Could I make it to a very neat 2,016km for 2016? Watching the distance tip over I reckoned I’d be close, so stopped thinking about it and tipped over onto the hugely fun, rocky, fast but annoyingly busy with unobservant walkers, descent down Carding Mill Valley. Clattering down avoiding the hikers I still got some big grin factor and forgot the cold for a bit until I carved into the carpark and looked at the total.
There it was. 2,017.3km. A little over the perfect number, but worth a video.