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Whilst the southern hemisphere is enjoying the summer sun, the northern half is getting its share of grim winter weather. This is especially true in the northern part of the UK, which seems to get its own extra share of wind, rain and snow during those winter months. However, riding up here you soon learn to love it. After spending the summer months soaking up the Canadian sun, Peak Leaders and Sheffield Uni Graduate John Inman was back in the UK for the winter and getting back down and dirty in South Yorkshire.

Photo Break in the weather that didn't last long

Being spoilt with countless days of sun over the summer and a relatively mild autumn, it felt very alien to be back in the wet and cold of the UK winter. Especially having spent a semester at University in London, where trail riding isn’t readily available, I was itching to get back out on the bike. So I made plans to meet up with an old uni mate and get back to some proper northern riding.

Photo Winter in full swing

With the forecast showing sun, we were optimistic that we would get a break from the wind and rain. After making the drive up to Grenoside and getting the bikes set up, we took a quick break in the car to ‘warm up’ whilst there was a quick cloudburst, before getting an actual warm up on theSteel City DH track in Grenoside woods. Built for the famous Steel City DH race run by Steve Peat, a great track filled with berms, rocks and roots and jumps that has trail bike written all over it (the pedal up isn't too bad either).

The riding scene has really taken off in Sheffield in the last few years, and not just on the road side of things with the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2014. Whilst it has always had a great community, recent years have seen real progress in building new sanctioned trails and maintenance of existing ones, thanks to trail advocacy groups likeRide Sheffield. Mates races run byThisiSheffield have also really helped people get involved, along with big riding clubs from the two big universities in Sheffield.

Wharncliffe woods is really well known in the UK for riding. Originally Peaty's home training ground, it has now played host to a number of World Class Downhillers, with its steep, rocky and rooty DH tracks. However, there is still plenty of fun to be had on little bikes. The XC riding here is very different to the Peak District riding that you can find on the eastern side of Sheffield, which is predominantly open moorland with rocky and fast technical descents to be found in plentiful supply. In contrast, Wharncliffe provides a much greater challenge in some aspects with most riding steeper, tighter and and rockier than the Peak. This really feels like 'old school' proper XC, technical rock and root strewn climbs and descents with winter mud thrown in there as well (although there is the option of the fireroad).

Photo Manuals out of greasy corners

Although slightly off the beaten track, there is a loop predominantly on singletrack the snakes its way around the woods. Trail conditions were wet and loose, the perfect intro back into UK riding! Off camber roots, dirty ruts and loose corners were the order of the day. Snaking its away round the upper part of the woods, trying to stay on two pedals whilst traversing across the sloping roots of 'Iggle Piggle' provided a great challenge.

Photo Ride the rut

Getting our fill of some old school XC, we then headed over to the more gravity orientated side of things. There are a whole host of DH tracks in Wharncliffe, with the predominant theme being steep and rocky! Heading into 'Dog's Bollocks', it doesn't get much better than slipping and sliding down drops into catch berms on summer tyres.

Photo "Wharncouver's" answer to 'Dirt Merchant'

Heading a little bit further North, there is an area of trails affectionately known as 'Wharncouver'. As a result of the significant contingent of Sheffielders that head across to British Columbia during the warmer months, there has been lots of digging activity to create some expertly sculpted trails. Reminiscent of those you could bike park, and just as good. This is testament to the quality of riding here in Sheffield, firstly that there is a community to make areas like this, and good enough that draws them back!

Photo A certain satisfaction in smashing greasy and wet corners!

After pushing up for some laps on the 'North Shore', we climbed back up and along to Wharncliffe Crag. A quick break in the rain revealed a rainbow, before the head wind and rain set in again. Not ideal given there is less elevation here, but after some pedally singletrack we crossed into a long boulder field providing a chance to practice some trials skills.

Photo Bleak but beautiful

Photo Scoping freeride lines

Suitably wet, muddy and cold, but grinning we made our way back up the hill to the car park. After a quick change of clothes, it was down to 'The Old Red Lion' pub in Grenoside for a well deserved drink and some food. Top end to a top day's riding, who needs summer?

You can find the trails in Wharncliffe and Grenoside by heading north up Woodhead Road out of Grenoside (the carpark is about 500m on the left), about 15 minutes off Junction 35 of the M1. Although there are no proper trail facilities at the carpark, there are a fair few pubs to be found in Grenoside and Chapletown that can you provide you with accommodation and food! There are no charges for riding the trails, but if you do want to give back to the hard work that Ride Sheffield has done then get involved in one of theirdig days.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Peak Leaders!

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