I had this week all planned out – Wednesday was going to be a leg-breaking, lung-busting 215km ride from home out across the Strines to Holmfirth, then up the ‘Moss, over the Glossop and Macclesfield, up the Cat and Fiddle and home via Buxton. Then a cold intervened and I decided something a little more low-key and less chest-infection-inducing was more in order.
I decided that I’d tick off another ride on my list instead – the Monsal Trail tunnels. Having ridden on the trail as a youngster, and knowing that the tunnels had been opened up in 2012 after some grant funding to make them safe, I had fancied getting up there and riding the entire length of the trail for some time. As it is flat all the way, I thought it would be less likely to transfer the lurgy to my chest and have me running to the GP for the dreaded antibiotics.
I had already put on my tougher wheels (Hunt 4-Season disc) and tyres (Schwalbe S-One 30mm tubeless) in anticipation of needing more comfort on a longer ride, but these were ideal for tackling the gravel of the trail. The sun was doing its best as I set off, up over the tops via Wessington, then down Rowsley Bar and along the A6 to Bakewell. A shortcut through the Agricultural Centre brought me to Coombs Road and the bottom end of the trail.
Too many leaves and too much pressure in my tyres (70psi) meant a little push up the steepest bit to the trail, but I reckon I’d have been ok if I’d let them down to 50 and stayed seated. Took a leisurely ride on the outward leg, stopping for a few photos of the 6 tunnels along the way, then stopped for lunch at the Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire at the far end of the trail. Let the tyres down to 50psi and made it up the steep and equally leafy incline back up to the trail no problem.
On the way back down the trail (it is overall downhill on the way back, and the wind was kinder) I didn’t stop for photos but was still having to slow down and announce my presence to the myriad families along the way (the disadvantage of half-term). Still managed to keep up a good pace and was soon back at the other end of the trail in Bakewell. The return journey always seems shorter than the outward, even as a grown-up!
Instead of re-tracing my route home, I decided to push the boat out a bit more and try and follow Coombs Road over to Rowsley. Lots of people have been really adventurous with their Mason bikes, and having done a good dose of cobbles, I had been wanting to try some off-road. Turn left under the viaduct coming off the trail and follow the road. Had walked it a number of years back on the White Peak challenge walk, but had never cycled it before. It was pretty lumpy and stony but the low pressure and larger volume of the tyres soaked it all up. Still working on perfecting my gate-closing technique by the time I reached the top, I was really rather enjoying myself.
The descent into Rowsley was a little choppier and muddier than the climb out of Bakewell, but again the Definition took it all in its stride (this is one seriously capable, versatile bike), with the only hairy bit being a patch of mud which turned out to be about six inches deeper than it looked right towards the bottom of the lane before it went to the tarmac road. No punctures or bent wheels, great grip and a massive smile on my face.
Dom Mason calls this Adventure Sport, as he thinks ‘gravel’ is rather a dull term. I’d second this – gravel is more like something you’d put on your driveway than a good description of a blast through the stunning Peak District on a beautiful early Autumn afternoon with the wind on your back, the sun breaking through the clouds and the leaves turning awesome colours and floating down from the trees.
Would I have tried this if I’d not bought the Mason Cycles Definition? Probably not. Do I regret for one second buying a bike from Dom who had only just set up on his own, and the Hunt wheels; again, a new, small British company? Absolutely not. These purchasing decisions have opened up a whole new world of opportunity and cycling community more than buying a bike from a faceless, larger bike manufacturer would ever have done.
I feel very privileged to both ride to work and back every day and also thrash my bike around my beautiful Derbyshire and beyond as part of the Hunt Bike Wheels Open Development team and the Mason Cycles family. Do I know what my next bike will be? Probably, yes. A ‘Flare Orange’ Mason Bokeh which will take me even further off the beaten track than my Definition can, and onto more AdventureSport.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Jonathan Calow for such a great write up of his version of adventure. And of course, if you want to find out more about Jonathan's adventures please head over to his personal blog.