Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Cinder Track

So, the weather was alright last Saturday:

The working week had actually been a bit grim. C, one of my clients, is trying to negotiate the sale of some land to a rapacious housebuilding company. The land in question is a green, perfect Garden of Eden, where even the soul-numbing prisons that the housebuilder favours will look good.

Naturally, the housebuilder is trying to screw the sale price down as low as possible.

So we had Dave, the housebuilder's tangerine cheeked land buyer, and Adrian, his pasty faced, David Cameron-look alike lawyer over to the 'borough to try and agree some terms.

Like a comedy double act - but without any comedy - Dave and Adrian swapped made up questions and made imaginary concessions to C's fairly reasonable request that they tell him using actual maths how much they propose to pay him for his land.

"We want to maximise value for you by putting a viability argument to the planning authority as to why affordable provision should be minimised."  said Dave, who had evidently taken quite a few porky pie pills before setting off that morning.

The routine - which Dave and Adrian had clearly done many times before - lasted three draining hours. But it came to an end at last, and when I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning, the snowdrops in the garden and the glow in the sky said it was time to take the bike for a blast up the coast.

I hauled the Inferno out of the tin shed which is its new home. The chain had been glued into shape by that special black, abrasive cement that comes off British roads in winter time, and it made a load of musical squeaks as I leaned on the pedals and wound the Inferno up to a decent speed.

NCN Route 1 more or less goes through my back garden, and the Scarborough to Whitby section is a beautiful 21 mile ride through some of the loveliest scenery in the UK. This stretch even has a great name: the Cinder Track. It would have been rude not to.

Above, proof that even though the Inferno was made at the exact moment that the British cycle industry vanished, leaving only a faint whiff of 3-in-1 oil to show it had ever existed, it is still a reasonable means of transport.

Looking the other way, you can get a hint of the Olympian awesomeness of Ravenscar. I'm not sure if you can see it on that picture, but there's a container ship out there at sea. I was up so high that it looked too tiny to even be a child's toy. Even the sunlight twinkling on the sea was miniaturised by the dizzying seven hundred foot drop to the waves.

And just over the top of the hill is the extraordinarily lovely Robin Hoods Bay, memorably described by Rob Ainsley as a "...vertically laned Cornish fishing village, magically teleported to the Yorkshire coast."

There's only one thing to dull the shine, and that's the rutted, bashed up surface of the track. If you have a look at Sustrans' map of the Cinder Track you'll see there are six little warning triangles between Whitby and Scarborough with a little "surface unsuitable for road bikes" sign next to each one. They're not making it up either! I don't mind giving the Inferno a jolly good thrashing, and actually quite like the noise that the rear rack makes when the bolts holding it on have sheared and it is bouncing on the rear cassette as I ride along. But the scenery along the Cinder Track is so awesome that it should be open to everyone, form the very young to the very old. You shouldn't need to bring along a fully tooled up mountain bike to get to the end unscathed.

Scarborough Borough Council - which looks after the Cinder Track - is pretty well aware of the problems with the surface of the Track, and went so far as to draw up a report in 2011 setting out the improvements that were needed. The Council knows too that the Track is part of the borough's offer to tourists. It's sad to have to say that the surface of the Track is just as battered now as it was when I first rode it, several years ago.