The three intrepid riders (Coops, Hamish and Matt) set off promptly from Kirk Michael. There was no reason to stick around as clearly no one else was joining (they all must have been doing their hair and nails and catching up with Eastenders!!) and to boot, it was ‘kin freezing with the SW’ly storm that was prevalent.
Matt commented that he had been blown all the way from Peel (lucky him!!) so with one finger in the air Coops made up a route and we set off….into the wind… toward Glen Wyllan and up the sandy Cooil Dharry track. The shelter did help a bit but being so early doors into the ride, I at least, struggled climbing. And once you stop on that terrain and gradient, it’s a bugger to get going again! The brambles clawing at you from either side like some triffid attack did not help either!!
Onto the tarmac and straight passed ‘Sherman Mansions’ on the climb up to Beinn Y Phott…..a steady and continuous climb, choose your gear, head down and go to that happy place and just ride. Coops and Matt had their climbing legs on and left me in their wake. Eventually catching up, the topic of conversation was ‘where exactly is Beinn y Phott and what is it famous for??? Having web searched it since I now know.
We were blessed by now with the wind at our backs, well Coops and Matt were, I was being blessed with the post Doombar type of wind up my back, a delayed legacy from the Loaghtan night out last Saturday, no wonder the other two chose to keep ahead of me!!! So, left turn into reverse End to End up the Brandy Well track leading to Black mountain. It’s a fun climb, but in all honesty its built to ride down. Still the wind assisted, then we adjourned to discuss route (club rules being clearly ignored as we did not have a quorum!!). By this stage Coops realised that to charge your lights you actually needed to hook them up to the mains first, maybe it’s a MEA thing as he knows how much electricity costs!! He was heard mumbling in a Gollum style “Please work my precious” So with half a light, Coops, Matt and I set off down the Black Mountain track to meet with the Druidale road.
It’s such a lovely run but the track held a few surprise hollows that keep you on your toes. When we got to the end of the track we turned left into Ballaugh Plantation and stuck to the fire roads (honest Bolty) and dropped down a tricky and exhausting downhill track ending up at Ravensdale. Lights or no lights Coops was beaming and was continuing his Gollum chants of “We wants it, we needs it. Must have it precious. I’ll be back, but on my full bounce my precious”. On around into the Hidden Valley, the natural version not the take away. We alerted Matt to the upcoming river crossing and assumed that due to the recent somewhat precipitous weather that the water levels would be seasonally high, so with my sights firmly fixed on the tholtan on the opposing side I launched into the river and assaulted the bank with greater ease than I was anticipating, the others followed like trusting ducklings and we all managed to get through (I think Coops may have stopped to bathe his left foot but I can’t say for certain! Or perhaps he was looking for the ring?) I had to admit to Matt that the river was about as deep then as it was in June….what does that say about our climate!!!
On up the lovely track that eventually gets you to the base of the Ballacob slabs. A bit muddy and a few spin outs later, but again sheltered and away from the storm. Once onto Ballacob I turned left to ascend into the wind and darkness and Coops turned right, as he was low on illumination I thought I’d better act the good trail buddy and stick with him to light his way. So on down the somewhat flooded and gloopy track that eventually leads to the tarmac and into the Sheltered housing on the boarders of Ballaugh county. Left into the head wind and Matt led the Strava attack on the road back into Kirk Michael.
[this next section may just be a literary review of what could have happened next. I’m not saying it did for fear of reprisal and no more cheese cake – Ed]
It is conceivable that some of the riders, after a great two hour spin, may have retired to the Mitre to discuss matters of the day and other relevant topics. We were challenged at the bar by the village inebriate who accused Coops of not being as good a cyclist as her great grandfather!!! She was more drunk than Nicholas Cage in ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ so her words of hurt did not impinge on Coop’s steely and now somewhat steamy broad shoulders. So, as we consumed our welcome cups of tea we reflected on a great ride out and cocked a snoop at those who missed out. It’s a great route which can be extended for more fun with something for everybody. The drop into Ballugh plantation was great if not a little exhausting on my boy arms, but it certainly took one’s mind off the storm and the effects of Doombar, if all but for a brief moment.
Hamish Loaghtan
PS – And not a 29er in site…