The South Lakes 100 was the brainchild of Richard Munro. Initially it had only 40 entrants, but the demand was so high he ended up with over 100 – all of whom booked their places by donating on a Just Giving Page to Jenn’s chosen charities.
The important rules that greeted the participants (not ‘competitors’…) were:
- Firstly, The South Lakes 100 #Jennride is not a RACE.
- It is a bike-packing, self-supported route from Staveley to Dungeon Ghyll and back.
- 100 miles, 90% will be off-road low level with Garburn Pass being the highest point at 1345ft. The route takes in a lot of the well-known bridleways in the area and most importantly passes some great pubs and cafes.
- Have fun! Most Important
- Respect fellow trail users – including 29er riders
Other Rules for the bike packers:
- Check in and check out
- Complete the entire route, under your own power – no drafting
- Be completely self-supported throughout the ride – absolutely no support crews, absolutely no gear sharing
- Only use commercial services that are available to all challengers – no private resupply, no private lodging
- If you have to leave the route, you must re-join from exactly same spot
- No caches of any kind
- No third-party sag wagon offering an easy bail-out option
- No pre-arranged support, which means before you begin your ride – no pre booking a B & B
- No motorised travels by any means during your ride – by all means do so if necessary, but understand if you do your attempt is over
- Gear – nothing required, nothing prohibited
Arriving at Staveley on a gloriously sunny Saturday morning the first thing I noticed was the buzz for the event. Everyone seemed relaxed, eager and excited to go ride 100 miles, buoyed on by the perfect weather conditions. Lots of people were milling around comparing bike setups, some were packing then unpacking to try to reduce the amount of gear or the space it took up.
It was good to check out how other riders had packed compared to my own efforts; my aim was to complete the whole thing in one go so my kit list was a lot smaller than the riders who were bivvying out for the night. I had opted to ride my fat bike loaded with a fuel pod on the stem, 13L saddlebag and a couple of water bottles without having to take a back pack to hopefully avoid any potential back ache in the later hours of the ride.
The difference in bikes and bike packing was vast. Some riders looked like they were going for a quick lap of their local XC loop on their carbon race rigs, others loaded their fat bikes to the max ready for a full on bivvy adventure, still others had huge rucksacks and their enduro bike. It didn’t matter – whatever you were comfortable with or on.
One pretty cool cockpit steup I did see had a dynamo wired from the front hub to a central bag on some loop bars capable of charging tech en route.
Mass start 9.30am after a quick briefing from Richard and some touching words from Tom Hill we were ready for the off, I couldn’t get over how friendly and chilled out everyone was with such a big challenge ahead it was smiles for miles!
The outward leg, Staveley to Old Dungeon Ghyll, started by taking us cross country and dropped us down to Sadgill for the first tough steep techy climb of the day. This was one for the bigger-rubbered bikes, and we crawled up and over to Stile End.
From here we were soon at Garburn Pass for the highest hike-a-bike of the event; a long rock strewn push to the summit, with blue skies and the sun beating down. The extra weight added to the bikes really made an impact, but did nothing to dampen spirits. And awaiting us at the top was adventure photographer James Kirby to catch us all looking our ‘best’!
Descending off the top of Garburn is a super long downhill, as fast as you dare go over a mix of loose rock and tyre shredding slate all the way down to the valley floor with a slight detour past Dubs reservoir to lengthen the grin factor even further.
With the (so called) hardest part of the ride done, we pushed on over to Ambleside via another great bridleway – Jenkins Crag – then on to the Coffin Rd round the back of Rydal to Grasmere onto Elterwater. Conveniently, we then passed a local pub which had a beer garden that was too tempting for some – and why not? With the end of the outward leg now only a short distance away, we carried on with the plan of having a bite to eat and refreshment at The Old Dungeon Ghyll Inn. I was not the only one with this idea when we arrived, and there was already a good bunch tucking into food and beer.
By now it was 3.30pm – 38 miles and six hours in. Hmm. If I was doing this in one, it was going to take at least 14 hours (and that’s with no rest) but I was still feeling good and now, fuelled up, it was time to tackle the return leg of 62 miles. So far the route had been a great mix of Lake District favourites – which happily continued to Little Langdale, Iron Keld and Hawkshead, where we enjoyed an ice cream before climbing into Grizedale and joining a section of the North Face trail to take us deep into the forest.
On reaching High Parkamoor I knew we were in for a treat; this is the best singletrack descent of the day, known locally [and weirdly – Ed] as ‘Grandad, Dad and The Dentist’. It’s a grin inducing trail from top to bottom with a blend of fast rooty rocky Lakes goodness popping you out at Satterthwaite – just what was needed at the eleventh hour! A flying stop at The Eagles Head for a salty bowl of chips to fight of the threat of cramps was next – well that was the excuse anyway.
By this point we had not seen any fellow riders for a while. From here we took the Breasty Haw climb and make our way out of Grizedale and through High Dale Park to Lake Windermere. A short pedal along the shore followed before we turned up a steep leg-burning techy climb just as we needed to turn the lights on.
I was holding out as long as I could with the fear my battery might not last the night with around 30 miles still to go, and at last we saw someone setting up his bivi at Moss Eccles tarn. It looked ace; he was using his wheels as the frame for a sheet tied over the top creating almost a tunnel to crawl under and sleep – all good except it was now bloody cold and I was glad to be riding to keeping warm.
A little further on you could just make out other riders bivvying with the moonlight reflecting off tarps, tents and the other various bits kit lying about. I resisted the urge to ride past shouting “Good night John boy”, and I pedalled on with Jenkins Crag now only a stone`s throw away – and from there we weren’t far off the finish.
Climbing, pushing, walking up Jenkins Cragg I was now starting to feel the full effects of the day so far – sunburn, aching legs, fatigue and hunger. I had a quick sit down for minute. On the springy mossy ground, I toyed with the idea of 5 minutes kip… but no. Must crack on. And before long I was turning onto High Borrans Lane for the last hour or so of riding, but for some reason the part I was dreading most was ahead – the Green Quarter pull up onto Staveley Fell.
Finally there was a light bobbing away in the distance; another rider who had intended to bivvy but just kept going and going to the point of ‘I’ve got this far I may as well finish it off’. He was still in good spirits, carrying on the theme of the day. A short but fast blast down to Kentmere Hall was next before the Green Quarter climb which felt like an endless grassy slope, so late into the ride (and early morning – it was now 2am). I had been out on my bike for 17 hours. Bloody ridiculous – but what fun! After a ride walk/push/ride/walk/push to the top of Green Quarter I knew it was pretty much all downhill from here with a little treat of the HP Woods downhill to ensure you arrived back to the car grinning from ear to ear even after 17 hours 25 minutes – at nearly 3am in the morning.
Back at the start there were are few riders who were already back with their bikes on the racks enjoying some well earned shut eye in their vehicles – and so was I once the return log book was signed.
I noticed one rider logged back in at 9pm! That’s only 11½ hours! Was this a dream or was he riding an e-bike? I checked later to find he was a super fast XC whippet – good effort, that man.
Around 9am I started to hear some of the bivvy riders coming back after an early start collecting their welcome back beers and still smiling, which for me sums up the whole event for me smiles: laughs, new friendships and just a really nice feeling going on – which is amazing considering the ask of the ride. 100 miles over 12,200ft of mostly tough elevation in the Lake District – that’s only 16 miles less than the Fred Whitton, off road, with over 2000ft more climbing!
Cheers to Richard Munro for organising such a great ride out with friends new and old, showcasing the awesome trails we have here in the Lake District.
Words by: Stu Taylor
Photos by : James Kirkby http://www.jameskirby.me.uk