Road Ride – Bolton Abbey, Gargrave, Trawden

Fellow CycleChat rider Calum was disappointed with last weekend's Emley Moor ride fiasco and suggested that we do another ride today to make up for it. I'd had enough of Emley Moor for now and fancied a trip up to the Yorkshire Dales and back so I devised a suitable route which took in a few unfamiliar roads which I've been meaning to check out.

Several other CycleChatters had shown interest but come this morning only new CycleChat member tubbycyclist (Kevin) was still available to join us. It was a pity because the weather had turned out nice, except for a strong wind which was present most of the day. At least the wind direction was such that we got some help when we needed it most – late in the day, when we were getting tired.

I'm getting a reputation for ‘jinxing' other cyclists whose bikes mysteriously fail before or during my rides. CC rider Moodyman had been down on the rider list for today but several broken spokes prevented him joining us. Kevin had told me that he'd be turning up on his Dahon folder but when I got to the meeting place, he was there astride a conventional road bike, chatting to Calum. I introduced myself and asked about the bike. It turned out that Kevin had just spotted a crack in the seat tube of his Dahon and had been forced to turn out on his old Decathlon bike instead. Aaargh – the jinx continues… (now you know what the J in ColinJ stands for!)

It was a shame for Kevin because his road bike was a bit overgeared on the tough hills to come. He had to walk the steepest climbs today, but he has a nice new Hewitt touring bike on order so he should be okay for future rides. (I'm hoping that he will turn out with us again.)

So, the route… My right leg was very painful at times on last weekend's ride and I didn't want to risk being stranded somewhere this time. Yes, I wanted to do a few miles in the Dales but I also needed to keep the distance down to acceptable limits so the route I plotted took us into just the southern fringes of the Dales and totalled 113 km, with 2,250 m of hills (70 miles, 7,400 ft) – Hebden Bridge, Oxenhope, Sawood, Cullingworth, Harden, Bingley, Crossflatts, West Morton, Brunthwaite, Nab End, Nudge Hill, then a descent to the A65 and the old SITD footbridge over the Wharfe at Addingham (warning – steep steps not good for Look cleats or recumbents!), Beamsley, Bolton Bridge, Cavendish Pavilion (toilets/cafe stop?), Barden, Barden Scale, Halton Moor, Embsay, north on B6265 to Rylstone, Hetton, Gargrave (famous Dalesman cafe), Broughton, cross the A59 (caution – busy!), Elslack, Elslack Moor, Black Lane Ends, Laneshaw Bridge, Trawden, Coldwell (cafe?), Widdop, Slack, Lee Wood road, Hebden Bridge.

The route as far as Sawood is over familiar local roads and I found a little lane which goes from the Dog and Gun at Sawood to the traffic lights at Manywells Height, bypassing a stretch of the busy A629 through Denholme. From the traffic lights it is a quick run down into Bingley. There are currently some major retaining wall works going on down there but we were able to get through okay.

It wasn't long before we'd passed through Crossflatts and turned off the main road again. I managed to limit busy roads to about 10% of the total distance today, but it is really hard to keep finding new routes round here that consist entirely of lanes. I think my routes are about as quiet and scenic as you will get in this area and the roads are much better than what most people have to contend with. Traffic-wise that is – the surfaces tend to be pretty terrible!

From West Morton to Addingham was very pleasant. We nipped across the A65 between Addingham and Ilkley and rode round to the footbridge over the river Wharfe that I had first encountered in the other direction on Spring Into The Dales, a favourite local audax event (reports on SITD 2009 and SITD 2010 – those editions of the event went a different way, avoiding the footbridge).

We crossed the footbridge, and emerged onto the lane which took us to the quiet road to Beamsley.

Ahead - the road to Beamsley
Ahead – the road to Beamsley

We turned left at the end of the road after Beamsley and did a quick 600 metre dash down the A59 to the roundabout where we headed right onto the B6160, past Bolton Abbey and on to the Cavendish Memorial fountain. A right turn there took us down to the pavilion for a short break and we then crossed the bridge over the Wharfe to join the scenic lane to Barden.

The River Wharfe from the bridge at Cavendish Pavilion
The River Wharfe from the bridge at Cavendish Pavilion

Now we came to roads which were unfamiliar to me. First we turned left and dropped down to the Wharfe, then we climbed up to Barden Scale on the B6160, and right onto the road to Embsay. Soon we could see the road snaking up the hillside to Halton Moor in front of us. It looked pretty steep!

Kevin, about to tackle the steep Halton Moor climb
Kevin, about to tackle the steep Halton Moor climb

I've just checked my mapping software – the climb averages 9% for 1.5 km but it has a couple of steeper ramps with easier sections in between. I prefer that type of climb to the unrelenting ones like Wessenden Head and Otley East Chevin. I just need a few seconds to ease the pressure on my back and am ready to pay for the respite with a steeper road elsewhere.

Calum romped on ahead. Kevin was suffering with his heavy gears and dismounted behind me. I slowly worked myself up the climb and found Calum sitting on the grass round the bend at the top. We didn't really have to wait long for Kevin – I'm very slow up steep climbs so walking doesn't actually take that much longer!

After a short break, we set off again. Now Calum was dropping back. His low body weight is a help going uphill, but a hindrance riding fast into a headwind.

We regrouped on the way to Embsay and i felt a few spots of rain. The skies had been clouding over and looked quite threatening. I really didn't fancy getting caught out in a thunderstorm. Funnily enough, the storm never came.

We turned right onto the B6265 just north of Skipton and headed for Rylstone. Once again the wind was holding Calum back. I got to the village first, but it wasn't too long before the others caught me up. A left turn for Hetton and then another left for Gargrave started to give us a very nice tailwind. The road to Gargrave is undulating but loses about 100 m in altitude in 7 km so we had a good fast run down to the Dalesman cafe.

We had our main stop at The Dalesman. I felt slightly paranoid about leaving our bikes unlocked but none of us had brought locks with us. I know that bikes do get stolen from cafes in this area, so I do have justification for my fears but we didn't want to sit outside so I made do with checking the bikes every few minutes. A bit pointless really, because a thief would be off with a bike in a few seconds and I'd be lucky to get out in time to do anything about it!

After refuelling we got back on our bikes and headed for Broughton. Kevin was talking about skipping the climb of Elslack Moor and
heading straight down the A59/A56 to Colne but in the end he decided to stick with us – good man! We crossed the A59 and rode round to Elslack.

Pendle Hill from Elslack
Pendle Hill from Elslack

The black clouds were starting to disperse without dumping anything on us, and the sun was reemerging! What's more, we had a welcome tailwind on the climb. It was the now familiar pattern – Calum disappearing up the climb, me crawling up in pursuit, Kevin walking the steep bits and dropping back, then nearly catching me again whenever the gradient eased and allowed him to get back on his bike.

Eventually Kevin and I got to the top of the moor, picked up Calum and descended together through Black Lane Ends to Laneshaw Bridge. This was now very familiar territory. I've been riding round there for 20 years now.

Up and down, up and down through Trawden, up to Clarion House, and down past Coldwell Activity Centre. I'd been starting to dread what was coming up… The evil climb from Thursden! My right leg was showing ominous signs of giving up on me and stints of 20% – 25% were going to do it no good whatsoever. In truth, I should have walked the climb but I suppose my ego wouldn't let me. It really hurt, I managed it but at what price? I had the same stabbing pains in my upper leg that I felt last week. What a fool! I don't know what the problem is, but I'm making it worse pulling that kind of stunt…

I'd become very aware of the time. Calum had a train to catch from Hebden Bridge to Leeds and I could see him just missing the 18:52. That would mean him waiting 40 minutes for the next one. After we regrouped at the top of the climb, we decided that we'd do a fast ride back past Widdop and try and get him to the station in time. That idea was immediately shelved when I realised my leg wasn't up to the job. Kevin didn't really want to rush either so we set Calum free and he disappeared off down the road.

Kevin and I then just rode back at a steady pace, wondering what Calum's chances were. I thought that he would probably miss the train by about 2 minutes unless it was late.

I said my farewells to Kevin and got home at 19:02, and at that moment I received a text message from Calum. He'd got to the station at 18:51 just as his train was pulling in – excellent!

It had been a slow but fun day out on the bikes, marred only for me by that painful leg. I'm hoping that it is just a slight muscle tear and will try and do less severe hills until the pain goes away. If it doesn't get better, I suppose I'll have to get it checked out. 😕

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