Road Bike Ride – Extended Cragg Vale Loop

I Hate Being Fat!

Yes, I hate being fat, but hey, today I felt good! The forecast for today was spot-on. It said that there would be rain overnight, drizzle in the morning and fine sunny spells in the afternoon and that's what we got!

I'd already decided that I'd get my road bike out again today if conditions were good. They were that good in fact that I ended up going out over-dressed for the prevailing condtions and had to stop and open the zips on my jacket and cycling jersey to cool off.

Here's a photgraph of me before I set off. I'd only just worked out how to use the camera's self-timer and when I ran back round to the bike I forgot to smile – I'm not normally that grumpy-looking!

ColinJ, dressed for winter cycling

There are a couple of things I want to say about what you see in that picture, but I'll leave those for another time when I'm talking about fitness and physical conditioning.

Okay, so today I did an extended version of last week's Cragg Vale ride. Instead of nipping along the valley to Mytholmroyd, I took the longer, more scenic route via the villages of Pecket Well, Old Town and Midgley. It adds about 3 miles and a fairly big hill onto the loop. I find the hill a bit much from a cold start so sometimes I warm up for 10 minutes before going out that way. I didn't today, so I just took it very easy until I got to Pecket Well. I dismounted there to have a drink and a picture of the Pecket Well Monument (or Pike). I'd taken a picture of it from below on my Hardcastle Crags walk on January 17th. This picture shows the monument as viewed from the vehicle turning circle in the village. Hardcastle Crags is in the valley behind the monument.

Pecket Well Pike

The ‘field with whiskers' in the foreground is actually a plantation of saplings. That hillside used to have an asbestos dump on it and millions were  spent recently to clear up the toxic waste.  The waste came from the notorious Acre Mill, a local asbestos factory whose former workers have died in their hundreds. Many are still dying to this day from mesothelioma and the like, over 30 years since the closure of the mill. Here's a link to a local website discussing this tragic story – Asbestos – the legacy of Acre Mill. What an absolute disgrace…

The trees are to stabilise the soil – there is an underground water course below the surface which threatened to sweep the soil and any remaining toxic waste further down the valley.

Okay, on to more uplifting subjects!

Here's a picture of Old Town
Old Town

And here's one of some old Yorkshire stone cottages in desperate need of TLC. How long do you think it took for that tree to grow out of the derelict building? It must be decades. It amazes me that nobody bought those ruins during that time. If the cottages had been renovated before the credit crunch hit, they would have been worth hundreds of thousands of pounds each.

I tell you what – if you always wanted a stone cottage with fantastic views over Yorkshire – now might be the time to go for it! You could probably get those ruins at a knock-down price, rebuild them and make enough money from selling the other cottages or letting them out to tenants to pay for the one you choose to keep. Hey, I'm a bit skint – if you take my advice, consider yourself honour-bound to pay me a £5,000 finder's fee, okay? 😉

Cottages in need of T.L.C.

From Old Town I cycled along Heights Road above Mytholmroyd. This has great views across the valley. After a couple of miles I came to the outskirts of Midgley village. I could have carried on through the village, but today I wanted to descend the very steep road to Mytholmroyd. I hopped off the bike to take another picture for you but somehow you don't get the impression of how steep that road is. I'd guess about 15% lower down and 18%-20% on this top section. Fortunately I was going down it today. I'm okay on the hills when I'm slim, but these days I'm about 40 pounds over my best climbing weight.

Looking down Midgley Road

It only took a couple of minutes to get down to Mytholmroyd, and pass through to rejoin the loop I did last week up through Cragg Vale to Blackstone Edge.

I made steady progress up the hill, managed the steeper mid-section okay, and then got out onto the open moorland. That's where the headwind normally kicks in, but today there was no more than a very light breeze to contend with.

Suddenly, I was overtaken by the same cyclist that I encountered last week, but this time it was about 2/3 of the way up. I wonder if he does that route every day or just on Wednesdays? If I meet him next Wednesday, I'll ask him. Perhaps in 3 or 4 months time I might actually be fit enough to ride up with him? I live in hope…

It took me about 35 minutes to do the 5.5 mile climb – not a great time, but I'm not worried about that. One day, I aim to do it in 20 minutes but I'll have to be much slimmer and fitter to manage that. There is a cycling hill-climb event up there every autumn (fall) so that might be something to aim for later this year.

Soon I was off the busy roads and on the lovely quiet lanes that I like so much, but what a contrast to a week ago when it was dull, cold and windy with snow and ice on the hills.

Last Wednesday…
Slippery lanes!

Sheep, winter feed

Non-slippery lanes

Sheep, sunny winter feed

I had a big grin on my face as I cycled round in the sunshine. This was more like it!

Presently, I encountered an older cyclist walking his mountain bike down a hill. I stopped and asked him if he was alright and he said that he was, why did I ask? I'd have thought that I'd asked an obvious question, but I persevered…

ColinJ: “I just thought that you might have had a mechanical problem, because you aren't riding your bike.”

Old Guy: “Oh yes, I've got a puncture and my pump is broken so I'm walking home!”

ColinJ: “How far is that?”

Old Guy: “Oh, about another 3 miles.”

ColinJ: “I have a working pump, would you like to use it?”

Old Guy (with a big smile): “Oh, yes please!”

We inflated his tyre and soon he was able to continue on his ride. Ooh, it gave me a warm feeling inside to help an old man in his hour of need.

It only took me about 20 minutes to get back from there. My GPS was working this time (I remembered to charge the batteries) but now my mapping software is playing up and refuses to download the tracklog! I know that the loop is about 23.5 miles but I wanted to see how much climbing there is. I'd estimate about 1,600 feet because the Cragg Vale climb alone is 968 feet.

[PS I've fixed the problem and downloaded the tracklog and I'm quite surprised at the total altitude gain on that loop. Sure enough, it is only 23.6 miles long (38 km) but there is actually about 2,200 ft of climbing (675 m) altogether. It's a nice little workout that one]

Today, I felt like a reasonably fit guy carrying an unreasonable amount of weight. I climbed a few short steep hills and discovered that I was using much harder gears than I thought I was so that means that my legs have kept a lot of strength from last year. That's a good start to my 2009 cycling season.

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2 Responses to “Road Bike Ride – Extended Cragg Vale Loop”

  1. Hi Colin,

    Interesting post, I keep visiting your site looking for inspiration. It must be working as I have lost 2 lbs this week through careful eating and exercise. It’s a month since you started this blog, how do you think you have done over that time?


  2. Hi Alun.

    Well done on that 2 lbs loss.

    I’ve done pretty well this week – it looks as though it will be over 1.5 lbs by tomorrow (I average out 7 daily readings to get the weight loss for the week). If it is 1.7 lbs, then that will be a total of 5 lbs since January 4th, or 7 lbs since Christmas. That’s not bad, but I hope to lose nearer to 2 lbs a week once I get back into regular cycling again.


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