We head for an early morning 'hike a bike' up the infamous Grisedale Pike in the Lake District.
A 'Pike' is a mountain or hill with a peaked summit.
The reason that this is so attractive to a rider (as you'll see from some of the images) is that a pike generally forms a ridge to which the trail often leads down. For me, riding a ridge line is one of the most exhilarating types of riding. Having the trail drop off at either ends into a steep slope makes for a thoroughly spectacular riding experience.
Grizedale pike reaches a height of 791m and is situated in the north western sector of the Lake District national park. At just 4.5 miles away, Keswick is the nearest town and is full of amenities and offers plenty of accommodation for outdoor enthusiasts. Theres no shortage of riding on offer in this area, so why not make a weekend of it?
There are a couple of different approaches to do this short ride or long push (depending on how you look at it). We opted to park in Whinlatter forest park with the plan to do a quick loop afterward. It's not often you can mix a bit of excellent trail centre riding with a hiker bike route. Plus if your parking in Whinlatter, it can be kind of expensive so make the most of it.
With the full intent of enjoying the best of the morning light we chose to set off before first light. This allowed us to avoid any of the usual traffic, common on the A951 through Ambleside, cutting down our journey time to a speedy 1 hour 10minutes from just outside of Lancaster.
One of the best things about this time of year is that you don't have to get up at a frighteningly early hour to enjoy the sunrise, and there usually a lot more vibrant. This is because the air is much clearer, free from the pollutants that would usually scatter the light particles and dull the intensity of sunrises and sunsets.
We arrived at Whinlatter just as they were opening the gates to the carpark. Following a quick brew we geared up and within a few minutes we where riding out the carpark heading toward the southern edge of the forest where the long accent begins.
As 'hike your bike' climbs go this is a relatively easy one. Although long, the terrain ascends at a steady manageable gradient that you can push instead of carry the bike up. This is unlike many other Lakeland routes where you'll find yourself having to throw your bike on your back for the majority of the climb.
As we approached the summit the wind picked up significantly, and there was a definite windchill factor going on. My summer gloves where not holding their own up here, especially with their performance ventilation (caused by a series of holes). Despite the piercing windchill, we enjoyed the light emerging from the clouds as we assessed our line choices. The top section is very loose and technical and the trail seems to drop off at the edge. It's fairly close to unrideable, but definately doable.
Coincidently we both had 'contaminated brakes', due to leaky pistons which of course gave us adequate excuses... Having little in the way of braking performance made this already difficult and steep section that little bit more 'challenging'.
After the initial steep section was over we decided to take shelter from the wind, take in the views and have a quick snack, before we continued disturbing the peace with our squealing brakes (a common symptom of oily/contaminated brakes). As we made it further down the pike the wind chill subsided and the warmth of the sun allowed our fingers to regain some consciousness.
Although we didn't take any pictures from the second half of the decent, I assure you its equally as good. There is some quite long high speed grassy sections that could prove to be interesting if you attempt this in the wet. The very last section of single track down to the road is as exquisite ending to an epic descent and boasts some seriously tight cornering through tight the trees.
The trail ends just above Braithwaite village near the bottom of Whinlatter pass (the climb you will most likely have driven up on the approach to the forest). The climb back up to the carpark can be fairly tough going depending on your fitness level, however rest assured by the time you reach the top you'll probably still be grinning ear to ear from one of the Lake Districts finest descents.
Note: This is a footpath so its important to give way to hikers. The trail is generally wide enough and provides good visibility to anyone climbing up. But be sure to be especially vigilant on the last section through the trees where it is tight with blind corners. I would suggest doing this ride as early or as late in the day as possible to avoid any trail traffic.