MTB Ride – Old Chamber, London Road, Duke Street, Colden Clough.

I had a problem after I'd serviced my MTB recently – the saddle that used to be on the MTB is now on my exercise bike. The saddle that used to be on the exercise bike is now on a singlespeed bike which I keep in the midlands. That left me two Fizik Arione saddles for two road bikes and the MTB. It was becoming a right nuisance having to swap saddles round between the bikes so on Friday I nipped down to my LBS (Local Bike Shop) and bought a third saddle. I like the Ariones but they are pretty expensive so I thought I'd try a cheaper saddle on the MTB and see how I got on with it. I wanted to try one with a cutout to see if it did improve comfort levels. In the end I bought a Specialized Indie XC which is pretty wide and has a groove down the centre where it would otherwise be pressing against the delicate perineum. It's a tad heavier than what I'm used to but my MTB is pretty heavy anyway (and so am I!) so an extra 75-100 grams isn't really going to make that much difference. The saddle is more padded than I'm used to and I think that might actually turn out to be more of a problem. More on that later…

The weather was supposed to be turning nasty this weekend, and I wanted to get out for a couple of hours before it did. It was a good opportunity to test the new MTB saddle.

This was the route I decided on which takes in parts of the Pennine Bridleway/Mary Towneley Loop:

Short warm-up on the Calder Valley Cycleway to the former clog factory mill at Mytholmroyd, sharp right over the railway bridge to take the bridleway up to Spencer Lane, steep climb to Old Chamber, Back Lane***, Jumps Lane, Kilnshaw Lane, London Road, right off that down to Lee Bottom Road, right through Harvelin Park, left down Stoodley Lane, right onto the A646, after 300 m left onto Duke Street, Eastwood Lane, steepening climb up towards Great Rock, Staups Lane, Davey Lane to Blackshaw Head, right, then bear left down Old Shaw Lane, New Shaw Lane, left up Brownhill Lane, right down the PBW/MTL at the cottages, eventually onto School Land Lane and climb up to Edge Lane…

(I'd planned to turn left there and follow the PBW/MTL to Lower Gorple, cross the Widdop Road, and take the bridleway through Walshaw and on down to Hardcastle Crags, Midgehole, Keighley Road, Hebden Bridge. However, when I got to Edge Lane the sky was blackening rapidly so I decided to take a more direct route home…)

… right along Edge Lane, then right down Fold Lane (caution near the houses – often children playing!), right down Smithy Lane into the dip at Jack Bridge, short climb up past the New Delight, then left down the bridleway Hudson Mill Road/Colden Road (known locally as Colden Clough or Ragley Woods), Church Lane, Hebden Bridge.

I was going to be doing the steep cobbled climb to Old Chamber but I fancied at least a token warm-up first, so I rode along the Cycleway to Walkleys clogs, stopping on the way to tilt the nose of my new saddle down by a mm or two. I'd had a discussion with the man at the shop about saddles and he was adamant that saddles ‘should be' level. If the saddle needs tilting, something is wrong. Sorry mate, they are my genitals and I know what is best for them! Having the nose of a saddle sticking into them isn't my idea of fun… Granted, I have overdone saddle tilt in the past and that is also Not A Good Thing but if a 1.5 mm tilt makes me comfortable, that's what I'm gonna have!

I felt immediate relief with the new saddle position, without any sense of sliding forward or putting pressure on the arms which are the two problems you'd potentially get by excessive tilting.

When I got to Spencer Lane, I thought I'd stop to take a picture for you showing the steep cobbled climb to Old Chamber. As ever, you don't get the full sense of how steep it is from the photograph.

Steep cobbled climb to Old Chamber
Steep cobbled climb to Old Chamber

I could certainly feel my extra weight going up that climb! It wasn't a problem getting up it because my MTB has some very low gears on it, but it can be tricky keeping the front of the bike down when using them. The answer is to lean forward and put more weight on the front of the bike. Not a problem in the dry but that can cause problems in the wet when the back tyre loses traction – especially bad on cobbled climbs like that.

I stopped at Old Chamber to take another picture from the same position as one I'd taken back in January. I wanted to be able to compare them. Here you go…

Winter view from Old Chamber
Winter view from Old Chamber

Summer view from Old Chamber
Summer view from Old Chamber

I suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so I was very pleased that we had a crisp, often sunny winter rather than one of the really dreary ones we sometimes get here. You can see that the sun was shining down into Hebden Bridge on that first picture, but just imagine how dull and depressing it can get when the sun doesn't shine for a couple of months! I'm similarly pleased about the (generally) good summer this year. The last couple were depressing in the extreme, and played a big part in my weight gain. Anyway, no doubt more about S.A.D. at another time. Back to the ride…

I could feel that the MTB was giving my upper body a bit of a workout on the rough stuff. I've got pretty good suspension forks on the Rock Lobster, but even so, riding it is harder on the arms and shoulders than riding my road bikes is.

I went bombing down the London Road, which of course isn't a road at all, and is nowhere near London, but apart from that it is very appropriately named! 😉

Oh, time for a photograph of Stoodley Pike from below! I've posted pictures of it from all over the area, but this is one view that you haven't had from me yet…

Stoodley Pike from London Road
Stoodley Pike from London Road

I dropped off the London Road and headed down into Harvelin Park. It's a small (60s?) housing estate plonked in the fields below Stoodley Pike. I think that it looks quite out of place there between the original old stone farm buildings dotted around. I'm not sure that they would have got planning permission for such an estate if they tried building one in a spot like that now.

You can follow Lee Bottom Road right to the end as it drops down to the left below a house. From there, there is a nice bridleway down through the woods to the Rochdale canal towpath which can take you back to Hebden Bridge. I had other plans…

I turned left down Stoodley Lane past the old Coach House. If you ride down there – exercise caution! There is always the danger of meeting vehicles, cyclists, ramblers, or horse-riders coming up the hill. The surface of the lane is also pretty treacherous and it would be easy to get caught out. There are large potholes, drainage channels, ruts, loose gravel, adverse camber, tight bends. A friend almost crashed going down there with me once. Easy, tiger!

I'd decided to tackle another farm track/bridleway which I haven't done for a long time – Duke Street. So – I turned right onto the A646 and after 300 metres or so, turned left onto Duke Street. Now this is another local farm track which has been having trouble with drivers being sent up or down it by errant Sat Navs, and there were signs erected by locals to warn of this fact.

The first part of the climb is easy, but as it goes up past the farm buildings and cottages, it gets steeper and steeper. The track used to be a major challenge of fitness and technique but it was resurfaced a few years ago and the ‘sanitised' climb is no longer much of a technical challenge. It's now more a case of selecting a suitably low gear and grinding your way up. Which I did…

I took Staups Lane and Davey Lane to Blackshaw Head, and then got onto the PBW/MTL round to Edge Lane, at which point I decided to head for home due to worsening weather conditions. Since I was on my MTB, I didn't want to just ride back on the road, so I headed right down Fold Lane then Smithy Lane to Jack Bridge, then turned left down the Colden Clough bridleway just above the New Delight.

The descent confirmed for me that anybody believing a Sat Nav that this was a road deserves to have their driving license immediately and permanently revoked! How can they be expected to ever drive safely if they are that stupid?

It wasn't long before I'd completed a bone-shaking descent and ridden back through Hebden Bridge to home. I'd felt a few spots of rain, but it didn't actually rain properly until midnight. Very strange…

It had been a pleasant little ride. I'm enjoying being offroad again.

Okay – how was the new saddle? Well, I was wearing my Endura baggy MTB shorts and they are a bit warm compared to my usual lycra shorts, and the thick padding on the saddle was storing more heat than a more conventional saddle does. Okay, it was a warm humid afternoon, but I think that I was getting more hot in the shorts department than I normally do. It really would not feel nice on a very hot day! 😕 Mind you, I'd wear lycra on a day like that. I think that the padding is more of a problem than the problem it is trying to solve. A well-shaped saddle shouldn't need a lot of padding. It starts to squidge around a bit. I liked the cutout in the saddle – that definitely seemed to reduce unwanted pressure on the delicate bits. Verdict – okay for moderate riding. I will probably replace the saddle on the exercise bike with this one when I can afford to get a similar one but with less padding for the MTB.

*** I'm getting the names of many of these ancient rights of way from Google Maps. Most of them are nothing more than rocky dirt tracks and they do not have signs on them. Google must have access to some very old documents, perhaps the local ‘definitive maps'. Now the thing is – names like ‘xxx Lane', ‘yyy Road' and ‘zzz Street' sound like proper roads so is it any wonder that a team of people working in India (for example), would look at this information and come to the conclusion that the dirt tracks are actually suitable for vehicular traffic? Hence the cock-ups when setting up Sat Nav databases. It still doesn't excuse drivers ignoring the evidence of their eyes and trying to drive on them, just because their Sat Navs say they should!

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2 Responses to “MTB Ride – Old Chamber, London Road, Duke Street, Colden Clough.”

  1. Excellent report and pictures Colin,this mountain biking sounds great,with some terrific routes round Hebden! will have to seriously consider aquiring a MB sometime in the near future.

  2. Hi Andy.

    Yes, it is a very good area for mountain biking. In fact, there are so many local bridleways that I haven’t actually ridden all of them yet and from time to time I still discover new ones. There are some that are in a pretty poor condition and are virtually unrideable, but there are some cracking bridleways within a very short distance of Hebden Bridge town centre.

    When you do decide to buy a MTB, I’d recommend that you go for a ‘hardtail’. You won’t be wanting to do hardcore descending so why go to the extra expense of buying full suspension? A full-sus bike weighs more, costs more and there is more to go wrong with it. Whatever MTB you choose, I hope you get it more quickly than the road bike! 😉

    More MTB reports to follow…

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