Leave the city behind and ride into the hills

Leave the city behind and ride into the hills

Kinder Circuit mountain bike trail — Huck jumps into the saddle for an exhilarating mountain bike ride through Derbyshire’s Peak District.

Hurtling down a rocky mountain bike descent is a great way to clear your mind. As potholes and loose rocks reveal themselves at the very last minute, it takes every bit of concentration to stay in control and avoid skidding out, or worse, going over the handlebars. When I finally reach the bottom, look back up the lush green valley and take a lung full of clean mountain air, it’s safe to say the troubles of London life couldn’t be farther from my mind.

I’m riding the Kinder Circuit, a 3-4 hour ride in the heart of the Peak District with Pete Warwick, a passionate mountain biker, all-round outdoorsman and founder of ethical clothing brand Husky Organic. The circular route is a favourite of Pete’s, not least because you can load your bike onto a train to Edale in Debyshire (just over half an hour from Manchester or Sheffield) and arrive without polluting the landscape you’ve come to enjoy. Within minutes of leaving the station you can be pedalling through the Peak District countryside, with a clear head and a clean conscience.

Pete explains the wilderness feel of the route and the unpredictability (which at times will keep you gripping the handlebars for sheer life and death) is what makes it one of his favourites anywhere in the world. “It’s a natural trail so you’re taking responsibility for your day out,” Pete explains. “The trail changes every year with the seasons so it’s less predictable. The descents are great, very fast, rock-strewn with natural slabs to pop off. Every time you ride you can pick a different line and have a completely different experience.”

After leaving Edale there are just a few hundred metres to ride on tarmac before passing through an old wooden gate on to rough track and beginning the climb out of the valley floor. Lugging the weight of a full-suspension mountain bike up hill isn’t the easiest way to spend your morning, but thankfully the ultra-low gears see us up Mam Tor relatively pain-free. The first small descent chills the sweat sticking to my body, before we climb higher still to Rushup Edge, where paragliders leap into the void. It’s a great opportunity to pause and see the altitude gained, survey the rolling countryside of the Peak District below and feel the satisfaction of reaching the top under your own steam.

“Being in the mountains is a kind of meditation for me,” reflects Pete. “They’ve got a certain grandeur… there’s an atmosphere and drama to them – they’re amazing playgrounds. I like being close to nature and in these wild, remote places I feel a sense of peace. I’m an environmentalist with a strong appreciation for the natural world, which I feel is currently in deep trouble. You’ve got to ask yourself strongly why you’re doing what you’re doing because everything we do has an environmental consequence. That understanding was central to all the decisions I’ve made with Husky.”

The genesis of Husky Organic came when Pete considered printing his mountain bike inspired art on t-shirts and came face to face with a host of ethical dilemmas. Conventional t-shirt making involves exploitation and environmental destruction at almost every stage of the process: from the child labour and harmful pesticides in the cotton fields, to toxic chemical inks and sweatshop conditions in the factories. Pete’s long search to produce a t-shirt that didn’t compromise his personal philosophy finally led him to Turkey and the closest factory to the UK which could prove where its cotton came from, which happened to be a cotton field a short ride away. All Husky t-shirts are produced from organic cotton using non-toxic water-based inks, and at each stage of the supply chain, from seed to shelf, workers are treated fairly, without being exposed to harmful chemicals.

Pushing over Rushup Edge we’re into the first major descent, which starts gently with a winding track cutting its way through the thick grass of the hillside, before turning to rock and plunging down to Roych Clough. Climbing back out of the valley, skirting around Mount Famine and another descent into Coldwell Clough is all just a warmup for the big prize: Jacob’s Ladder, which comes after a gruelling 300m ascent.

“The descent of Jacob’s is a really great feeling,” grins Pete. “You can hit it pretty hard and trust your instincts but it’s fast and very technical. It’s steep with lots of variation: steps, slabs, natural berms, loose rocks everywhere, from small stones to boulders. The whole area is quite special with steep contours all meeting in one area, which adds lots of drama in terms of speed and the terrain you’re riding over.”

For city riders used to the smallest pothole shaking their body to the core, it’s remarkable how the mountain bike skips down the uneven surface of the winding stone staircase with such ease. It dances over loose boulders and skips out of stone trenches, but takes every ounce of concentration and muscle to surf the razor thin margin for error. When my foot slips out of the cleat for a few seconds I hit a rocky hairpin too slowly. Coming in at the wrong angle, the front wheel locks up and sends me sailing over the handlebars to discover you don’t bounce on solid rock.

Within minutes of dusting myself off and jumping back on the bike, we’re through the gate by the stream that signals the end of the ride and sipping a smooth local ale in the Rambler Inn, next to Edale station to wait for the train back to the madness of civilisation. Just over two hours later, I’m pushing against the seething tide of commuters, their sullen eyes locked to the floor, escaping the capital after another day of thankless toil. I’m walking heavily on my bruised hip, but after a little taste of the wilderness, my soul is noticeably lighter.

Find out more about Husky Organic.

The Kinder Circuit is a 3-4 hour circular ride from Edale, Derbyshire. Check out the route guide from 
Vertebrate Publishing.