Road Bike Ride – Short Cragg Vale Loop

Well, the sun was shining and although it was a bit windy I decided that it was about time that I went out on my bike again! I haven't cycled for over 7 weeks, the longest lay-off for years so I decided a short ride was called for…

I decided to do my little Cragg Vale loop, one of the shortest that I do these days at about 20 miles. I would be able to tell you the exact length of it if I hadn't neglected to recharge the batteries for my GPS, but I did, so I can't! It's annoying because it's the first time that I didn't charge the batteries before use and they went flat after only 30 minutes. NiMH cells don't hold their charge well for long periods and it had been 8 weeks since they were last charged. Hmmph – so much for my plan to start logging these rides for my coming routes library! Still, this is a ride that I normally do at least once a week so there will be plenty more chances to record it.

Today's ride started along the Calder Valley Cycleway from Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd. When riding alone, this is my preferred route these days to avoid 1.5 miles of fairly heavy traffic.

I've posted several times about how handy my new Fujifilm camera is on walks but that was the first time that I'd taken it out on the bike. I had it inside a waterproof bag so that sweat couldn't get into it and it fitted nicely inside the breast pocket of my winter cycling jacket. It felt perfectly okay in there, but taking pictures on bike rides is definitely less convenient than when walking. I don't want to risk taking pictures when riding so it involves stopping, taking the bag out of my pocket, the camera out of the bag, powering the camera up, taking the pictures, powering the camera down, putting it back in the bag, bag back in pocket, zip up the pocket and then setting off again. It doesn't take ages but starting and stopping several times really broke up my ride.

The first stop was after a little detour at the bottom of Cragg Road to take a photo of the sign that the council has erected to celebrate the fact that this is the ‘Longest continuous gradient in England'. It's certainly a long drag, but it only has one short steepish section. The main challenge is that there is often a cross-headwind on the exposed moorland higher up the climb.

Longest continuous gradient in England sign

Having taken my photo, I set off up the hill. Considering my long break from cycling, I wasn't feeling too bad. I wasn't riding that quickly, admittedly, but I didn't feel quite as unfit as I expected to – it seemed that all those walks and exercise bike sessions had done me some good.

Soon another cyclist came up along side me and said hello, so I smiled and said hello back. I could tell that he was a lot fitter than me and I didn't fancy trying to stay with him as we ascended, but I had a good excuse to drop back – I wanted to take a couple of photos of the Cragg Vale Dragon!

Mister Dragon, please don't eat my bike!

There is a day nursery just up to the left of the picture and I imagine that this example of topiary really excites the children when they are dropped off every morning.

I remounted and continued towards Cragg Vale.  I was feeling good, but I wished that I'd set off a bit earlier. The sun was getting lower in the sky and it was getting cloudier and colder by the minute. I was very conscious of the fact that I hadn't made my usual time allowance for punctures. If I got a flat tyre out in the lanes, I'd get very cold trying to sort it out as the sun was setting – I'd really not been very sensible. I've been caught out like that once before and I could hardly hold the tools, my fingers were that cold…

Despite having lived in this area for nearly 23 years, I still get caught out from time to time by the difference in weather conditions between where I live in the valley, and 1,200 feet higher up on the local hilltops. Today was such a day. I knew that it had snowed overnight, but the hillside behind my house was clear and it was a couple of degrees above freezing so I assumed that it would be clear higher up. It wasn't! The main roads were okay, but I was coming back by small lanes which might not have been gritted. I made a mental note to proceed with caution once I got to them.

As I got up onto the moor, that old headwind picked up again! It happens so many times up there. I reckon that it was about 10 mph and I know that it was coming from about 30 degrees right of head on because I checked the direction of the waves on the Blackstone Edge reservoir when I got up there. It was a bit of a slog, but not a nightmare. Local riders reported almost getting blown off their bikes on the climb last week, and even having to stand up on the pedals to go downhill! I experienced that years ago and it wasn't funny. 😯

I stopped for a drink at the reservoir and took a couple more photos.

Blackstone Edge Reservoir, winter

So far I'd been  a comfortable temperature because I had full winter cycling kit on, but the rapid descent from Blackstone Edge towards Ripponden really chilled me and I was glad to turn off onto the flatter lanes and start pedalling again.

Time to stop to take another picture of sheep!

Sheep, winter feed

Yep, there was snow and slushy ice about on those roads! They had been gritted, but they weren't 100% clear. Where the sun had hit the roads, they were pretty good, but the sheltered north-facing roads in shadow were a bit tricky.

Slippery lanes!

I think I'll avoid the lanes for another couple of weeks until the wintry conditions have gone.

Eventually I rode back down to Mytholmroyd and returned via the Cycleway.

Not a bad little ride, but definitely too late in the day. I'd have needed lights if I'd been out 15 minutes longer.

I felt great in the evening and I'm looking forward to doing more cycling. Perhaps I'll nip over to Haworth if the weather is okay in the next week. That's another loop of about 18 – 20 miles or so and includes a good climb each way.

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

  1. I rode up Cragg Vale this afternoon 8/10/10. I parked in the car park in the centre of Mytholmroyd, it took me just less than 40 minutes to get to the Tee junction. I am 70 years old and not a lifelong cyclist, I would like to know how long it takes a stronger rider to get to the top.

  2. Hi John.

    My fastest ever time was 25 minutes from the ‘longest hill’ sign in Mytholmroyd to the boundary sign just before the reservoir and the junction. You could add an extra minute or so if you were timing the entire road. My longest ever time was over an hour in the winter into a horrible freezing headwind. The wind conditions make a big difference to how fast you can go up there.

    I have a long-standing ambition to try and ride between those two signs in 20 minutes but I’d have to train super hard to get fit enough. I reckon I’d take 30-and-a-bit minutes now, though I haven’t actually timed myself recently. Perhaps I’ll have a go soon to find out.

    There is an annual time trial up that road which starts slightly further along, and finishes just short of the reservoir. I think the course record for that is 16 mins 9 secs! There are some super-fit young people about!

    I’d say your time was perfectly respectable, especially as an older non-lifelong cyclist. I’d be pleased to still be able to do that when I get to your age, and I’m going to do my best to do just that – only 15-and-a-bit years to go!

    I was talking to a 70 year old cyclist on a ride last year and he told me about an 85 year old who still goes out on their club’s Wednesday afternoon cafe rides. 25 miles there, and 25 miles back. Apparently, he calls the 70 year olds ‘youngsters’! 😉

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