Road Ride – ‘Climbs Hills Slowly’

I was finally feeling better after my recent cold and I'd arranged another CycleChat forum ride for today. Shame then that the weather forecast was so bad and a poor turnout was likely, despite a record number of people having expressed interest!

Once again, rain had been beating down on my attic bedroom window most of the night, keeping me awake and making me feel that I'd rather stay in bed than face several hours cold and wet, and probably pretty tired too given my almost total lack of exercise in November so far…

The advantage of riding with other people is that it encourages one to get out of bed and venture out into foul conditions when one otherwise wouldn't bother. (This, of course, is also one of the major disadvantages of arranging to ride with other people… :wink:)

Some of ‘The Lads' were expecting me to show them round a hilly 53 mile circuit that I'd devised so I didn't have much choice. I emerged from my snug pit, made the usual pre-ride preparations (I ate a big bowl of porridge and mixed up a couple of litres of carbo-drink) and headed out my door for a rendezvous in Market Place car park. When I got there, Colly and Alun were waiting for me, but there was no sign of Shaun, the only other rider that I was sure would be coming. He'd been very disappointed to be forced to abandon a MTB ride (Mary Towneley Loop) with me back in September due to mechanical problems with his bike. Yes, Shaun would definitely be coming. It seemed like nobody else was though…

Zero hour came and went, or rather 09:45 did. We waited for Shaun but there was no sign of him. Oh – mobile phone technology! I often forget that I own one of the damn things, but I always carry it when other people are meeting me. I rang Shaun's number and got the following message: “Hi, this is Shaun. Sorry, I can't speak to you, my phone is buggered! I do check my VoiceMail every couple of days though, so if you want to leave a message, I'll get back to you.” I spent a few milliseconds wondering whether to leave this message: “Hi Shaun. We are standing in a car park in Hebden Bridge, soaking wet, bored stiff and suffering from exposure. We have been here for 48 hours waiting for you and just wondered when you plan on turning up?” I didn't bother – saddle up, we're on our way!

At the very moment that we were about to leave the car park, another cyclist appeared coming the other way. It wasn't Shaun***…

I suddenly remembered that there was another CycleChat forum member who had said that he might ride over from Manchester to join us – Crimmey. We introduced ourselves, and Crimmey told us that his real name was Simon. “Hi Simon!” He'd ridden via Blackstone Edge and had got thoroughly soaked on the way. We were heading back over the same climb, but in the opposite direction.

Amazingly, the rain had stopped before we got together in Hebden Bridge. Even more amazingly, the usual SW cross-headwind on the moor above Cragg Vale was today a SE cross-tailwind! I started to say something about the weather and Alun muttered a reply which hinted that it might be wise not to tempt fate. Too Late! It started raining…

I descended towards Littleborough ahead of the others but something odd was going on with my new clear-lensed Bolle Contour glasses. They'd kinda gone, er, not so clear! I thought they might be fogging up, and had to peer over the top of them to see where I was going. That resulted in my eyeballs clogging up with streams of tears from the biting windchill. Not pleasant.

I pulled over off the road at the traffic lights in Littleborough and discovered that there was some sort of weird coating on the lenses of my glasses. I couldn't get it off so I had to put the glasses in my bag and do the rest of the ride without them. (I don't know what the coating was, but I got it off at home later with water and washing up liquid.)

We took my favoured diversion towards Todmorden – Caldermoor, then the little climb to Calderbrook and the descent of the ‘slipping road' down to the old Toll House at Warland on the A6033.

At that point, Simon was resembling a drowned rat and decided that he'd head back to Manchester! A wise move, thought I, given that we had a lot of rain and a lot of hills to come, and he'd still have to get home after that. I'm sure we'll see him again on some rides next year.

We headed down to Walsden where we diverted up Hollins Lane to get away from the traffic, and to give me an opportunity to point this out to Alun and Colly:

Sat Nav says 'yes', Voice of Sanity Screams 'NO!'
Sat Nav Says ‘Yes', Voice of Sanity Screams ‘NO!'

(It still cracks me up…)

Back on the A6033, we headed to the A646 in Todmorden, looking out for Shaun in case he was waiting there for us (he wasn't***). We turned up the steep climb of Sigget Lane through the woods at the back of Centre Vale park (I did this part of the route in a recce ride at the end of October.)

Wow, I'd certainly lost a lot of fitness in a month! I found the climb up through to Sourhall a real slog, and experienced an unpleasant sensation of impending breakfast-re-emergence, the first of today's several bouts of gradient-induced nausea. 😥

Soon we descended back to the A646, turned right for Tod, then turned left for the b*stard climb of Shore Road. I'm not stupid, so I realised that if Sigget Lane had felt tough, this little beaut was really going to hurt. And it did… 😉

'Discretion is the Better Part of Valour!'
‘Discretion is the Better Part of Valour!'

Colly, despite a lonnnnnng lay-off from cycling (50 miles only, since June!) was coping better with the steep stuff than Alun and Yours Truly. I only just made it up to the bend where the photograph was taken and I felt like throwing up from the strain. Alun's back was twinging and since ‘Discretion is the better part of Valour' he dismounted and walked the last bit.

We took a breather on that bend, and a few snacks, then remounted and tackled the second half of the climb. It ramps up again a few times but not quite as steeply as the first section. We finally made it up to Kebs Lane and headed over to Blackshaw Head via a small climb and a nice descent. After that, down into the dip at Jack Bridge, a little climb up through Colden and a descent to Slack where I stopped and offered my two partners a choice – 10 minutes back to a cafe in Hebden Bridge if the constant rain showers and steep climbs were getting too much, or continue on the original route? In for a penny, in for a pound and all that – we turned left and headed off down the Widdop Road. (If I'd been alone, I'd definitely have headed for home instead!)

We made good progress down to Blake Dean, but the steep climb by the scout hostel was a shock to the system!

Onwards, and upwards! We climbed up to Widdop, and beyond to the summit looking down over Thursden. The descent was quick, but safe. I'd been worrying for some days that conditions might be icy. That descent is really dodgy when ice is about because the winter sun never warms it, and the local council never seems to grit the road. It was wet, but there was no ice. If you ride it in winter, folks – take care!

We were looking forward to our cafe stop at Coldwell Activity Centre where we had a table for 6 booked. Plenty of room for 3 then! 😉 But first, for your delectation, Ladies and Gentlemen, I humbly present – a wet, steep, singletrack road climb! (Bows to receive applause…)

More desperate breakfast containment as I battled my way to the top, followed shortly afterwards by Colly and Alun. A quick descent to Coldwell and we were there, collapsed into our seats and stripped off as much wet cycling kit as we could to try and dry it on a convenient radiator. Then the rain really started to hammer down! The cafe has some sort of corrugated roof and the rain was making a racket as it bounced off it. I started to have my doubts about the sanity of today's enterprise!

We ordered sandwiches and salads, but first we tackled some tasty lentil soup to try and restore some body heat before we finally succumbed to hypothermia!

Hmmm, sandwiches!
Hmmm, sandwiches!

The soup perked us up and the sandwiches sorted us out. The only problems now, were:

    1: We had to put wet cycling kit back on!
    2: We were getting tired!
    3: We were in danger of having to do a lot of riding in dark, wet and windy conditions!

We decided not to stick to the final leg which involve some more fairly serious climbing on the way home via Oxenhope. I came up with an alternative plan, which involved riding via Worsthorne and Mereclough, and returning to Hebden Bridge on the A646 through Todmorden. No, even that plan was dropped, prompted by a quick chat with a ‘civilian' in the cafe. He asked why we didn't just go back via Widdop because that was the most direct route. I'd initially dismissed this because of the horribly steep climb back from Thursden, but the truth is that it is a very easy run back from the top of that climb. We could always walk the damn thing if we had to! Widdop Road it was…

To be honest, though that climb did hurt, it didn't hurt as much as I feared it would. The cafe stop had definitely worked some magic. We made good progress and got back into Hebden Bridge as it was getting dark.

We'd cut the ride down from 53 miles to 44.5 miles, and had also made a significant reduction in the total climbing for the day. What the heck – the weather had been foul so I think we'd made a pretty decent effort, all things considered. Thanks to Alun, Colly and Simon for motivating me to make the effort and keeping me company on the ride (and to Shaun for trying to! 😉 ***).

Hopefully, I've had my usual winter lay-off early this year, and can now get back on with my battle to get slimmer and fitter. I need to get some serious work in before spending a week with my family at Christmas. I'd really like to get close to 14 stone (196 pounds, 89 kg) by the end of the year. That would give me a big head-start on where I was at the start of of 2009 when I began this blog.

*** PS It turns out that Shaun had set off on his Brompton to ride over to meet us, only to suffer a puncture a couple of miles outside Todmorden, He'd struggled to fix that, and then his bike pump packed up! By the time he'd walked most of the way to Todmorden, he was cold and wet and he was too late to meet us. A fellow cyclist lent him a pump, but it was too late. Shaun turned round and went home to dry out and get some heat back into his body. He thinks I've jinxed him! 😉

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6 Responses to “Road Ride – ‘Climbs Hills Slowly’”

  1. i still feel bad about making you wait…sorry guys

  2. Hey Shaun, mechanical problems can happen to anyone so there’s nowt to worry about – we only waited 15 minutes! It’s a pity that your phone was bust so we couldn’t speak to you, but I come from a generation which grew up without mobile phones so I often forget that it is actually possible to contact people when they are out and about. To be honest, I’m not a great fan of being contactable when I’m cycling so I don’t normally take my phone with me. It’s only when other people are relying on me, or when I’m going a long way by myself that I carry the thing. I knew that you knew where we were going so if you arrived shortly after we had set off you could have caught us. You’d obviously had a problem and we would find out later what the problem was.

  3. I’m sorry I didn’t join you.
    One look at the weather forecast was more than enough to put me off attempting an epic ride.

  4. I don’t blame you. I’m glad that we did the ride, but it wasn’t one that I’d have turned out for if I hadn’t actually organised it! 😉

  5. Brilliant write up,you make the most mundane bike ride inspirational ! Great stuff.

  6. Ha – Andy, I see you are forced to having to trawl through old posts because of my extended break from the blog!

    I’ll try and get back into it in the New Year. I think I’ll probably stick to only mentioning significant rides and walks in any detail though. Life’s too short for “Walked to Heptonstall – again” and “Road Ride: Cragg Vale loop #27”!

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