This is Skye

This is Skye

Over my easter break I visited the Isle of Skye with my Dad and twin brother, Pat. I’ve been numerous times in my life but it’s only on our recent visits there in ’09 and ’11 that I’ve been old enough to appreciate the spectacular scenery of this magnificent island (long words are loooong). The skyline from pretty much anywhere on Skye is dominated by the Red and the Black Cuillin. Rising straight out of the sea and culminating in thin ridges and small, exposed summits with lethal drops in every direction. There are few mountain ranges in the world as jagged as these (so I’ve read).

Out of the 6 days we were there I rode a few solo XC loops and climbed, with Pat, Sgurr Alasdair (tallest of the Black Cuillin, 5th highest summit in the UK and highest point on Skye) and Glamaig (tallest of the Red Cuillin). From these points we were able to sample some of the most impressive views in the UK.

Looking down from the summit of Sgurr Alasdair

Pat playing with his waterproof camera after descending the scree slopes of Glamaig.

So, for the riding. The day after we arrived I fancied stretching my legs after the long drive up from Bourne (my insipid hometown near Peterborough) so went for a quick 20km spin on-road, then off-road following above the coast, then back onto another road and home. However, due to the map being about 10 years out of date, the path I was expecting to ride wasn’t exactly there anymore. Neither were about 40 square kilometers of trees I was expecting to ride through. Ahhh well!

The next day we went out to the Sligachan Glen, where I would ride the Sligachan trail. There was a loop suggested, however I decided just to ride the 12ish km section to Camasunary bay and then come back on myself to the Sligachan hotel as Pat and my Dad were walking in the area. I was looking forward to this trail as I had heard good things about it on t’internet.

The trail started well with a few undulations but still gradually gaining gradient along the glen, I was looking forward to riding it in the opposite direction with gravity aiding me slightly. It was fairly tough going, having to keep pedalling hard to carry momentum to make the techy sections more fun and flowy. This didn’t really give me time to take in the scenery so I decided to have a break.

Here’s what I saw:

Not bad eh?

I continued onto Camasunary which had a nice, steepish descent from a loch and then levelled out to the bay. I stopped here for lunch and to take a few more snaps. I also tried to get some self portraits but they turned out shit and they make me feel like a sad and lonely bastard…

So here’s one of my bike instead:

The route back to the Sligachan hotel was equally as hard going as the way out despite having an overall downhill gradient once I’d reached the level of the loch. On my return I bumped into 2 pairs of riders and chatted to them for a bit. Turns out both pairs were from Sheffield! I also spoke to another bloke who’d been quite unfortunate and had had at least 2 pinch punctures I seem to remember. He was a fan of ThisiSheff and was looking forward to my article (I hope he still is!!). What a small world.
Unfortunately, this track just didn’t live up to my expectations and I wouldn’t recommend it if you want something fun and slightly challenging to ride.

Right! The Quiraing loop. This was absolutely ace! Some really tough rocky sections, not even rideable in places. It was a nice quick loop, about 15km in total I guess, so I decided to do it twice. The views were epic, from both below and from the top of the sheer, monstrous cliffs:

Epic view no. 1, Ragley love no. 3...

The loop starts off from a car park at the top of the last road climb. As I got going I went by a few small groups of people all saying similar things like “Good luck!” and “You’re mental”. It turns out that the trail narrows to about 20cm wide in places with steep slopes down the side. Also, there are some quite big and tricky rolling rock drops and off camber sections which definitely test your nerve. My advice is to just stay off of the brakes and worry about it after something goes wrong… that way you have some momentum to get through sections instead of slowing up and having to dab onto thin air.

The track splits about half way along. On my first lap, not knowing where I was going, I took the left fork and continued to stay beneath the cliff face and climbed the path at the end to get a view over the top. The wind was quite strong when I reached the highest point of my ride, luckily it was blowing me away from the edge…

Epic view no. 2.

I went back to the fork and took the right hand line. This was the start of a fast, rough and challenging descent through a few big rock gardens. I was holding on tighter than I ever have before, the front end taking massive hits and my hands and wrists rolling back, almost losing their grip at times!

Once I’d reached the bottom I thought “Right! I’m doing that again!” so I did. This involved riding along the road into a head wind then heading up the steep climb to the car park, but I thought it would definitely be worth it!.

Epic view no. 3. Steepest part of the shitty, shitty road climb.

And yes it definitely was worth it. I would highly recommend the Quiraing trail both for the epic scenery, the challenge it presented me and the big grin on my face at the end of it.

I need to get back to revision!

Set including full size versions and a few bonus pics can be found here:

Bye for now.

Sheff Uni vs. Hallam varsity race 30/3/2011

Sheff Uni vs. Hallam varsity race 30/3/2011

Since I’ve been at uni there has always been a good association between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam cycling clubs. We’ll often meet a few of them out riding at Wharncliffe and there is the usual exchange of pleasantries. There is some rivalry as you’d expect but it is all in good humour and no one takes the banter seriously (We go somewhere you don’t go, UNI! UNI!, Hallam scum!, etc…). Having the surname Hallam is rather unfortunate and things can get confusing when you’re at Uni and the nasties are flying.

The varsity event is held each year to see which university is the best at various sports. Some are taken much more seriously than others and most of the venues lie in the city. However, in our case the competition is purely for fun and there are no spectators so the atmosphere is very relaxed, just like any other mates race.

The track we used on this occasion started with the top quarter of “Fast Track” and peeled off to the right after the third bus stop, continuing into what is known to me as “track with no name” or “1000 Deaths” by others (some people have no imagination). For those that don’t know Fast Track is a flat out, rocky section of track with small jumps into bus stops off of a push-up track. 1000 Deaths is tight and twisty with a couple of rock gardens and flat corners, also, the trees are quite densely packed which led to a few collisions and crashes.

Here’s a shot of Henry ‘Yeti’ Marsh during practice. Everyone that raced should be grateful to him for sitting it out and timing us!

For the first run the track was running almost bone dry as the small amount of rain from the previous night had either been absorbed into the parched earth or had evaporated. Despite this, very few people were happy with their run due to clipping/colliding with trees or just not hitting the lines they’d practiced. Ed Thomsett wasn’t really feeling it so just cruised and didn’t pedal on the flatter parts of the track. Andy Fowles was looking quick in practice but had a tentative run and clipped the odd tree. My run was similar as I just wanted a clean run, I was on the brakes too much in places so didn’t carry great speed in the tighter sections and also had trouble fitting my trendy, 762mm wide bars through the gaps.

During the brief respite before the push up for everyone’s second run a light rain shower began and continued until racing recommenced, this made the rocks on fast track slippery and greased up the last 50 meters of track. The poorer conditions led to more detrimental crashes, although, some people managed to improve on their times. Ed pulled his finger out and decided to put in a good time, this effort was hampered when he suffered a similar fate to others and came to a complete stop to give a tree some close attention. Andy had a crash in his run so there was no chance of him improving on his time. My second run was sketchy at the top after the drizzle, I rode well on the rest of the track and was on for beating my time by at least a second or two, until the last corner before the finish line. I took the inside line as I had done throughout practice but my front end washed out on a greased up root and I ate loam meters from the finish. A couple of others suffered the same misfortune almost at the identical spot.

Duncan was in Spielberg mode so didn’t take many still shots. Keep on the lookout for some race footage though, I’ve seen the clips and I can guarantee it’ll be a corker!

Oh yeah, results! – in short, Uni defeated Hallam!
For full results follow the link below. WARNING! You may want to reduce your screen brightness and wear some shades. Henry made this in paint and he seems quite proud of it: Click me!

Stay classy Sheffield

A touch of nepotism, perhaps?

A touch of nepotism, perhaps?

I received a message from Joe today inviting me to join the This Is Sheffield team and all of a sudden my head filled with ideas (not necessarily good) of what I could write about that other people could find interesting.

Before we get to the interesting stuff I’ll just give a quick introduction of myself:

My name is Ruari Hallam and I am Gee’s little brother. We are very much alike so if you know him you’ll have some idea of what I’m like. However, I am younger, fresher faced, fitter, faster, better looking… the list goes on. He has read a lot of books about stuff I’ve never even contemplated and has used the phrase “I’ve forgotten more than you know” so he would consider himself wiser than me (I wouldn’t say 10 more years has made much difference though). Other than being Gee’s brother, I am an Engineering student at the University of Sheffield. Also, I like to ride my bouncy bike, when I can afford to run it, and my Ragley mmmbop ba duba dop, ba du bop, ba duba dop…
I like Hobnobs, Milk Chocolate Hobnobs and Dark Chocolate Hobnobs. I don’t believe in god, I don’t eat meat or drink alcohol. I can often be found throwing shapes at The Tuesday Club but my music taste covers anything from soul and funk to hardcore punk to electo beats. Is that enough?

Here’s a picture of me you may have seen before.

Here’s one that shows that I can not only turn right.

Right, onto some slightly more interesting content:

I’ve been studying at Sheff Uni since September ’08. The main thing that brought me here was the huge amount of riding that’d be available on my doorstep. In the Crookes area of Sheffield you are 5 minutes ride from Bolehills BMX track (which has been newly resurfaced and the pump track updated thanks to the hard work from Malco, Dave Camus and many, many more people), another 10 minutes and you can be riding some challenging singletrack along the Rivelin valley. Or, if you’ve got the energy, you can explore the numerous crags and valleys that lie beyond Stanage.

Just yesterday, I decided to explore around the Derwent valleys and came across Cut Gate Path, one of the best descents in the Peak district! There are some epic views as you follow the numerous dams to their source, I’m sure the ride was 30 minutes longer than it should have been due to me stopping to take pictures. I’m certain that throughout my life I will continue to be mesmerised by the Peak District and I will discover many more epic riding spots in the years to come. Sheffield will always be my home!

Howden Clough, there’s small dam that looks like it’d be nice to chill in on a hot day this summer. There’s also an nice look descent

At the summit of somewhere, still not sure where to be honest…

Chow for now.

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