Lothersdale Loop – The Forum Ride That Never Was!

I was supposed to do a testing 52 mile ride with some lads off the CycleChat forum yesterday but in the end it didn’t happen! The weather was going to be bad for the first half of the ride and the forecast was much better for today so the ride was rescheduled.

As I got ready for the ride, incoming text messages told me that I wasn’t going to be having any company today. It’s the first time that has happened to me. I felt slightly tempted to go back to bed, but I needed the exercise and had been looking forward to the ride so I decided to ride on my lonesome.

Ride stats: Distance : 83 km (52 miles); Climbing: 1,900 m (6,200 ft) (some very steep!)

My route: Hebden Bridge, Cock Hill, Oxenhope, Sawood, Manywells Height, Cullingworth, Harden, Bingley, East/West Morton, Brunthwaite, Silsden Moor, Farnhill, Cononley, Lothersdale, Black Lane Ends, Laneshaw Bridge, Scar Top Moor Lodge (cafe stop), Stanbury, Haworth, Penistone Hill, Oxenhope, Cock Hill, Hebden Bridge.

Here it is on Bikely for those of you who might fancy giving it a go some time.

I set off at 09:45. It had been a bit misty but the skies were clearing by the time I got to Pecket Well. I was in full winter cycling kit and wondered if I had over-dressed but there was a chilly wind blowing all day and I was glad to be protected from it. There was the risk of drizzle later and getting wet when the air temperature isn’t that high and there is a high wind-chill factor is not a good idea. I got too warm on the climbs and unzipped my jacket and jersey, and closed them back up again for the descents.

Fortunately, there had been no frost overnight. This route has some very steep descents on minor roads which are unlikely to be gritted. If there had been a frost, I would have been forced to change the route.

This was well illustrated on the fast descent from Manywells Height to Cullingworth. It is north-facing so it would be sheltered from the low sun at this time of year. Unlike the rest of the route, that stretch of road had copious amounts of grit spread over it and there were Police signs warning of ice. Not applicable today, but we did have a heavy overnight frost in this area a couple of nights ago and I bet that road was extremely hazardous after that. One of my friends had a nasty accident crashing on ice somewhere round there a few years ago. I’ve also come off on icy roads in the past so I’m very cautious about ice now.

The roads were damp and they stayed damp all day but I didn’t experience any rain. I don’t know if it was just mist condensing on cold roads, or whether it kept raining everywhere before I got there!

I’d done most of this route in the past so I knew how tough the climb from the fringes of Silsden through Brunthwaite is. I really felt my weight and lack of cycling miles grovelling up that one!

I was making slow progress and I realised that I’d be running out of energy if I didn’t buy supplies somewhere along the way. The original plan had been to try out the tearooms at Scar Top Moor Lodge but that seemed too far away. I had my usual carbo-drinks in my bottles but I’d need something extra to fuel me for the seemingly endless hills on the route. I definitely didn’t want to ‘hit the wall’ today or I could end up riding home painfully slowly in the cold and dark.

I was passing through Cononley when I spotted a village shop over to my left and called in there and bought a chocolate bar, a bag of crisps and a can of Coke. They really perked me up and I mounted my bike with renewed vigour, set off up the road and discovered this lying in wait for me…

20% climb ahead!
20% climb ahead!

The road ramps right up beyond that bend. Oh, super – I almost hurled my chocolate, crisps and Coke! A couple out walking their dog were laughing at the faces I was pulling going up that hill. I survived that and headed towards Lothersdale. I’d been wanting to check it out since I first noticed it on the map a few months back. It forms part of a triangular area between three roads which I have ridden before, but Lothersdale itself had somehow slipped under my map-reading radar until recently.

So there it was in front of me, and quite pretty it looked too, only I couldn’t help noticing that there were some very steep roads up the sides of the valley. Me being me, I’d only gone and chosen to ride up one of them – Sidegate Lane. It is a tiny road out of the village and a very tough climb. “How tough?” you may ask. Well, let me put it this way – I nearly cried with relief every time I came to the ‘easy bits’ at a mere 10-15% gradient where I could partly recover before the next awful ramp reared up in front of me! Even with my super-low 30/28 climbing gear I came very close to cracking. The one good thing was that my iffy right leg survived the huge effort I was making – it has given way on a couple of tough climbs this year and if it had done it there, I’d have had a truly horrid experience getting home!

Once I’d cleared the climb, it didn’t take me long to get back onto a familiar road, just above Black Lane Ends, and then it is a fast descent to Laneshaw Bridge.

I’d started the day with a sore back, and by now it was really starting to feel sorry for itself! My hands, arms and shoulders were also feeling the strain of pulling so hard on the handlebars on those steep climbs.

I slowly made my way over to Scar Top and skipped the cafe stop there. I was rapidly running out of daylight and since today’s forum ride ended up consisting of only me, there wasn’t going to be a lot of socialising going on! (Mind you, I had a good chat to myself on the ride – “Now, Colin, don’t you go planning any more stupidly hard little rides until you are fit again!” “Sage advice CJ, I don’t believe I will…”)

Very familiar roads now – and of course – hills, hills, and more hills! I’d calculated that I’d be running low on daylight before I got home so I stopped in Oxenhope to switch my rear light on and donned my head torch so oncoming drivers would see me as I eventually descended the gloomy woods from Pecket Well into Hebden Bridge. But first, there was that final climb up Cock Hill. It always hurts me when I’m lacking in fitness and tired so I resorted to my trick of watching the altitude reading on my GPS and counting down in 5 metre bites. I start climbing at about 237 m and the summit is at 437 m. 200 to go, 195, 190… It works for me.

There was a fine sunset beyond Stoodley Pike but I didn’t have time to admire the view. I did a rapid descent to town and got there just as it was getting dark at 16:00.

It would have been nice to have had company for the ride, but I was glad that I made the solo effort. I’ll give my forum riding pals another chance next weekend, subject to reasonable weather.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply