MTB ride – Parts of the Mary Towneley Loop

Pals are up in Hebden Bridge for the weekend. I know PaulP and Martin from my late teens in Coventry. I was introduced to Nick by them a few years back. PaulS came along this time too. He is Martin's brother and he was in the year above me at school, but neither of us can remember each other from those days. Anyway, he is a nice guy – the more the merrier!

They arrived yesterday afternoon and we had a night out at the pub, so we had mild hangovers to burn off today on our annual mountain biking get-together.

The forecast for today had been grim. Sure enough, there was a pretty chilly north-easterly wind, and the skies were very overcast. When I woke up, it was raining heavily. Things weren't looking good…

I went online to get an updated weather forecast. It said that the rain should begin to ease up, and we might only have light showers later on. I was about to call my friends when they rang me to suggest leaving at 11:30 rather than 10:00 as planned. Great minds think alike!

We met up in the town centre and got on our way after they stocked up with provisions at one of the local shops.

PaulP isn't really a cyclist but is in reasonable physical condition so I'd planned a route that would be bearably tough for him, and challenging enough for the rest of us to be a fun day out. I'd taken into account the recent rain and avoided areas that would be excessively muddy. As far as possible, we kept off busy roads, but inevitably we had to tackle a few to join up the long stretches of bridleway and scenic lanes.

Our route:

Towpath to Callis Bridge, Pennine Bridleway (PB) /Mary Towneley Loop (MTL) up through Callis Wood, Kilnshaw Lane, ‘London Road' to Mankinholes, quiet road through Lumbutts to Gauxholme, A681 to Clough Foot, lane up to the right through Sourhall and left there over to the A646 at Portsmouth, left up Cliviger Gorge to Holme Chapel, right there, climb the PB/MTL to The Long Causeway, cross the road, offroad down past Cant Clough and Hurstwood reservoirs, right onto Gorple Road (which is still actually a bridleway, part of PB/MTL) up to Gorple Gate, down to Widdop Reservoir, right along Widdop Road, then left off the PB/MTL there at (a different) Clough Foot, bridleway back to Midgehole, Midgehole Road, Keighley Road back to Hebden Bridge.

There was a fair amount of surface water lying about after all the rain we'd have over the past 48 hours so I'd fitted my ‘Crud Guard' to keep as much mud/water as I could off my back. It did the trick.

I didn't take many photographs on this ride. The light conditions were poor and it was too cold to keep stopping.

It was a good run over to Clough Foot, but then when we headed up the steep lane to Sourhall I began to have problems with my bike. It seemed that my recent overhaul of the Rock Lobster hadn't been done quite carefully enough. Here's a list of what went wrong…

I dropped my chain on the climb. This happened several times during the ride. The cause – my new Deda Dog Fang Chain Keeper hadn't been fitted properly. Slap my own wrist.

I kept slipping out of gear – gear adjustment adequate for a flat towpath test ride was clearly not adequate for climbing steep hills! Wrist slapped again!

The question I asked myself – “Should I lube my new jockey wheels?” was answered, repeatedly, and to a head-mangling extent. Yes. Yes. Yes. YES!!! The squeaking got so bad that I freewheeled as often as I could just to get a break from that damn noise. Wrist now getting red-raw from slaps…

Another question that I asked myself – “Can I ignore the fact that a couple of strands have snapped on the front derailleur cable?” was also answered. No. No. No. NO!!! I discovered that I couldn't get into the big ring any more. Investigation revealed that every time I tried, another strand would break. I decided to give up on the big ring, and try and preserve what was left of the cable so I could still switch between the other two rings. That worked. Switched to slapping other wrist.

Apart from that, the bike behaved perfectly… 😉

Having hastily lifted my chain back on and readjusted my gears, I got going again and rejoined my mates at Sourhall.

We whizzed down to the A646 and I felt a bit cold so I powered my way up the valley as fast as I could to warm up again. When we got back together at the highest point on the road, we decided that we would have a lunch stop at the Ram Inn at Holme Chapel which is just opposite the end of the bridleway leading up to The Long Causeway.

We got a bit chilled on our stop, but the climb soon warmed us up again. It was certainly really cold for the 6th June.

PaulP was having problems with chainsuck. I explained what it was and told him to be careful not to mangle his chain. He hasn't had his bike serviced for a long time and it really needs looking at.

We had an entertaining run round by the two reservoirs, but then we turned up the Gorple Road straight into the cold wind. That was a bit of a slog and PaulP was really struggling with it but he didn't complain. I was impressed with how he was doing, given that he has only ridden his bike to the shops a few times since the last annual MTB weekend!

Finally we got to Gorple Gate and we decided to celebrate with a group photo up there.

[Left-Right] Martin, Nick, PaulS, PaulP, Me (ColinJ)
Gorple Gate group photo

Once again, I look huge compared to everybody else! The others are not short, it's just a weird perspective effect. I'm only a few inches taller than most of them…

By the way – does that photo look like it was taken on June 6th? February 6th more like… Last weekend I was burning in shorts and short-sleeves, this weekend, out with the winter clothing again! 😕

As always, the descent to Widdop reservoir was fun. Nick is a good bike handler and was the only one on full suspension so he shot off down the hillside ahead of us. I didn't take too many risks – I always have to be careful because my Hope disk brakes start to cook on long descents. The brake fluid expands when it gets hot and starts to lock the brakes on. I have to adjust them in mid-descent to back them off, and then the pads inevitably start to ‘fade'. This is all A Good Thing because it reminds me not to go too fast. I really don't want to break a leg falling off on that kind of descent. I nearly crashed going down there when they put the big stone drainage channels in. I hit the first one way too fast and almost lost control. That ‘cooled my Biryani down a bit‘!

The trail from Clough Foot has all been resurfaced since I last rode up there. It used to be hard-packed dirt with loose gravel on it. It is now a tarmac surface, pretty much a narrow lane. The work is not of a high standard though and is already breaking up in places. Let's see how long it lasts…

I got a bit ahead of my pals after Walshaw so I waited for them and they didn't turn up. I thought that somebody had probably punctured so I went back and there was no sign of them. It didn't require a brain-the-size-of-a-planet to work out that they must have gone down the track through Hardcastle Crags instead of taking the official (legal) route along the top of the valley. Oh well, I wasn't about to go that way so I went as quickly as I could along the correct route, hoping to find them waiting at Midgehole for me.

No sign of 'em…

I didn't have my phone on me so rushed home to get it and heard it ring as I opened the door. Incoming text – “mutton pub” – sounds fair enough! I dived back on the bike and cycled round to the Shoulder of Mutton to find the lads there with a pint of chilled Amstel Gold waiting for me – nice!

The weather had been very kind to us, given how bad it had been yesterday. It had been a really good day out on the MTBs together.

We went our separate ways to clean up, and got back together later on for a Greek Meal at ‘Theos' in Hebden Bridge where I replaced quite a few of the calories that I'd burned off. Probably not quite all of them though, before anybody tells me off… 😉

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2 Responses to “MTB ride – Parts of the Mary Towneley Loop”

  1. Despite all the problems it looks like a cracking ride.
    I’ve want to ride the MTL trail again but clockwise.

  2. Yes, we had a good time on the ride. It wasn’t super-long in distance or super-hard in severity, but we had a non-cyclist with us and we didn’t want to kill him! 😉

    Actually, I’m amazed that my mate could ride that route on so little riding in the past year. He seems to hang on to fitness a lot better than me.

    I can get fit reasonably quickly, but I can lose it really quickly too. That’s been the problem the past couple of years – I always tend to put weight on and lose fitness in the winter, but it happened in the summers of 2007 and 2008 too which is where my weight problem came from.

    My legs felt great out on the ride, but I don’t have much upper-body fitness and the MTB quickly found that out. My back, arms and shoulders felt a bit battered when I got home.

    I intend to do more MTB riding now. It is so nice to be able to get away from the traffic when I want to. I’m lucky in that I live within a mile of some really nice bridleways.

    I certainly fancy having a go at the MTL some time, but I’d prefer a day without that cold wind and in a dry spell. My bike-handling isn’t fantastic and I don’t have much bottle for technical descents and wet/muddy conditions make me even more nervous and make a mess of the bike. I wasn’t right keen on some of the grinding noises my bike was making on Saturday as gritty gunk was eroding away my brand new transmission! That’s why I buy cheap Deore bits. If I knew they were going to last, I’d find the money for better quality parts, but it gets too expensive for me with their limited life expectancy.

    I think the MTL might take me about 9 hours but it’s hard to say based on so little recent MTB riding. I definitely wouldn’t be quick. If a group of CycleChat MTB riders want to get together to do the loop I’d be interested if I was free that day.

    Like many routes, the loop would have a different character in the two directions. There are some technical descents which I’d walk which I might just be able to climb in the other direction. OTH – I remember the grassy climb at the back of the Ram Inn was a bit too steep for me to climb last time I tried, but I’d probably ride down it because it wasn’t technical. Mind you, my high saddle position worries me on steep descents because I’m close to endo-ing most of the time. Perhaps I should buy a quick-release saddle clamp so I can lower the saddle for that kind of stuff?

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