Sunday 4th

With the weather looking half decent on this, another rare Sunday ride out for yours truly, I picked Justin up at Gosforth Park before heading over to Whickham Thorns and the traditional starting point for this little excursion. Chris arrived just as we were ready to saddle up so it looked like just the three of us, recent public discussions on pre-advertised ride availability seemingly not helping to boost our numbers. I can’t see the point of anyone now bothering to try and plot rides well in advance, as I always used to, when apparently no-one is going to take advantage of what’s offered. We descended the hill towards Swalwell and turned up through the estate over to Whickham Bank where who should we find adjusting his jewellery than Davy, much to our surprise and a welcome boost indeed.

It’s been quite a while since I did the Great North Forest ride, almost four years. Having done it many times in the past, originally as part of a fun ride/race organised by Gateshead Council until they ran out of money and couldn’t stage it any longer, this time I thought I’d make it a bit different in keeping with the last two years’ worth of Thursday night rides where we’ve managed to add bits or make some interesting changes to most of the old favourites.

That meant quite a deviation with my changes beginning at Tanfield Railway. We stopped at the normal road crossing to get the revised map out and decided to backtrack (excuse the pun) alongside the railway track and follow the line down the west side into hitherto undiscovered territory. Good move that, and with Chris sniffing out two dead ends we were soon molesting some nice, fresh singletrack where only feet had been before, and it eventually led us to a wide bridle path which, after a mammoth downhill romp on grassy dual track dumped us out near to Causey Arch and that famous ancient railway bridge.

Bit of hike-a-bike required here as the “path” (sorry, we got slightly off-route and ended up in pedestrian land) criss-crossed the river over a series of wooden footbridges and lots of steep steps. Finally it spat us out on the Stanley road. We crossed that and continued our proposed route with another fast grassy descent helping us escape from barking dogs in someone’s back garden.

At the far end of the Tanfield tracks we followed the short diversion I took in 2009 from the Industrial Estate but then made another change dropping into Carrickshill Wood after mistaking a footpath for a bridleway, seems to be becoming a habit probably caused by not wearing my reading glasses. Next stop Hellhole Wood where we had a bit of a play around in the trees as we did in January 2012 and then it was time for Chris and Justin to unleash their newly-discovered treasures in Ouisbrough Woof after a few minutes playing at the jump spot. These new drops even had Davy backing off on his beastie Norco, so you can imagine what state I was in on some of these crazy descents! An ample demonstration of how these two have upped their game over the last few years or maybe simply how I’ve grown old and scared.

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We managed to stop for a few minutes to grab a snack before we decided to head for home, but again chopping off more of that useless and almost featureless Kibblesworth road loop which was always a killer for tired legs. After just a mile and a half on quiet tarmac we were back on the official GNF route, now quite narrow and almost looking like singletrack after years of neglect, while Davy entertained us with one of his infamous riddles which led to quite a discussion on the merits of his humour, or otherwise.

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A very enjoyable ride thanks to my three buddies, again being reasonably gentle with me and not disappearing off into the distance every time an uphill section came along.

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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.

The Best Bike in the World arrives at ASDA!

Well, not actually in the store, but outside in the car park on Thursday night, and it was John Rivers who turned up with it, lucky s**! And as if to prove it's pedigree it resisted all of Matt Holmes' attempts to wreck it on a sharp-edged, very high kerb!

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