Riding in Swaledale

Swaledale, North Yorkshire
Looking East along Swaledale, from Crackpot

This month I revisited Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales, for the first time in 17 years on a bike. It’s a place that is very special to me.

Swaledale is a brilliant place for mountain biking. I first discovered this around the age of 14, so I think part of the attraction is nostalgia. Whenever I visit I get the same feeling of discovery and independence that I did as a teenager, being allowed to roam around the Dale without Mum and Dad in tow.

On subsequent visits I made new friends, reaffirmed existing friendships and found new confidence on the bike.

Swaledale is far enough from home for a weekend visit to feel like a stretch, but still doable without booking a holiday.

The added bonus is a hamlet round almost every corner, and less of the bleakness and crowds of, say, Scotland.

There are loads of great places to ride mountain bikes in the UK, but what makes the Dales special in particular are an abundance of trails, and loads of great viewpoints. I’ve come to realise over the years that regularly riding, running or walking to the top of a hill or mountain, and savouring the view in rain or shine, is really important to my wellbeing.


Different shades of cool

Since January, I’ve spent quite a lot of time hanging around London Bridge station. If you commute through there, you probably have as well. The upside is that I get to ponder – at length – the glossy advertising on the large screens suspended above the concourse. It’s useful to see different creative approaches, and how different brands are integrating social with their above-the-line work. Recently Oakley started running some short films about people’s sporting obsessions. But at first, I thought I was watching a cycle safety video from the London Mayor’s office. Take a look below and see what you think:

Imagine watching it with no subtitles, and hopefully you’ll understand why I was surprised and then a bit shocked to find out it is an advert for sunglasses. As a bystander to a cycle fatality in London a couple of years ago, and a daily cyclist myself, I was pretty cross that Oakley thought this kind of riding in London was an acceptable way to promote their product. I noted that they have an active customer service Twitter account, and assumed their team were sat somewhere in California, naive to the risks of cycling in London. I got stuck in:

There’s a happy outcome too, I think. It took a few days, but Oakley emailed me and they have agreed to edit the film, and invited me to a safety workshop they are hosting in London. I’m not sure whether it was my correspondence that did this, or interventions from others, but either way good on Oakley for responding and agreeing to edit the film. To date, I haven’t seen the film being shown again at London Bridge. If you see it, let me know how it has changed.

Thank you

I’m writing this post with my legs stretched out in front of me, hoping they won’t be quite as painful tomorrow morning.

A little while back I blogged about a forthcoming bike ride from London to Brighton and back again. My good friend Andrew and I arrived home this afternoon after completing the 110-odd mile round trip, during two days.

Brighton beach
A site for sore, er, eyes

Although we both do a fair bit of cycling, a few miles hammering along muddy tracks, or commuting to the office, don’t really compare to spending hour after hour in the saddle. For us, this represents quite an achievement.

Most importantly, we raised more than £500 for the British Heart Foundation. A big thank you to all our sponsors. I am especially grateful to those fellow tweeters and bloggers who readily sponsored us, despite the fact that in some cases I may only have met them once or twice.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, mind. The organised ride, on Sunday 17 June was very popular and, frankly, nerve-wracking with so many bikes and abilities flying around.

Other low points included:

  • Arriving at our overnight accommodation in Brighton to find we had a double bed, rather than a twin room
  • Having to push Andrew off me during the night (see above)
  • Being overtaken by a cyclist dressed as Batman, while riding *up* Ditchling Beacon
  • Arriving at one of my local pubs, certain we would be greeted as heroes, only to find 60 cyclists who had ridden there from Paris

On a positive note, the more fun bits:

  • The views from the top of the South Downs yesterday
  • Looking back at the South Downs, from the North Downs, today, and feeling a definite rush from being able to see the geography we had covered
  • Checking Foursquare at the top of Ditchling Beacon, to be greeted with a tip from none other than Nick Jones
  • A cold beer at home

Suggestions for our next challenge gratefully received.