‘Dip Into The Dales’

I missed the Spring Into The Dales (SITD) audax ride this year due to illness and was mightily peeved at the time. I thought it would now be good to organise a CycleChat forum ride along similar lines so I plotted a route which took in some elements of the old and new SITD routes and added some unfamiliar roads which I wanted to explore. I posted about the route on CycleChat and got quite a few people interested in joining me.

In the end, the riders were: Me, my pal Bill, potsy, Calum and two new faces – oldfatfool (who had clearly followed the usual CycleChat member naming convention, being not that old, not that fat, and as far as I could tell – not that foolish!) and eltelio who had made a long drive down from the NE to join us. A ‘mystery woman’ mentioned by Bill didn’t turn up!

The weather was all over the place! I’d woken up to sunshine, but soon black clouds had blown in and it had started raining. The wind was the worst thing. It was blowing from the W/NW all day and it wasn’t even steady – it was swirling and blustery and made riding very hard work. There were only two sections of the ride where we had a proper tailwind, the rest of the time it was hurting us, and it also made it very chilly at times. We did get some nice sunny spells during the day. It would have been really miserable if the rain and drizzle had continued all day long.

West Yorkshire view
A West Yorkshire view

Grey skies ahead!
Grey skies ahead!

We got to Lane Ends at the designated time but there was no sign of PaulB. He’d made his excuses on CycleChat this morning, but I’d logged out just before then and had missed them. A quick phone call confirmed that he would not be joining us, so we continued as just 6.

The wind was so strong on some of the descents that it was lifting the helmet from my head! I’ve never experienced that before. It also started to blow the route sheet off my bars on the descent to Elslack so I stopped to sort that out. The rest went on but eltelio is a cautious descender and hung back. We rode into the village together and there was no sign of the others.

I knew that potsy had a GPS on his bike and assumed that he had led the riders down the easily-missable right turn in the village. Wrong! His device was playing up too. They had gone on to a junction a mile further west on the A59 to the one we had reached. I assumed that they had gone on through Broughton and Terry and I set off in pursuit. Calum then rang and told me that they were actually behind us down the A59, and Bill had gone off somewhere in search of us. He wasn’t carrying a phone so we couldn’t contact him …

It was all getting a bit confusing so I told Calum to catch us up in Gargrave. We got there first and waited for potsy, Calum and o.f.f. to arrive. 10 minutes passed and then they appeared, still minus Bill. It all felt a bit chaotic, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Our forum ride motto is ‘no rider left behind’ but what can you do when you don’t have a clue where one straggler is and he hasn’t got a phone?

We had just about decided to abandon Bill to his fate when he arrived in Gargrave. He said that he had climbed right back up the climb from Elslack to look for me. It is a bit of a pig of a climb with sections over 14%! Fortunately, Bill is a scrawny climber so it hadn’t bothered him that much. He knew we were riding through Gargrave so he chased us all the way there.

Saddle up …

I missed the turn for Rylstone at Hetton so we continued to Cracoe, and then had to head back down the B6265. That added about 2 km to our ride.

We had a cross-tailwind on that stretch of road so we were able to get a bit of speed up for a change. It had been almost relentless hills and/or headwinds up to that point.

We turned left just before Skipton and headed for Embsay. I realised that I hadn’t been drinking enough and hadn’t eaten anything for over 4 hours. I was paying the price and getting confused about my written instructions. Looking at the map now, I can’t imagine how I could have struggled to work out which way to go. There were only two roads, and I knew which one it wasn’t, but I couldn’t quite trust myself on the other, despite a sign pointing to Bolton Abbey, which was where we were heading to!

Eventually we did the obvious, and soon I was reassured to see a sign for our cafe stop. We needed it after 37 hilly, wind-blasted miles!

Now then … what to say. The farm cafe is in a nice location. It was clearly quite popular; there were lots of families there, the food was quite nice. A little pricey by northern standards, but not extortionately so (I paid £5.20 for a coke and a veggie panini). But …

The thing that peed us off really was a general feeling that we were there to make money for the owners rather than them being there to provide a service to us (for a charge, of course). Well, they said it themselves … We sat outside at the picnic tables and on every one of them was a laminated notice saying (something like) “Look – this is a business and we are here to make money and we can’t make money if we let you drink tap water so don’t ask for it! We would go out of business if we let you drink free water!”

I’ve never seen anything like that before. Normally, we go to cyclist-friendly cafes and the staff at them are happy to fill our bottles for us. Not this lot. They had just lost six potential future customers! We topped up our bottles at Bolton Abbey instead – no charge!

My little detour at Bolton Bridge was effective in missing out about half a mile of the busy A59 on a slightly uphill stretch where the difference in speed between bikes and passing cars wouldn’t be much fun. We crossed over to a quiet lane through Beamsley and soon I was leading us down the path to the footbridge over the Wharfe. It was made of alternate stretches of tarmac and soil and when Calum asked me a question, I was distracted and didn’t notice that I was on one of the muddy bits. I braked and BAM – I went down hard!

My front wheel had locked up and slid out from under me. Fortunately I landed on soil rather than tarmac. No harm done to the bike, and not much to me but I was shaken up, I had a sore right hand and my neck and back took a battering which made the return leg of the ride even more painful than they otherwise would have been.

I struggled to get my bike over the bridge and up the steps to the road above in Addingham. My muscles were stiffening up.

Time was getting on and there were tired legs in the group. We decided that we’d skip my scenic (hilly!) skirting of Keighley and ride through the town instead. The steep climb over to Silsden convinced me that the decision to take the easier route home was the correct one. Several riders walked the top section of that one!

Bill said goodbye in Silsden and rode off ahead because he was getting cold and needed to ride faster to keep warm. Calum wanted to get back to Leeds at a reasonable time, so we left him to catch a train home from Steeton.

The strain was beginning to be felt as we climbed up to Cross Roads above Haworth. We regrouped and then o.f.f. noticed that his rear brake was malfunctioning. He’d got a pair of those secondary bar-mounted brake levers and an adjustment bolt seemed to have come loose and jammed the brake on. That must have sapped a lot of strength!

We said goodbye to o.f.f. who was heading back to Cleckheaton on the A629. We had a bit of respite from climbing on Haworth Brow, but soon we got to Oxenhope and the climbing began again. It was killing me! The wind made it really hard and every muscle was aching. eltelio climbed steadily, potsy was behind him and I was limping up the hill, way back. I had to keep getting off my bike to stretch my back. Ouch!

At last, I arrived at the summit and regrouped with e. and p.

[L-R] Potsy, ColinJ, Eltelio
[L-R] Potsy, ColinJ, Eltelio

I’d been looking forward to the 4.5 mile descent all afternoon and finally it was time for it. 15 minutes later, we were in the car park in Hebden Bridge and saying our goodbyes.

Nice to see you again Calum and potsy, and to meet you oldfatfool and eltelio! (Thanks for the photos potsy.)

That was a really hard ride for me! The fall didn’t help, and the wind certainly didn’t, but it was yet another reminder that I need to get my weight down and do more riding to regain my former fitness.

I have at least 200 miles of riding planned for the next 2 weeks, which will help. [PS 4th Oct 2011: It certainly did! I rode over 300 miles in September and came into October feeling much stronger as a result. :)]

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Lessons learned on the ride:

  1. Be very careful applying the front brake when riding a road bike with skinny, slick tyres on mud!
  2. If navigating unfamiliar roads without use of a GPS (why?), then at least carry a map and consult it whenever necessary!
  3. Get more easy miles in, so long hilly rides do not hurt as much!
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2 Responses to “‘Dip Into The Dales’”

  1. Your literary skills have not diminished during your break from the Blog! Very inspiring.

  2. Thanks.

    (Your cheque is in the post, Andy!)

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