Note: Because of the disorientating effect of the Bone Hole and Fight Club zones the writer cannot guarantee an exhaustively geographical accurate account of the ride.
Punk Rock Dad and I arrived to meet Messrs Routemartin and the Shaman in the normal-pub-carpark-type-of-fashion.
As bikes were fettled and injected with air I sensed little of the strange trip into ‘organic’ mountain biking to come.
The Shaman had acquired a new vehicle to guide us into the further regions: a light blue Inbred hardtail. Like some wise indigenous beast it would stalk the contorted universes of the zones with animal efficiency.
Aiding the progress of this journey into darkness was Routemartin aboard his red Spesh Epic, a thousand epic spins into nothingness etched across his face. Bone hole survivor and hooligan bike master PRD rode his Orange 5 while I straddled my sparkle silver Intense 5.5 – the bike I had joyously baptised on a trip through Duke’s Cut near Hebden Bridge the previous weekend.
Leaving the quiet surrounds of the White Lion on the edge of Knowle Hill we began climbing to discover a pathway to the panoramic splendor of its peak.
We passed through a working but eerily deserted farmyard to gain access to a mysterious copse whose winding stair cast us into the zones.
A push up the bumpy grass to the summit gave us a Turneresque view of every dirty old town in the post-industrial vista.
Air painting gestures and ritual sign-making finally gave way to the descent into Bone Hole, known appropriately enough as Bone Hole Drop.
I was defeated by the surprising steepness of the plummet and I pathetically dabbed my way down when a confident arse behind-the seat-technique would have got me down in one piece.
As the Shaman motioned towards a strip of singletrack that wound its magic down the contours of the moor, we passed into the next zone: Fight Club.
“This is the place I’ve been looking at ,” the Shaman said with a delighted look of pride, and we climbed up the strip to fire off from the tee.
In this realm, the normal laws of XC mountain biking were turned on their heads. Instead of the familiar impressions of a hundred ghost riders, tyres churned curdles of virgin soil as the bikes danced along multiple lines of singletrack.
In place of the disruptive restrictions of gates and fences was the freewheeling joy of plunging into open country – and all near Bacup.
It seemed the ultimate expression of what makes mountain biking grab a person like crack cocaine. A step into the unknown to find a place that, with one attentive caress, feels like home.
The path eventually scythed into a precipitous helter skelter but soon belched us out onto the safety and the sheer shambolic fun of the Rooley Moor Road.
Here we discovered the filthy detritus of those who fail to respect the zones. A fly-tipping builder had desecrated the land with a collection of materials leftover from some botched handy work. We turned enforcers and photographed the evidence: two missives bearing a women’s address.
“So Miss Careless how did it come to pass that your details were discovered by mountain bikers on the Rooley Moor Road near Fight Club?
“You have shamed Albion and I sentence you to be hanged by an inner tube.”
Retching with hunger due to the exhausting physical nature of the other world I was soon comforted by the substances provided by Routemartin – a skillfully prepared egg and bacon butty. Next, moving forward past the only two bikers to be encountered on the route things picked up.
The Rooley’s mosaic of gritty dirt, rocks, and broken paving, gave way to some of the best riding on the mission. “Down here,” cried PRD as he peeled off to the left to blitz another exciting descent. An out-of-control conveyor belt of ruts and slabs moved us towards Bacup where we were to pick up the path to the third zone: the quarry.
As we passed the check-point there was a sign warning of the evil inherent in the quarry zone. This, like something pulled from the sleeve of an in flight seat pouch (Fight Club reference No 50), took the form of a figure falling from a cliff.
A lone hooded figure, carrying what looked like a sniper rifle, stalked us from the beginning of the path to the quarry. Fortunately skillful riding allowed us to avoid the reaper’s sights and we pushed on fuelled by adrenalin.
And indeed, the quarry zone, subject to a £90million ‘extreme’ bid to the zonal authorities, seemed to be waiting for the settlement of an ‘adrenalin village’.
We encountered a slab of rock with the name Crusty Man, and as I blinked through sun flare, it appeared that the hooligan PRD was sketching his way down its almost vertical wall aboard his Five. Later, photographs proved that this ‘hallucinogenic vision’ was a reality.
After exploring the various permutations of the quarry we began descending to circumvent our progress and emerge from the zones unscathed.
Once more in need of bodily fuel I sucked upon the strange gel provided by a plastic tube and PRD pulled the wise smirk of the those who have already taken the ‘Donkey Jizz’.
Invigorated by the fluid I tackled a flooded, descending path by riding high on its banks like an otter scuttling home with fish.
Jizzzed to the eyeballs I began to tackle an ascent as if I were the stalker leading the trip. But the effects of this short-lived high wound down and the soon, the rocks and the stones, and the climbs, and the air of the hills, and the roots, and barbed wire, and the Fight Club began to bring a great weariness.
Exhausted by the endurance of his spiritual guidance the Shaman bade farewell and headed for his tepee. Routemartin, PRD and I schlepped to the border between the zones and their security cordon.
Soon we were safe within the walls of a tavern which served a serious pint of Thwaites and an average burger. Routemartin rested back and said it was great day of riding. And, as he said it, the secrets of the zones fluttered away from his lips and faded behind his wind-lashed head like the smoke from a cigarette.
The ride was gone but in our heads, a nugget of its preciousness remained forever. It has been a great day of riding.