In association with Hope Technology
Hope Technology’s PrePeaks is a non-competitive event that offers a challenging loop of the Yorkshire Dales this August. To find out more, we sent Chipps and Barney for a look at some of the terrain with local lad (and current Three Peaks champion) Paul Oldham… Chipps takes up the story:
Every time I ride in the epic Yorkshire Dales, I think ‘Wow, I must come up here and ride again soon’ – and then never do. Quite often, my sole visit for the year is for the annual, classic cyclocross race, the Three Peaks Challenge. However, much of the terrain used for the race is on private land and only accessible on bikes for that one day a year.
For those riders who don’t live in the rocky (and sometimes steep) north, the hard, stony and bedrock tracks, rolling roads and seemingly endless climbs of the Three Peaks can come as a huge shock. There are few opportunities around that will let you get a taste of that kind of terrain, unless you happen to have a friend who’s willing to show you round some of the many miles of rocky tracks that make up some of the ancient roads and ways around this surprisingly empty county.
Most riders, though, have no intention on entering such a crazy event as the Three Peaks (it’s sold out this year anyway) but many of them would like to test themselves against the terrain in which it’s held and in which those hardy souls entering the Peaks are trying to train.
And finally, some riders just want a good day out with their pals, in the middle of great scenery, stopping at the top of every hill for a chat and a Jelly Baby, bombing (or pootling) down the other side and rewarding themselves with all of the food and drink for doing so.
It’s for all of these groups of riders that Hope Technology decided to organise its PrePeaks event. With the Pennine Bridleway starting a couple of hundred metres from the factory doors, and off-road bridleways, tracks and tiny back roads branching out in all directions, it made sense to organise a day out, taking in the very best of the Yorkshire Dales terrain from the factory. After all, not only is Hope close to where the Three Peaks is held, it employs, or sponsors riders who can claim the last, solid dozen, consecutive victories in the event – and it was to riders like current champion (and Hope R&D engineer Paul Oldham) that it turned for advice on how to put together a challenging, but rewarding loop around the Dales for the Hope PrePeaks event.
As luck would have it, Paul was free on the day we went to preview this year’s PrePeaks course. So, not only were we being shown round by one of the riders who helped put the route together, but Paul is the reigning Three Peaks Cyclocross champion too. Fortunately, for Barney and myself, the PrePeaks is definitely not a race, so Paul was happy to ride at our pace. And just in case he changed his mind about that , we brought e-Bikes and spare batteries.
The route makes the most of the endless quiet back roads in this area, known as ‘the gateway to the Dales’ before heading off onto some of the ancient tracks that make up the Pennine Bridleway and other old trade routes and cart tracks from years gone by. You’ll certainly get your fill of dry stone walls in one day. Paul skipped alongside on his ‘cross bike as Barney and I tried matching his easy speed on our e-bikes. It turns out that all bikes are welcome on the event, even e-bikes – in fact, many friends and couples have brought an e-bike/push bike combo in order to enable both riders to match the pace of the faster rider. As we were doing…
Paul took time to point out some of the scenery that the event travels through: way down there was Malham Tarn and over there in the distance, we could see the anvil-top mountain of Pen y Ghent, the final challenge in the Three Peaks ‘cross race. This is definitely Peaks country, and Paul uses many of the tracks we were riding as his own training ground. The tops of Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough are off-limits to bikes except for that one day a year, so Paul (and many of the other top riders) often trains on the tracks we were riding. Here, on a fast, loose singletrack, was his surrogate top of Whernside, the fast and windswept bit, before the steps and waterbars take over lower down. Our climb up from Kelsey Crag, an endless gravel and bedrock haul, was a good stand-in for Pen y Ghent’s ceaseless gradient, while rolling over the summit and towards the horizon was just like being atop Ingleborough on a dry day.
The terrain of the Three Peaks race course can vary hugely, year on year, depending on how wet the summer and early autumn has been. It’s not unusual to find hub-deep puddles on top of Ingleborough in September. Luckily, in contrast, the mid-August running of the PrePeaks, and the careful choice of tracks means that you can usually leave your snorkel and flippers behind and just concentrate on spinning along on hard, fast tracks, while looking forward to the next food station. Did I mention the food stations? Our jaunt over the hills was starting to take its toll, so in lieu of Hope’s event feed stations (themselves a one-day-of-the-year-only occurrence) we found the fine cafe in Airton to simulate some of the fine food you might find on event day.
Hope has its own, usually superior, way of doing things, as anyone who’s used its products or attended its events will confirm. Why, figures Hope, should food stops just have bananas, flapjacks and fruity punch? Why not bring in a few coffee machines to make some decent brews? And why not make the food a little more of a reward for riding all that way? And why should finishers get a little stamped in Taiwan medal, when they could have a ‘Machined in Barnoldswick’ CNC’d and anodised medal?
While we sipped coffee and tucked into sandwiches, Paul gave us a little insight into the level of preparation he puts into racing The Peaks. As an R&D engineer for Hope, he obviously has access to some pretty trick bits of kit, some of which will never make it into production, but other components are just off the shelf, like Paul’s Hope cassette and chainrings. What isn’t a stock item, though, are the hydraulic cross-top brake levers that Paul has made. These are a miniature pair of mountain bike levers plumbed in-line to Hope’s already trick SRAM road levers and Hope caliper cyclocross brakes and they allow him to get his weight further back on descents while gripping the tops of the drop bars. They won’t be for sale though, as the amount of servicing it takes to get them working correctly isn’t up to Hope’s normal level of simplicity.
Did Paul have the salad? As if… he had something with lots of cheese in it. A growing lad needs his energy, right?Something else you won’t be able to buy, is a pair of Paul’s home-made shoes. What? That’s what we thought, but Oldham has a particularly specific idea of what he wants his Three Peaks race shoes to do. They need to be stiff, way stiffer than a mountain bike trail shoe, but also grippy on grass and mud – again, way grippier than you’ll find on a carbon-soled race shoe. So he cut up a pair of Inov-8 fell running shoes and made his own. He’s quick to credit the amount of work that must go into making a pair of trail shoes as it took him hours to pull them apart again. He glued the sole tread from these trail-running shoes onto his carbon race shoes, and then for good-measure, glued the tread of a well-loved Schwalbe tyre onto the heel for downhill grip. And while he says that his soles were starting to flap around by Pen y Ghent last year, you can’t argue with first place.
There was no need for special shoe treads on our day, though, as the trails were as rideable as your fitness allowed. From fast, roller coaster singletrack, to rutted, loose farm tracks, we seemed to take in a complete tour of Dales riding during our day, which is exactly what the PrePeaks event aims to do.
There are two different lengths of event that you can enter. And, while they look similar in length, pay close attention to the amount of climbing to see the difference.
The PrePeaks 70 offers 70km of on and off road terrain and should be a good, long challenge for all riders, with 1350m of ups and downs over the day. The PrePeaks 85 is a ‘mere’ 15km longer, but offers a whopping 450m more elevation gain in that distance, for a total of 1800m of climbing.
Whatever your motivation for entering the PrePeaks: a fun day out with your pals, the challenge of 70-85km of hard Yorkshire riding, some serious preparation for the Three Peaks Race, or just to enjoy the incredible scenery and terrain on a marshalled and marked ‘best of’ the tracks here, it’s a fantastic day out with the full support of Hope Technology, great feed stations and a guaranteed chill out at the end when you get your finishers’ medal at the Hope factory.
For more details on the event and an entry form, have a look here: hopeprepeaks.com
We’ll see you there!