I’m alive, I’m aliiiiiiivvvee!

Total Distance: 13.75 miles
Total Time:
Elevation Gain:
192 ft
Avg Speed:
9.3 mph
Max Speed: 22.5 mph

Apologies for the lack of posts this year. I’m afraid I’ve not done any cycling, my attention taken away by a new interest and past time. I will, however, endeavour to do better. Being out of breath after climbing some stairs a few days ago has reminded me how desperately unfit I have become, and how desperately I need to do something about it. I also need a way to release a bit of stress, I’ve missed sitting on the top of hills, enjoying the peace before the next descent. Nothing else really comes close to that for me..

So today I took the Giant and went for a little ride. Not too far, just straight out the front door. This is the first times it’s been touched since the whole farce of the new bearings. Nice to give it a bit of a shakedown locally, and nice to get my legs back a bit without killing myself. Not a very fast ride, probably a combination of fat knobbly tyres, a heavy bike, weak legs and empty lungs.

Giant at the Flash

Garmin Dakota 20 Review

Dakota 20

Price: £199.00 (OS Mapping Not Included)
From: Garmin http://www.garmin.com/uk/
Tested: 19 Months

There are two kinds of mountain bikers, those who embrace modern technologies like GPS, and those who prefer to keep things simple, with a good old paper map. I can appreciate both opinions, but for me personally, a GPS device has become invaluable, for both navigation and logging purposes. I can load a route downloaded from the internet, or created on my PC into the GPS before I leave, follow it perfectly on an OS map, and then when I get back, look at a detailed log of just how slow and rubbish I was.

The Dakota is a fairly small compact unit, however it’s hard to describe it as slimline. It’s fits well in the palm of the hand, but when bar/stem mounted, it can be knocked if you’re not careful. All the functions of the Dakota are accessed through the 6.6cm, TFT touchscreen, with just 1 button mounted on the side to turn the unit on, and to lock the touchscreen, a useful feature if you want to shove it in a jersey pocket for logging. The screen is recessed from the surround, which also helps, but does make it sometimes fiddly to use with gloves on. Most of the time the touchscreen is good, but not quite up to the iPhone standard.

Weight wise, the Dakota is a bit chunky, at 150g. This isn’t helped of course by the power source of 2 AA batteries. Using AAs does have it’s downsides, you need to buy some good rechargables, or you’ll be forever buying new alkalines, and there’s no options for USB charging of course. The use of AAs does mean you can carry spares though.

Dakota 20

Trip Computer Screen - All the information displays are customisable, and can show any data you like

The Garmin Discoverer maps offer both 1:50k and, for some areas, 1:25k Ordinance Survey mapping. Having used both, I can say that the extra detail is the 1:25k is occasionally useful, at a junction of a number of paths, for instance,but for the vast majority of the time, the 1:50k mapping is perfectly adequate. One thing that should be mentioned, is the eyewatering price for some of the mapping. A 4GB SD card is more than enough to fit both 1:50k and 1:25k maps of the entire UK, but the cost to download these maps will be higher than the cost of the unit itself. There are, however, alternative maps available, such as the OpenStreetMap maps available free from Talky Toaster. I can’t personally vouch for these, but a quick look shows the detail available to be very impressive.

The Dakota also has a built-in 3 axis, electronic compass, and a barometric altimeter.  Traditional GPS units without the compass feature rely on movement to figure out you’re direction. As soon as you stop, that direction is lost. The Dakota, however, will switch automatically to its compass, a vital feature if you’re a little lost. The altimeter is a useful tool for the logging of ascent and descent.

Dakota 20

Compass Screen - Information at the top is customisable, and if following a route, a big red arrow shows the direction of the next waypoint

I have at times found the acuracy of these features a little lacking, the altimeter particularly doesn’t seem hugely accurate, the same ride ridden on different occasions can produce some fairly different results, and my Elevation Gain figure never seems to match my Elevation Loss. It still seems better than GPS, but it does leave you with a doubt in your mind. The compass seems to work better, but does need regular recalibration.

The same can’t be said for the GPS lock though, I find the Dakota acquires satellite locks very quickly, and holds onto them well. The lock even holds well in some fairly heavy tree cover. Only once in deep woods have I noticed any problems, forest trail centres are handled well. It also coped surprisingly with the tunnels on my Monsal Trail ride, with only one small hiccup (my max speed was recorded as 55mph).

The Dakota can do turn-by-turn navigation, so can be used to navigate on the road, but without any voice output is not really a rival to in-car navigations units, such as TomTom. It’s also possible to connect the Dakota to Garmin cadence and heart rate sensors.

Narrow Bridge, Wide Bars

Bar Mounted - Doesn't work as well as stem mounting, can spin round if knocked

It’s almost two years since I purchased the Dakota 20, and things have moved on some since then. GPS for mountain biking and road cycling has become more popular, and some new dedicated products have become available. The Dakota is mainly aimed at walkers, but that’s not to say it’s not great for the bike though, whilst it’s shape makes it a little bulkier than the newer, slimmer models designed specifically to be bar or stem mounted, the Garmin Bike mount fits well in either location, and holds the unit firmly, particularly stem mounted.

Worthy of a mention is the excellent Garmin Connect website. After downloading a small plugin for your browser, you simply need to plug the unit in to your computer via a USB port and click the upload button, and all your latest rides will be uploaded to the site, where you can view maps, graphs and statistics. It’s a wonderfully simple system that produces fantastic results. All the route maps you see on this website came from there.

Garmin Dakota 20

Stem Mounting - Much more secure, fits well to an 80mm stem, and is positioned perfectly.

If I was to buy now, I’d have to have a serious look at the Edge 800. It’s size and additional buttons and features make it a little more suited to cycling, but there is a £150 price difference. If mapping isn’t required, the other Edge bike computers also look great, I’m particularly impressed with the Edge 200, it looks a real alternative to a traditional bike computer.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the Dakota 20. It’s accompanied me on every bike ride for the past 19 months, and has never to my recollection let me down. It may not be the most modern, and stylish unit, but its ruggedness and good, clear screen make it a great option for mountain biking.

Proving I’m Still Alive (with a moan)

Total Distance: 13.17 miles
Total Time: 1:15
Elevation Gain:
184 ft
Avg Speed:
10.4 mph
Max Speed:
19.3 mph

So, it’s rather a long time since I last wrote a blog post. A combination of a broken bike and my own laziness has meant I’ve done barely any riding, today was only the second time I’ve ridden since early September. In my last post I mentioned that the bearings were knackered on the Giant. I ordered new ones and attempted to fit them myself, which predictably went horribly wrong, and I destroyed one of the new bearings putting it in, but worse than that, wrecked the seat that the bearing sits in on the lower linkage. It was my own stupid fault trying to do the job on the cheap and getting frustrated when I couldn’t get it in. I’m lucky it wasn’t the frame to be honest.

So since then I’ve ordered a new linkage, which will come with lovely bearings pre-fitted. That’s turned into a bit of a cock-up too though. The first part that arrived was not the right one, I think it was from the older Trance, instead of the Trance X. It was a completely different shape. I sent that one back and was promised the right one was on order. That was weeks ago now, and I’m still waiting. Apparently there’s no stock of the part in the UK, so it had to be ordered from Giant Europe, who are currently in the process of moving warehouses. I’m assured it’s in stock, but it’s somewhere between the old place and the new, and no ones quite sure where at the minute.

So in the meantime I’ve been buying up bits to put it back together with. At least once it’s done all the bearings will be new, including the headset, and it’ll have a new drivetrain too. I’ve even bought some gucci cables for it.

I’ve also spent the time perfecting the art of getting fat and unfit again. I’m irritated at myself for this. There’s nothing wrong with the Rockhopper, I’ve just been too lazy to get out and ride it. I was getting something vaguely like fit before, and now I’ve let it all go to waste. The next time I go to ride up a proper hill won’t be a pleasant experience I imagine. Today’s ride was nice and flat, and on nice smooth hard surfaces, and it nearly bloody killed me, I nearly gave up came home a few times.

So that’s it. I’m still here, I’ve not given up altogether, I’m just a lazy git. Normal service will resume in the new year, all being well.

If you’re lacking motivation at this time of year, like I am, then I leave you with this…

Rivington (15.29/100) #sep100

rivington 09-09-11

Total Distance: 15.29 miles
Total Time:
Elevation Gain:
2,141 ft
Avg Speed:
6.3 mph
Max Speed:
31.4 mph

Surprisingly nice day up Rivi, a little bit windy, and very wet from the last few days rain, but the sun was out and shining, and I even managed to burn the back of my neck (again). Perfect day for biking.

Managed to get up to the pike non-stop at a descent speed, quite pleased with that. Stayed up there for quite a while, quite quiet up there, and watched a guy flying an RC glider for a while, before heading off down George’s Lane to try the other way up onto Winter Hill I’d found out about. Normally I push/carry/ride up the kennels, I didn’t even know there was a path further along to go up. More rideable than the kennels, but it does leave you with more climbing on the access road to do.

Bike and Gate

Bike and Gate

San Marino was really wet. Not the fastest run down ever, but good fun. Down into Belmont and then up the road. Ward’s Reservoir water levels looking much more healthy, with the sun shining and the waterfall flowing, it looked fantastic. Belmont Road was predictably wet. I love this bit, I really do. I love just sitting in the saddle hammering the pedals through the rough stuff and splashing through the water. I was soaked by the time I got to the pigeon tower, but properly grinning.

I carried on over to Wilderswood then came down that pretty damn quick, and then down to the school popping off the rocks and bumps all the way along, having a great time.

Wet Belmont Road

A very wet Belmont Road

Climbing back up the hill though, I noticed my bike wasn’t sounding too healthy. It’s been knocking occasionally for a while, I just assumed it was a cable touching the frame when the suspension moves, but it got much worse while I was out. After a while prodding things, checking bolts and bouncing it up and down, I noticed there’s play in the top shock bushing. I was planning to go down the ice cream run, but thought it best to cruise down through the gardens across to the castle then back to the car.

When I got home, I decided the bushings had it, so I’ll try out a needle bearing, they seem well-regarded for Giant frames. Whilst I had it in bits, I checked all the other bearings, and they’re knackered too. A couple have seized completely and the others feel rough, so I’ve ordered them at the same time. Only thing is, I’ve ordered them from the US, so will have to wait a bit for them to turn up. So no big bike rides until then, I’ll have try to get some miles on the Rockhopper instead.



Stainforth and Littondale (75.49/100) #aug100


Total Distance: 25.04 miles
Total Time:
Elevation Gain:
3,973 ft
Avg Speed:
6.2 mph
Max Speed:
21.7 mph

So to my second blog post of the night, and my second 25 mile ride in 3 days. Friday I set out to do a properly big ride. 25 miles through the Yorkshire Dales countryside. As usual I left it late setting off, and didn’t leave until gone 11, so didn’t start riding until 12:35, but that still left me plenty of time. The weather forecast was grim, so I came prepared with waterproofs; pants and jacket, and my winter gloves to swap into if it got really wet (they’re a bit warm and thick). Leaving the carpark (which, contrary to the guidebook, isn’t free, it’s four-bloody-pounds) to head up the tarmac lane it was actually quite warm and dry, so I undid all my zips and sweated for a bit.

Just as I set off up the first bit of off road of the day, I was faced by a herd of cows coming right towards me. I’m not a big fan of cows, they’re nice enough creatures when they’re in a different field, behind a nice fence, and they’re normally very docile things, but their sheer size makes me nervous. I stopped and moved to the side, but the cows decided they didn’t want to go round me, so I turned round back to the road, and helped the farmer herd them the right way. He said thanks, and I set off once again, relieved to be on a now cow free track. The track descended a bit, then turned right and began a steady climb. As I climbed, I looked around, admiring the hills, and was amazed as the stunning Pen-y-ghent came into view over the horizon. I’ve seen a few big hills, but this is by far the most impressive one I’ve seen, it almost sheer sides and rocky craggs make it look seriously imposing from this side, the first people to see that must have thought monsters lived up there. I’d like to climb to its summit at some point.



Today though, I skirted around its edge, to rejoin the lane from earlier, and begin the descent to Littondale. As I followed the tarmac, the rain began to fall, and it came as a relief, it was refreshingly cool, and its always a good to know you picked the right clothes for once. As I left the road and joined an, at first grassy, then later more stoney track, the rain fell ever harder, until it was tipping down. The track was great though, a nice gentle descent with the valley of Littondale stretched out to the left. There was a number of rather hairy limestone slabs, made slippery in the rain. One caught me out as I pedaled to get over it, and the rear wheel spun out and sideways.

Eventually I crossed the slightly misleadingly named New Bridge, over the River Skirfare. A bizarre and interesting river, for two reasons, the most obvious being that it had no water, just an amazing, worn and eroded limestone bed, and because, from here, the bed seemed to go uphill in both directions. Very odd.

River Skirfare

River Skirfare

The route then took me along the valley bottom, on a quiet country lane to Arnside. The rain really was falling now, I was utterly soaked, but it was nice to just sit and spin along, gradually descending slightly, for the next few miles. I love that feeling as you speed along, of the bike moving almost telepathically, just the slightest of movement turning the bike into a sweeping fast turn. I’ve noticed before when doing that sort of riding, in this sort of weather, a really unique feeling. With my hood up, glasses on, and just the sound of the wind rushing past you get an almost out of body feeling, as if you’re watching someone else ride. Very peculiar, but very cool.

The next part, I knew, was the big bit. The big climb out of Arncliffe Cote and onto the hills beyond was a big one. I was expecting it to be challenging looking at the profile, but I hadn’t considered one thing, the surface. For long periods, the climb was on grass. Grass is a horrible surface to pedal on. It’s good to descend on, but if you need to put in any kind of effort, it really is grim. And it’s even worse in the wet. Wet grass just seems to drag at your tyres, its like riding through treacle. It also makes navigation difficult, the real path disappears, and other paths, worn into the grass by animals or humans, appear to confuse you. I trudged up, at times wishing I hadn’t bothered.

Murky Yorkshire Dales

Murky, grey day

Further up though, once through a gate, the surface improved, becoming a little more hard packed, a little big of mud and stone showing through. Unfortunately, as soon as I got back on the bike, I faced another problem. I mentioned earlier my problem with cows, so I was a little bit upset to see up ahead three cows standing in the middle of the track. At this point, the track followed a fallen down drystone wall, with two wide fields, inhabited by these cows, on either side. These cows were worrying to me for two reasons, firstly, one was a calf, and I know cows are rather protective of their young. Secondly, they were highland cows. That means not only are they big powerful things, they also have bloody big horns. One thing that occurred to me, is how do you tell a cow from a bull if they all have horns. I’m certain none of these were bulls, the farmers not that daft, but the thought keeps you on your toes.

I made a quick plan to take a wide line, away from the path across the field to go around the cows, and decided it’d be best to walk this bit. As I set off walking though, the cows started to walk away. Great, i thought, they’ll disperse to the sides, and I’ll be able to carry on up the track. Unfortunately, the cows didn’t disperse to the sides, they headed straight down the path, in the direction I wanted to go. As they realised I was following them, the began to get a bit agitated, and moving a bit quicker, mooing away as they did. It was at this point I noticed the other cows in the field starting to do the same, all heading right where I wanted to go.  I had little choice but to keep going, figuring I’d come to a gate and they’d have to move then, or I’d have to go around them. As I came towards the edge of the field, I saw the gateway ahead, unfortunately, there was no gate, or it was open, and all the cows in the field were now standing around it. As I continued, I became aware of something really quite frightening. If you’ve seen The Italian Job, you’ll remember the scene on the mountain road in Italy, when all the mafia guys appear at the top of the hill and surround Michael Caine and his crew. As I walked towards the gateway, I had a similar kind of feeling. I looked up to my right to see a line of horns, all standing at the top of the hill, looking down on me. It was fine though, I thought, they were up there, I was going passed them, I was no problem to them. Until all the others mooed again, and then all the ones at the top of the hill decided they wanted through the gate too. Excellent.

The next field wasn’t so big, and there was a stream through the middle that the cows seemed reluctant to cross, only problem was I needed to cross it, and they were in the way. Luckily the wall to my left didn’t continue in this field, so I made the tactical decision to give them a very wide berth and go cross country. I waded across some boggy bits, crossed the stream and headed up another hill sharpish. I was relieved to reach the top, and find a nice level bit I could get pedaling on, and put a bit of space between us.

Street Gate

Lovely, lovely tarmac

The top of that hill turned out to be the high point of the climb, and was followed by a nice descent down to Street Gate. I was so pleased to see tarmac when I reached the gate, I almost kneeled down and kissed it. I was relieved too to know I was over the biggest climb of the day, and soon I’d get to Malham Tarn and onto a section of Pennine Bridleway I’ve ridden before, all the way over to Settle. In part, this has been really nicely “improved”. The surface is refreshingly solid and fast, with some nice swoopy dips and turns. As I crossed the high part, Pen-y-ghent came into view again, along with Ingleborough in the distance. I knew then, that I wasn’t far from the finish line.

Before that though, was one last tarmac climb, up another steep and quiet lane, before turning off onto a bridleway heading back down to Stainforth. The bridleway came as a pleasant surprise, a really nice rocky and stoney narrow walled descent lead right back down the village. I rolled back into the car park exhausted, wet, and happy to have got all the way to the end.

Awesome Flickr Gallery Error - SSL is required