When I was 16 I had started to really get into mountain biking and on Christmas eve of that year me and a few friends were sitting around twiddling our thumbs basically so we decided we would be men and go out in the crap weather for a bit of a bike ride. I think the first ride involved a short ride out from Hexham along to Fourstones and Warden followed by a pub meal at the Boatside in which in summary ended up being a shitty ride through a lot of slop and mud, being freezing cold in the horrible northumbrian winter weather with ice blocks for feet followed by a large pub meal sitting beside a warm log fire – which made up for the time spent getting cold and wet.
The next year we did the same again, and the year after and so we decided to make it a tradition – a good winter ride on Christmas eve followed by a proper pub meal to warm us up again.
We have kept it going for almost ten years now with this year being the 9th, some riders have come and gone and some people have come simply to join us for the meal but only two of us have continued our love for bikes (and mud and shit weather) to make it along every year, me and Angus.
Usually we tend to stick around our neck of the woods and not head much further than Hexham and it’s surroundings however this year since the weather was good-ish and two friends (Jonny and Roy) from down Manchester and Clitheroe way were up for joining in we decided to ride at a halfway point that turned out to be Staveley in the Lake District.
Despite all the recent flooding in the Lake District the area around Staveley seemed relatively unscathed, apart from the road bridge in the village sitting at a funny angle and with a large hole in the side, so I planned out a route taking in Garburn Pass, Kentmere, Longsleddale and Stavely Head Fell which included a fair bit of bridleway riding. The highlight being Garburn Pass and its (thankfully unrepaired) super rough and technical east side, the lowlight being the long slog through the muddy puddles into a direct headwind on top of Green Quarter Fell, but there has to be some of that otherwise it wouldn’t really feel like the Christmas eve ride! We had food in the Eagle and Child pub afterwards (strange name) which was a bargain, £5 for a pie and some chips… not bad at all.
Nobody took any photos….? I think I remember riding from Hexham to Corbridge in the snow and having food in the Divels pub though! (and my memory is terrible so I am impressed I remembered that without photos, you should be too)
Beyond 2008 remains a distant memory, I think possibly before the times I owned a working digital camera… But rest assured it was cold, it was muddy, it snowed, it rained, we didn’t really enjoy the riding and many pies were eaten.