The South Lakes Group
Your local off-
For cyclists who love off road leisure cycling in South Lakes and Yorkshire Dales
Part of the ‘Where the Brew Stop? The off-
Fish Out of Water: The Rough-
In the run-
Sim (photographer for the day) and I met up at the Singletrack Office under leaden skies. I could tell he was overly optimistic about getting any decent pictures, but we loaded up the car with bikes anyway and set off to our rendezvous point at Digley Reservoir above Holmfirth.
After doing at least superfluous circuit of Huddersfield ring road we were finally passing through Holmfirth. Sim mentioned that this was the place they used to film ‘Last Of Summer Wine’. After brief pause we both shot knowing look at each other and smiled. “How appropriate” I said.
As we pulled out of Holmfirth on the fantastically steep and twisty A6024 the clouds suddenly cleared to reveal acres of lovely blue sky and big panoramic views all around. Seems like it was going to be nice day after all.
Pulling into the car park about ten minutes late I was half expecting there to be no-
I was riding a full suspension Santa Cruz with some 2007 bits bolted to it and Sim was on a shiny new lightweight Commencal but I think myself and Sim were far more interested in their bikes than they were in ours. I got the impression that Rough Stuffers aren’t easily seduced by shiny new things, they just want to know if it’s going to work without any hassle... for years.
Their bikes were a testament to this. Most of the group were on mid-
Roger (Brian Parkinson) was riding a 20 year old Saracen mountain bike, fully rigid and with elevated chainstays. He explained to me that he did buy mountain bike a couple years ago ‘with suspension and disc brakes’ but it kept going wrong so he left it to gather dust in his shed and got back on his old trusty Saracen.
Ken was riding a ‘Hill Special’ touring bike -
Time to ride
After a quick group photo it was time to hit the trails. Immediately as led out up the first climb begins my gears begin to jump about everywhere and I was quickly left for dead. I traced the problem down to dislodged cable ferrule and sorted it but then had to bust a gut to catch up. Tortoise and the hare indeed.
I caught up with the group, only to be unceremoniously dropped off back again as they big-
Eventually I caught up with the group Roger guessed I might struggle to keep up without a big ring, through he did say that he like ‘my’ ideal of having a bash guard instead of big ring because he’s always bending chainrings -
We set off down some entertainingly whoopy overgrown doubletrack and although I got ahead (on my modern full susser) I could hear from the sound of his rattling panniers that Roger was not that far behind. I could tell he was giving it his all to keep up and it was only the occasional waterbar that he had to slow for that was holding him back. As we joined a minor road and regrouped, Roger and I exchanged mud-
Feeding the children
All children need regular feeding and so without any further ado the group stopped for our first cafe stop. The cafe stop is clearly an integral part of a Rough Stuff ride and there are several degrees of cafe stop as well. This one was only a ‘small one -
Upon leaving the cafe Sim and I quietly pondered the contents of all the pannier bags draped over these bikes; there’s clearly no need for them to contain any food and drink. (We would never find out what they did actually contain). After a brief debate about which way to head out of the village (“I don’t know, I haven’t done this route for 12 year...”) we were off again.
As the group split and settled into smaller groups of similarly paced riders I found myself riding alongside Peter. It turned out that he’s the General Secretary of the Rough-
I’ll be honest and admit that the ‘gentle poking fun at’ approach was the first angle I thought of when this article was mentioned. After all it’s the easiest thing in the world to raise some entertainment out of ridiculing people who are bit different.
And yet, as I climbed up the rubbly track alongside Peter listening with keen ears to the genuinely fascinating history of the RSF, ridicule was now the last thing on my mind. In the eyes of most folk these chaps should be using their retirement to play golf or go crown green bowling. Instead here they are riding bicycles off-
The RSF can come across as being a tad reactionary when it comes towards the newer ‘fad’ of mountain biking (‘....from America’) but its members have every right to be. They’ve been out there in the hills for years; they just haven’t seen any point in making a big song and dance about it. For the RSF the sudden fashionable uptake of mountain biking must have been like that dreadful moment when your favourite underground band makes it to the mainstream causing you to whine; “But I was into them before they got famous”.
But as the ‘fad’ of mountain biking enters its third decade, and a lot of Rough Stuffers are riding mountain bikes (rather than the traditional touring bike), the lines are blurring and the divisions are thawing, There is a debate within the RSF about their identity -
The reason for riding
As Peter and I crested the top of the climb we saw Roger doing what can only be called ‘sessioning’ a bombhole. I headed on over to join in the playtime. After we’d ridden all the easier drops into the bombhole we begin to dicuss the viability of some of the sketchier looking lines. Roger complained that he’d give them a go if he was able to drop his seatpost. I offered him my multi-
“Oh well” I said and headed off down a drop with 2ft drop halfway down it. I manage not kill myself and smugly pedaled out of the bombhole only to hear the familiar sound of Roger’s rattling panniers behind me followed by brief silence (of airtime) and then the loud ‘thunk’ of panniers touching down on their racks as Roger landed and rode out. Blimey. He then explained that ridding a unicycle had improved his bike handling a lot. He’d bought his first unicycle two weeks before.
The ride continued along some beautiful woodland glade singletrack and then down to a reservoir on a very fast, very rocky descent -
A large part of people’s reaction to the RSF is down to incongruousness. If you’re riding off road you should be under 40, riding a new expensive mountain bike and hucking your way down technical singletrack. You shouldn’t be over 60, riding a touring bike and -
The ride finished and we all wished each other fond farewells. Although we didn’t ride that many miles and what we did ride was fairly tame, due to all the experiences and interactions, the day’s ride was still one of the most memorable rides I’ve done this year. I shall make a conscious effort to inject a little bit of Rough Stuffing into all my riding from now on.
Ken explained that the reason he rides is “not for what’s here” -
This article was first publish in Issue 32, December 2006 of Singletrack mountain bike magazine.