I've not been mountain biking long, and only really took it up as something that would get me out in the hills that I could do on my own (i.e. less dangerous than mountaineering, climbing or kayaking) and wasn't just walking. I thought that given that I had some time this summer, I would have a go at some bike packing, and though that, given I am generally happy with long days in the hills on foot climbing, that being on a bike for the same amount of time wouldn't be a massive stretch, I saw the Lakeland 200 route on the internet, and thought I'd give it a go over 3 days.
Pulling together all the kit was pretty straight forward, I already had the dry bags etc. and did a basic run on the bike to get in and climb at Ben Alder earlier in the year (with winter climbing gear on the bike. That time I used bunjees to hold an Ortileb dry bag to the bars, but it was too bouncy, so I made my self a bar roll harness type thing which straps round the bag and the bars, and fastens it to the stem to hold it in place - I might add another strap to the bottom, and this jumps up when you go over anything too big. I also made a frame bag, both from some nice cheap cordura, pretty easy on the sewing machine, only took a couple of evenings (I can do some proper pictures on request).
So, I mapped out the route on my lakes map, got my train tickets - 2 singles to Oxenholme (first mistake) from stafford, £9 each way, bargain. I should have got tickets right through to Staveley - this ride isn't far, but I could have done with the extra time and legs come later in the trip.
It was hot, but this was ok, I survived.
The first day went ok, I rode the route as planned, generally didn't have any navigational problems, I missed a turn on the map and ended up going up the wrong bit of bridleway (in the picture above - past Dubbs tarn) but it all went to the same place and I wasn't being too fussy about the route, I just carried on.
It all went well till I got to Grizedale, actually, it went well till I got to Esthwaite water - the turning off before you enter Grizedale forest, in the valley before Grizedale itself - the map has a Bridlepath with a track on it, and when I got to the trail centre, later in the day it says there is a Green Lane - but I was entirely unable to find it...so I took off up a forestry track in vaguely the right direction and went for it, after sliding along the muddy forestry road and then much bashing through Bracken when it went off in the wrong direction, I emerged at the top on to some road or other - which wasn't on my map - it did have cars on it, so wasn't just a forestry road. I was pretty stumped. I went up the road to find a path through, I went down the road, to find a path through. No where could I find any path through...so I sacked it off and went down the road. I eventually found a turning which took me back up the valley into Grizedale and followed it up to the trail centre, used the bogs, and pressed on (my third mistake was not looking at the trail centre map...). Found the Bridle path, pressed on up the hill. The problem with this section was that whilst there are lots of nice paths if you are following a way makred trail, if you actually want the bridle path, then the marking is less often, and unlike everywhere else, it's not clear which is which - so I guessed, I should have looked at which turnings were which and what correspnded to what on my map - but I failed to, I spent an hour riding round the forest, only find myself descending back down into the same bloody valley I started in, so I sacked it off for the day and went to the campsite.
End of day one.
Having established how I'd screwed up the day before, first thing in the morning on day 2, I cracked on, checked the trail centre map and clear Grizedale pretty quickly, it's actually a really nice ride up and over, down into Coniston.
The problem came when I was descending, for some unknown reason, my chain snapped. So I stopped, popped off the links and went to add in a split link from my little tub in my tool kit - but it wasn't there...still not sure where it is. So I couldn't. Luck would have it that the break was just 5 or so links along from the split link in the chain already, so I popped them off and re-linked the chain - this meant there was significant restriction in the gears available and I was now nursing the bike (I forgot to mention that I had already used both my spare inner tubes because the rim tape had slipped on the front wheel causing the wheel to cut through the base of two separate valves.) I got into Coniston at around 0830, thinking that there must be somewhere I can buy a split link and some inner tubes...but no, 0900 came and went: "There are 2 bike shops in the lakes, both of them are in Ambleside" so I could either nurse the bike over the rest of the course, or sack it off and go to Ambleside. I tried for the first, and on the first climb changed into the wrong gear and folded the cassette. I then rode (with even less gears now) to Ambleside and got the cassette and the chain changed. (Thank you Ghyllside cycles for being great).
At this point, I had sacked off the lakeland 200, I think without the mechanicals and the second of 2 navigational errors, I would probably have finished it (just) within my 3 day time limit - I was pretty hard going on the first day, but with the 12km extra before I started, and the 10km or so of going round in circles in Grizedale forest, I think I did around 72km in the first day - with better navigation that would have put me well down the Walna Scar road by the end of the day.
I spent the second night in YHA ambleside, bloody hot. I went for a nice ride in the afternoon after I got thoe Ambleside and the bike was fixed - up Loughrigg tarn and down Loughrigg terrace, very good fun indeed, then day three I went up and over to Troutbeck via Robin Lane (retracing earlier steps) then over the south side of Kentmere Park (rather than the Garburn Road) which has some great Bridleways, then down into Kentmere and back out over to Longsleddle via Skeggleswater and down the Sprint valley into Kendal.
I'll have another go at some point, probably next year, maybe later in the year - I think I can do it in 3 days, and in the end I must have done 150km all in all even with my mishaps, so it certainly wasn't a wasted trip. There was a bunch of stuff that I now know I can probably leave at home and slim down the kit list even further as well.