Despite the bureaucracy which has delayed my trip, during the course of the year I’ve amassed a huge amount of new kit, not to mention a Surly Ogre custom built by the lovely guys at Keep Pedalling.

Neither the bike or kit has been tested nearly enough and so I came up with a number of ‘shakedown’ rides to test both rider and gear.

The first of which was to ride the northern section of the Pennine Bridleway from Kirkby Stephen back to the Mary Townley Loop just outside Hebden Bridge.

A hungover afternoon spent faffing with gear and the bike it soon became apparent that there was no way I’d make the last train to Kirkby Stephen that day and resolved to go the following day. After all I can now I’m a man of leisure!

The next day was one of the hottest of the year, I’d broken a sweat merely riding down to the train station. Whilst the train journey up to Kirkby Stephen was on the sweltering side, the views up through the Dales were magnificent and were worth the price of the train fair alone.

Out of Kirkby Stephen train station I joined the link path to the Pennine Bridleway start and began to get a feel for the loaded bike packing set up stopping occasionally to tweak and adjust.

Once in to Mallerstang passing Pendragon Castle the ascent of the Old Highway begins, recharging my bottles after leaving the road the Pennine Bridleway monument is quickly gained.


Views back down the valley are stunning along with the added spectacle of RAF fighters low level training.

I took a few minutes to enjoy the breeze high up and soak up the views. For the past week I’d been feeling washed out and with the combination of the heat and load on the bike I knew that this ride would be more leisurely than the ride I’d originally planned.

Scenic riding along the top of the highway leads on to the descent towards the Moorcock Inn.

With little in the way of amenties for much of the northern part of the route, I called in to the Moorcock for a quick drink and a refill of water bottles. Noting the time I also grabbed a sandwich given it was now late afternoon.

Progress up the Coal Road was surprisingly quick considering the load, even on a unloaded and sprightlier bike the Coal Road can feel a drag at times with its many false summits crushing many souls toward the end of the Etape Du Dales.

Over Great Knoutberry Hill I encounter my first person on the trail, and amazing views open up over on Dent Fell with views down in to Dentdale and Widdale.

The descents from Newby Head and Cam High Road are fast and swoopy, a joy to ride on the Ogre’s rigid setup leaving me with a smile ear to ear.

By now the evening light begins to cast shadows and bathing the hills in warm colours.


A Typical Dales Scene

Progress is slower than I’d hoped, feeling a little frazzled and with dwindling water I push on to Austwick for a pint and consider my options.

Feeling no better my plan to ride back to Hebden Bridge doesn’t look as viable as I first thought. I decide to bivvy and ride the remaining miles to Settle in the morning and catch the train home.


I’m disappointed to cut the ride short, but with 45 off road miles ridden its proved a valuable test of bike, rider and new kit. Affording me the trail to myself and one of the best days riding I’ve had in a long time.


In later summer 2015, I rode the Pennine Bridleway southern section, from the peak district to Hebden Bridge.


  1. Debbie

    Lovely to read this again after doing my own first bikepacking trip – I can now relate much better!
    I have photos on my facebook if you want a look, plus another of the guys has his pictures on his flickr feed (I think he will blog about it at some point too)

    I hope all your preparations are all going well 🙂

  2. Mike

    Glad to hear your trip went well, I’ll take a peek at the photos shortly. Update to follow shortly on plans.

  3. Chris

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve just come across your blog randomly, only to find that Debbie has been here before me – I was on that bikepacking trip she mentions – the photos she linked to are mine.

    I’m really interested in how you find the bikepacking setup over longer distances. I have loose plans to start a long ride next spring. After a fully loaded tour a couple of years ago, I’m determined to go light but don’t quite think how I can manage without a couple of small rear panniers, in addition to my bikepacking setup. So I’ll watch your experiences with interest.

    I would also love to do this on a rigid Ogre but as I’m considering taking this trip through Asia and eventually, perhaps Africa, I’m nervous about using a 29er (spares issues). So that takes me to the Troll. But I also yearn to take the backroads, dirt roads and offroad, and a rigid 26er may be more painful! Tricky decision: rigid 26er, 26er with front suspension or rigid 29er. So again, if you’re heading to Asia (is that the latest plan?) I’ll be interested to see how you feel about maintaining the Ogre out there.

    Best of luck with your trip, Chris

    • Mike

      Hey Chris!

      Great photos of the trip I had a quick peek a while ago.

      I’m going to write a little on the Ogre in the next couple of weeks so well worth keeping your eyes peeled for that.

      I spent some time out in NZ touring 5 years ago, whilst it was a great trip the bikes were fully laden and rode more like tanks rather than bikes. When coming up with the idea of this trip I wanted to ride more adventurous stuff and in order to do that lightening the load was the most obvious way to go.

      With the advent of so much good bikepacking gear around I began to think about teaming that with my trusty Carradice saddle bag and the Salsa Anything cages add a little more carrying capacity. It all seems to work together well and offers roughly 50 litres carrying capacity along with 4 litres of water.

      Longer term it will be interesting to see how the Rubik’s cube type packing required will work but the limitations of the reduced carrying capacity forces you to take the basics and nothing more.

      In terms of bike, 26er would be the most conservative option for spares but I couldn’t get away from the extra levels of comfort and grip offered by the 29er. Whilst a rigid bike is never going to compete with a bike with minimal bounce at the front the Ergons and Loop bars certainly increase the comfort at these contact points.

      Any more specific questions feel free to ping me a mail.

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