Type of ride: MTB or Cyclocross
Organiser: British Heart Foundation
Distance options: 43 miles
Elevation gain: 6,238ft over the course of the ride
Max elevation: 1,463ft
Terrain & conditions: Tough ride for those who would consider themselves a good level of fitness.
This is a tough and technical mountain bike ride in the high peak of Derbyshire. There are some seriously tough climbs, some just long, others long, steep and technical. The downhill sections are a real bone shaker and have you having on for dear life. And If you are fit enough to lift your chin up, there are some stunning views of the Derbyshire dales and MamTor.
Start the ride at Hope Valley College. As you come out of the car park take a right hand turn and ride back into Hope. Look out for Pindale Road on the right hand side. You will follow Pindale Road all the way along. There is sharp right hand turn, take that and stay on Pindale Road as it merges into Bargate, on the way into Castleton.
Come out of Castleton on the A6187 road with Mam Tor directly in front of you. The road gradually begins to climb. This area is full of famous Caverns including the Blue John Cavern and Peak Cavern…better know as the Devil’s Arse!
Follow the right side of the fork in the road and follow Mam Tor Rd. Soon enough the tarmac runs out, the terrain gets rough and the gradient gets steeper. There is an eerie feeling as the road just drops off in places where the land has slipped over time. This has created a couple of challenging sections as you traverse up the side of Mam Tor.
You are now almost 5 miles into the ride and at the highest point of almost 1,500ft. Join the road for a short section before a left hand turn gets you back onto the trail. From here is the first downhill section. It’s 5 miles long, very fast, technical and enjoyable and takes you back down to the same level you started the ride at. Just follow the path along as it gradually swings around to the left.
About 1 mile into the downhill section there is a sharp right turn and then a sharp left turn and the gradient becomes very steep and rocky. Careful here!
As the gradient begins to level out there is a right hand turn down an ally way. As you make the turn you will recognise across the road is where you came from about an hour earlier. Follow the path through the cement works and out into Bradwell from Michlow Lane. Turn left, ride down the main Stretfield Road (B6049) and take the time to get some water on board.
Long Steep Climb Warning!
The next section is pretty much 2 miles of pure lung tingling climbing! After about a mile cycling along the B6049 turn right onto Brough Lane and then right again to stay on Brough Lane. Don’t set off too fast and finish your conversations, it’s a long old climb up to the top with a couple of false summits just to tease you! Simply put your head down and pedal!
At the top follow the path past Duper lane. As the path splits take the left hand turn onto Shatton Lane. It turn’s into a good decent (depending on the conditions) around Shatton Moor. On the day we did this ride it was quite boggy which slowed us down somewhat.
Keep following the path until you reach a gate which you need to dismount to get through. You are now in Shatton. Once through the gate turn left, over the river and then turn right onto Shatton Lane.
At the main road there is a left turn then almost immediately a right turn. Ride along the path with the garden centre on your right hand side. This is a flat ride across a field heading towards the right hand corner where there is the Derwent river. Here you turn left down Water Lane.
We are almost halfway through the ride. The second part of the MTB ride takes you around the Ladybower Reservoir which is beautiful. There are more climbs and tough decents so maybe take a little break here, get some food in you and energy gels etc.
You are now on the Thornhill Trail and you will ride this for approximately two miles up to the Ladybower Reservoir. The trail relatively flat and the terrain is fairly easy going. As you hit the reservoir you are going to follow it round in a clockwise direction for a further two miles. This is an enjoyable section with some fast flowing paths. Enjoy these as you won’t enjoy the next bit!
Switch back and climb!
Out of nowhere there is a sharp switchback. The path actually continues on so you need to almost look back over your shoulder to catch it. You will look at it and probably wince a little at the effort you need to put in just to get onto the path. We actually selected a low gear and took a run at it from further down the path which seemed to do the trick!
Once on the path just put your head down and pedal. It takes a great deal of determination not to put your foot down on this climb. It’s steep and technical and will make you feel sick.
If you made it to the clearing at the top…amazing, well done! You’re not quite there though! Have a breather before getting your bike through the gate up on the right.
Through the trees
The next section is pretty tricky to just get on your bike and get going. If you manage to get riding, head up the path through the trees and out onto the top of the moor. There are some spectacular views here. The mountain directly in front of you is Lose Hill at 450m. Then you have got Back Tor running away in the background.
You are 20 miles in now at 1,200ft altitude. You’ll stay pretty high up for the rest of the ride now with a few steep climbs and tricky decents as you go.
Over the moor
Head down the moor to the right hand side. This is a fun and fast downhill section but no sooner have you gotten into a nice downhill rhythm, it’s through a gate and start climbing again.
The terrain here is very technical. It’s rocky with intermittent, steep steps which you need to attack to get your bike up. There is also a small brook trickling through the middle. We got some strange looks riding this section from walkers who thought it not possible to get a bike up there!
Once you have conquered the rocky steps there is a downhill section. Again very technical. For the adrenaline junkies it’s off with the chicken levers and fly down as fast as you can. For the more cautious it will take a lot longer to get down. Massive rocks make the terrain very difficult. It requires your full concentration and a lot of forearm strength!
Back on terra firma!
At the end of this rocky downhill section it joins a proper road again. Turn right and ride down the hill. It’s a fast section which finishes with a short steep climb up to the main A57 Snake Road. Go straight over and ride up past a farm on your left and guess what…towards another climb!
At this point your legs are burning and it’s a pretty intimidating climb initially. It almost looks like something off the Tour de France as it carves it’s way into the hillside.
Get pedalling up the road and keep riding up the path. After about a mile of climbing you begin a decent along a ridge with a forest either side and a steep bank to your right hand side.
The terrain once again becomes technical and challenging. Add to that, at this point my forearms were beginning to cramp up through holding onto my bike from some of the previous downhill sections.
You can’t actually see it as you decent but on your right hand side through the trees is the Derwent reservoir. At the end of the trail you pop out onto a tarmac road looking out over the reservoir which is beautiful.
Take a left and follow the road. After about a mile you’ll see a stunning waterfall which is right at the top of the Derwent Reservoir. There are a couple of holiday rental homes right in front of it which I can imagine is a nice place to stay.
It’s quite a flat and fast ride from here for about the next 10 miles. You’ll bear left just after the waterfall and head away from the Reservoir. Then a hair pin turn will bring you back in. Refer to the map to see how you ride around the very north part of the reservoir. Basically you’ll end up at the opposite side of the waterfall you cycled past about 7 or 8 miles earlier.
Keep to the road and keep the water on your right hand side. As a reference point from here, you are now heading towards the Fairholmes Visitor Centre which sits in between the Ladybower Reservoir and Derwent Reservoir. You can stop here for refreshments and a well earned comfort break.
The main bit you need to watch out for is the switch back on the right on your way down to the Fairholmes Visitor Centre. The path does carry on around Ladybower but don’t follow it – take the right hander. Again, use the map I’ve provided as a guide in addition to this commentary.
Fairholme Visitor Centre
If you stopped at the Fairholmes visitor centre head backup to the mini roundabout and take the first exit. The Ladybower reservoir should be on your left hand side now. Cycle along the road for a short while.
On the right side of the road is a steep, rocky track. You guessed it…cross over the road, get comfortable in the saddle and dig in. As you make your way up the track the track gets increasingly technical. There’s also a false top thrown in just to mess with your mind!
At the top of the path is a gate so you need to get off the bike. Once through the gate, you are out of the woods. The scenery is beautiful! if you can bring yourself to get back on your bike, cycle alongside the moor sticking close to the line of trees on the right.
The next section of the ride is a nice decent which takes you through a style gate. Now the decent gets much steeper and the terrain very rocky again. Lots of fun and pain.
At the bottom you go through a gate and head over the A57 road and down towards the river. You go over the river and take the path on your left which climbs a little over some technical terrain.
The River Ashop is down in the valley on your left. This is a little downhill section through the trees. Follow the line of the River as it joins the track along side the Ladybower Reservoir again.
The penultimate section of this MTB ride is pure torture. Personally I like to ride a new course without doing too much research in order to make each section a nice surprise. I’m glad I didn’t know about this part.
Your legs in bits! You are cramping up at every pedal stroke! You are completely fooked! You are ready for a nice cold beer! Up ahead you recognise a particularly hellish section from earlier. You need to repeat the steep climb up the path on your right. Yes the one which you have to attack at the start just to get going.
Follow the exact same route you took earlier, up the path to the opening in the trees, through the gate at the top, into the trees and out onto the top of the hill with the spectacular views.
At the top of the hill take the same route to the right you took earlier but this time look out for a gate a few hundred yards down. Go through the gate and down the path on your left.
As the terrain gets smoother it joins Edale Road and drops down into the Village of Hope where you started the ride.
If you made it to this point then you deserve a well earned pint. Congratulations. Hopefully these instructions were useful and you enjoyed the ride.
Download the GPX file for this ride here
Download the TCX file for the ride here