D2D (Dumfries to Durham)

With Ride London-Surrey 100 ever approaching, I figured I’d better get a representative ride in beforehand. Liz was booked in on a course at The Chrichton in Dumfries, and we had taken the opportunity of a long weekend in Scotland… but neglected to book any accommodation! Our “Plan B” was to stay at a mates place in Lesmahagow (even though she was in Portugal), and we had a lovely day up on the Friday, exploring Kirkcudbright.

On Saturday we landed in Dumfries at The Chrichton, Liz went to her course… and I set off to ride home to County Durham!

The first section along the B-road to Annan and on to Gretna was pan-flat, with a side/tailwind and went along at a rapid pace. Hopefully this will model the run out of London to the Surrey Hills. Gretna was too awful to stop, so just inside England I had a quick break to text Liz on progress and have a piece of her wonderful chocolate brownie.

Next was the flat but depressing section next to the motorway towards Carlisle. Fast, but only yards from the speeding traffic. Soon you turn left/east and head into rural backroads between Longtown and Brampton. This was not pan-flat, but not too far from it, and any downs would get you up the next up, if that makes sense. Absolutely beautiful scenery, and certainly somewhere I’d like to get back to.

Whereas the first section to Gretna had the Solway Firth off in the distance on the right, as I approached the Roman Wall at Gilsland, off in the distance on the right were the North Pennines, and the second half of the ride! Things looked set to get “a bit harder.”

Gilsland was a café stop to refuel, and on to Greenhead and Haltwhistle. Somewhere along the way an annoying knocking noise had developed on the bike. Hmmm, maybe time to get the bike serviced. Later on I spotted it was a broken spoke, and when going slowly up the hills the spoke was moving back and forth through the hole in the hub, making it sound like a dodgy bearing. Once this was wrapped around an adjacent spoke, all was quiet again.

Negotiating the railway line and A69 was a navigational challenge, and the first of the real hills. Crawling up Penmeller Common was painful, but the descent to Bearsbridge in the valley of the River West Allen was enjoyable. However, it was followed immediately by another climb up to Keenley where I stopped to text Liz an update. The descent to Allendale was well-earned, but with a short pull up from the river to the village hurting tired legs. This was probably my lowest ebb on the ride. I stopped for a shandy and crisps at the pub, and had there been any phone service would probably have arranged for Liz to pick me up here on her way back. However, no service, so onwards and upwards (literally) and a climb into the headwind to Allenheads.

On arriving at Allenheads, I knew I just had the brutal climb up to the border with County Durham, beside the ski tows and the highest point of the ride. I rode up after two guys on the coast-to-coast. We had a nice chat near the summit. Psychologically I knew the worst was over: what followed was now a long descent to Rookhope, Stanhope, and then down Weardale following the river (so generally downhill). This gave me a second wind and I was flying again.

From Stanhope I took the back road to Frosterley, where I was obliged to join the main road. This was the worst part of the ride, particularly the last climb up to the A68 where the only close passes of the day occurred.

Once at the A68, a right turn, and a mile down the road and I’m home! Just short of a hundred miles, beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, and hopefully ideal training for a few weeks when I head south for a trip into Surrey!

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The following day I felt it would be wise to spin out my legs, so met up with Adam for a mountain biking trip into the forest. Why wouldn’t the aggressive climbs with short bursts of power be just the thing my legs needed after yesterday? Sure enough, it hurt, and the odd section was walked. However, the restorative powers of a roast beef lunch and shandy meant the second major cross-moor climb of the day was completed in better style than the first. Even managed to pick up a few Strava PBs on the red trail on the way back. Luckily Adam had been pushing it on his Saturday ride, so I didn’t even need to persuade him to skip “heart attack hill:” he even suggested it!

Next stop: getting that spoke fixed and an upcoming long weekend of mountain biking in the Lake District!