Road Ride – Lower Wharfedale Loop

For once, today’s ride didn’t start from Hebden Bridge and it wasn’t organised by me but by Colly, a fellow member of the CycleChat forum. He lives in a village just north of Leeds and has been over here to do a few of my rides, and today it was time for me to ride on his ‘turf’.

Colly tried to get a few more people to come along but other commitments prevented most of ‘The Usual Suspects’ from joining us. There are so many demands on peoples’ time these days that it is hard to get hold of them unless you book them up weeks or months in advance. I don’t consider myself a particulary well-organised individual, but even I have already have 14 things pencilled in from now to Christmas.

In the end, only Calum was free. If you’ve read my other cycling posts, you’ll remember him.

The ride was supposed to start near Roundhay Park in Leeds (one of the biggest parks in europe, and it looks well worth a visit). I’d mentioned that I wasn’t looking forward to riding up there from Leeds railway station because I don’t know Leeds very well, and thought I met get lost in the traffic. Colly was kind enough to pop down and pick me up along with a reluctant Calum. He wanted to do the pure cyclist thing and do the whole journey on his bike. I feel a bit of a wimp for being nervous in city traffic, but there you go. I spend so much of my time avoiding the traffic, that I never really develop the confidence and survival skills needed to be happy riding in it. To be honest, a lot of the people that I know who do ride in cities have had accidents at one time or another so I don’t think that my fears are irrational. It’s also an aesthetic thing – cities are just so noisy, dirty and smelly –  a real assault on the senses!

I had to catch the first train of the day from Hebden Bridge to Leeds and that turned out to be 09:55! It’s impossible to get an early start by train from HB on a Sunday. No wonder many people prefer to drive everywhere…

I met Colly as arranged at Leeds station at 11:00. Calum was a few minutes late, having been for a swim before coming out for the ride. He’s obviously keen to keep fit!

We drove up to Oakwood and left Colly’s van there and when we set off on our bikes I immediately noticed that there was a gusty wind. My cold legs didn’t take too kindly to Colly’s brisk pace as we climbed up through the fringes of Roundhay Park.

I started to feel a bit better after I warmed up, but that wind was going to be a problem. It was pretty relentless all day, and made the ride feel much harder than it otherwise would have been.

We passed through a succession of little villages – Wike, East Keswick, Collingham, Linton – and just caught the edge of Wetherby before turning west, straight into the wind.

After Sicklinghall, we stopped near Kearby-with-Netherby for a quick snack and for Colly to point out some of the places we would be riding to later on. The scenery was starting to look very attractive, but the light wasn’t good for taking photographs. We did get some sunny spells later on, but we stood there under about 95% cloud cover.

If you are not into cycling and looked on a map at what we did next, you’d think that we were mad. Instead of going up a gently sloping road, we went down a steep hill, turned right at the bottom, along a bit, right again, and then climbed back up a steep hill just to get back on the road that we started on, only about 0.75 mile further on. When you think about it though, that’s all these circular leisure rides are about – going round in a big loop up hill and down dale until we get back to where we started from. I’d choose a challenging scenic route over a simple one most days, unless I was feeling very tired.

We rode through Kirky Overblow (interesting name!), did a short stint on the busy A61, then got back on the quiet road through North Rigton. We came to Almscliff Crag and stopped there to take a look around. We could see a group of climbers testing themselves on the rocks. Time for the group photograph…

Colin, Colly and Calum in front of Almscliff Crag

There is a good 3.75 mile downhill from the Crag, unfortunately immediately followed by a 1.4 mile climb. It always feels a bit soul-destroying to yield hard-gained altitude only to have to claw it back again, in this case especially, as we promptly descended right back to the same altitude again in Otley.

We had covered 27.3 miles in 2.5 hours, corresponding to a pretty pedestrian 11 mph (44 km, 17.6 kph). We hadn’t been in a hurry and we’d had a couple of short stops but that speed didn’t really reflect the amount of effort we’d put in into that wind.

Colly led us to a cheap-and-cheerful cafe in Otley which seemed to be doing a roaring trade. The waitress said that it had been really busy the weekend before. I don’t know where they would have put any more people!

We stopped there for about 30 minutes, refuelling and stretching our legs, but soon it was time to mount up once more and be on our way.

The road north out of Otley kicks up a few times, but only averages about 5% for 2.7 miles (4.3 km). You wouldn’t have thought it in that wind! It was really hard work with a severe gusting crosswind most of the way up onto Weston Moor. The wind was taking more out of Colly and Calum than me because I’m considerably heavier than them and less easy to blow about. As a result, their natural climbing advantage was almost nullified by the wind, and once we got onto the flat top of the moor, Calum was finding it difficult to keep up. We regrouped at a crossroads, and then set off on a 3 mile (5 km) descent through Askwith to the fringes of Ilkley.

At last we turned and caught a tailwind! We blasted along the A65 to Burley-in-Wharfedale, and then the climbing began again.

The road went uphill for about 2.5 miles (4 kms) and then we turned down past Menston and descended to Chevin End (a perhaps unsurprising name for a settlement at the end of Otley Chevin). The Chevin is a forested ridge above Otley. There is a Forest Park on the Chevin and if I lived nearer I’d be tempted to go walking there. It looked very pleasant.

Colly and Calum climbed away from me once more as we went up the ridge. My chain fell off for about the third time today as I tried to change to my ‘granny ring’. I must buy myself a Deda Dog Fang… (It’s a device which bolts onto your seat tube and prevents your chain slipping off your inner chainring. Okay, I’ve got one on order now.) [PS Tried and tested now – here’s my Deda Dog Fang chain keeper review]

Colly and Calum waited for me at the top of the Chevin and amused themselves by watching the planes at nearby Leeds-Bradford airport.

What followed next was a glorious 5.6 mile (9km) wind-assisted descent off the Chevin through Bramhope and Arthington during which we hit 30 mph with no real effort. The descent was broken up by having to cross the very busy A660 at Bramhope. Colly jumped across a brief gap in the traffic but Calum and I missed it. *** BE CAREFUL CROSSING THERE! ***

The reason that we did the little detour through Arthrington was that I’d asked colly where the ‘Emmerdale’ village set was located (Emmerdale is a popular UK ‘soap’). My mother likes the programme so I thought that I’d try and take some photos for her but it turned out that we’d have had to have ridden about a mile along a dirt track to get within sight of the buildings which are in the grounds of Harewood House. Time was getting on and we were getting tired so we just continued on our way up the last significant climb of the day to Eccup.

We rode over to Eccup reservoir and stopped to take a few photographs there. The crosswind was so strong that it was whipping up big waves which made the reservoir look more like the sea on a stormy day.

Waves on Eccup reservoir

One last little climb up to the very busy A61 (*** BE CAREFUL CROSSING THERE! ***) and on to rejoin the road we’d taken out of Leeds this morning. We descended back to Oakwood where Colly reclaimed his van from the clock tower car park. Calum and I had decided that there was no need for colly to drive us back into town so we said our goodbyes and set off again. There was less traffic about than in the morning and it was a quick downhill run to the city centre. Calum saw me off at the station where my train was waiting for me, at a platform right next to the ticket barrier – perfect!

It was a really nice route and one I’d like to do again in better weather. I’ve checked the map and there are many interesting looking roads in that area so it wouldn’t be difficult to extend the route if one wanted a longer day in the saddle.

Here’s the profile of the route from Oakwood out, back to Oakwood and then down into the centre of Leeds (it doesn’t include the drive up from the station to Oakwood which is marked on the profile with a red dot):

Metric route profile

Thanks to Colly and Calum for a good day out in what was an interesting new cycling area for me.

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2 Responses to “Road Ride – Lower Wharfedale Loop”

  1. Always nice to ride somewhere new!

  2. Yep – sure is.

    We rode along quite a bit of the northern section of the West Yorkshire Cycle Route which (as you know) we aim to do in its entirety one Sunday in late June.

    I’ve ridden about 6/7 of the route at one time or another now. The only section I haven’t done is about 20 miles (32 km) from Wetherby to Castleford and that is the easiest part of the whole route.

    I’m going to have to get a bit more serious about my weight loss and riding if I’m not going to suffer like a dog on the WYCR. I rode from Hebden Bridge to Coventry in June 2007 and that is about the same distance and degree of hilliness so I know that I can cope with it if I build up to it. Ideally, I’d be well under 14 stone by the end of June, and preferably about 13 stone but I’d have to average a loss of 2 pounds a week which would be possible, but pushing it.

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