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Dark and White, Hope Mountain Bike Marathon, 17th April 2016

The Plan
I’ve been looking for an excuse to install my new forks for a while and this event acted as the motivation to get them fitted. I’d not ridden the majority of this route before so it would be a good test of man and machine. All those rocky trails in the Dark Peak would be smoothed out and pass by largely unnoticed as I glide over the top of them in great comfort.

The reality
I rode it with rigid forks and noticed every ripple, bump, stone and rock.

New Forks
The night before at about 10.00 pm, with the new forks fitted, all I had to do was attach the wheel. The new forks have a 15 mm bolt fitting as opposed to the standard skewer quick release. The hubs I have are convertible and it’s a simple job to swap them over: pull off the skewer dust caps and push on the bolt through dust caps.

Skewer Conversion Kit

Caps for skewer above
Caps for 15 mm bolt below

15 mm Hope 2 Conversion kit
Simple: off came the skewer caps and…where are the bolt through caps? After a long search it appears that they are still in the shop. A quick call out on Facebook asking if anyone had a spare set I could borrow proved fruitless.
The options:

1. Go to bed and borrow some in the morning
2. Go to bed, get no caps and abandon the ride
3. Put the old forks back on
4. Rebuild the single speed bike

The risk that number 1 posed is clearly stated in number 2.

Putting the old forks back on wasn’t an option because the new forks needed a wider head tube bearing and they wouldn’t fit the new headset.

I chose option 4.

This entailed swapping almost every part off one bike onto the other: brakes, wheels, sprockets, gears, cable, shifter, chain, oval chain ring, bar grips, pedals and mud guard.

Mountain Bikes after Swapping parts But Not Fork
Why not swap the old suspension fork for the rigid one on the SS bike? With everyone else in the house asleep, the thought of a disgruntled wife coming down into the cellar to ask me to stop hammering was not a happy one so I left it and went to bed…at 3.00 am.

The Ride
Despite the added challenge of 3 hours sleep and no suspension, I loved it. A well organised day and a great route.

The earlier part of the route was very steep, muddy and rocky, both up and down. All rideable but not easy with the sliding about. Then came a massive road climb from Shatton (I lost count of the number of false summits but there must have been 6) past the hang gliders at Brough followed by a very fast descent. Major brake fade and meeting a Volvo on the hairpin bend at the bottom nearly wiped 6 of us out but all survived unscathed. Mr Volvo looked more scared than we did.

The feed station was quite depressing. Only “18 miles completed and 25 to go” said the sign. The elevation profile suggested that there were 4 more climbs like Shatton to go. The long/short split in the route was at the top of the next hill and many were doubting which way they would go, including me. Straight out of the feed station was perhaps the steepest climb of the day but it led to a plateau with a slight decline allowing some recovery time, just enough to get me past the cross roads where the routes split. Decision made; the long route.

At this point I caught up with a husband and wife team, Andy and Katinka Mitchell and after yo-yoing for a few miles we rode together. The good news about this second half was that it was far less muddy and rocky and, bar one or two grassy climbs, the gradients were slightly shallower than those at the start. Or was it that the good company made the ride seem less painful?

Report by Martin