Road Ride – Newchurch-in-Pendle Loop

Having failed to get any CycleChat members to turn out for last weekend's two attempts at a forum ride, I thought I'd give it another go today but I decided to use only part of last week's route. Most of today's was along familiar roads, though I did include some roads from Blacko to Laneshaw Bridge which I hadn't ridden before and which looked promising.

Route: Hebden Bridge, Widdop, Thursden, Haggate, Brierfield (a quick downhill through the built-up area), Fence, Newchurch-in-Pendle, Roughlee, Blacko, Colne Edge, Blue Bell, Laneshaw Bridge, Scar Top Moor Lodge (cafe stop), Stanbury, Haworth, Penistone Hill, Oxenhope, Cock Hill, Hebden Bridge.

Stats: Approximately 67 km (42 miles) with the usual mix of hills from short and very steep to long drags and everything in between, totalling 1,500 m of climbing (5,000 ft).

Route Profile
Route Profile

It looked like it was going to be me, Calum, ‘Uncle Phil' and his wife Clare, but two more CycleChatters signed up at the last minute – Kevin (‘tubbycyclist') and Ed (‘Svendo'). Ed didn't finish work until 9 am, having worked a Friday night shift so he would be setting off in pursuit of us from Rochdale, 23 km (14 miles) away. Ed is a fit lad, so I was wondering how far we would manage to get before he caught us. I calculated that it would be somewhere between Widdop and Fence…

(Sorry – no photographs this time. I only took a few and they didn't turn out that well…)

Calum came in by train from Leeds, and Phil and Clare drove over from out York way. Kevin is a fellow Hebden Bridger. We met up in the Market Place car park, as usual, and set off just after 10 am.

Today's local weather forecast was okay. There had been no sign of frost last night. That was good news because we had some steep, shaded descents to tackle which would have been treacherous in icy conditions. If we were lucky, we might get a few sunny spells. Maybe we'd have some light rain towards the end of the ride. Probably breezy, and chilly but not bitter conditions. That forecast turned out to be spot on – not bad at all for this time of year!

As always, I suffered a bit on the initial climb up the Heptonstall Road. I would prefer to be warmed up for that climb, but it's only a few hundred yards from the car park so we hit it with cold legs. We took the easier route, via Lee Wood rather than going up through the village itself.

It was a pleasant ride out to Widdop and then suddenly Ed appeared behind us. He'd set off from Rochdale at 09:45 and he'd caught us before 11:00 – impressive!

We rode on round to a really pretty part of the route from Fence to Roughlee where Phil suffered the first of two punctures. He'd got a small split in his front tyre and the tube had bulged out through it. He swapped the tube and made a temporary tyre repair with insulating tape.

Kevin and I were not fit enough to climb the steeper hills anywhere near as fast as the others so we were averaging a pretty low speed. That meant that it was taking longer than expected to get to our cafe stop. I was enjoying the route, but if we do it again when it doesn't get dark so early, I'd consider extending the ride and including an extra stop at Barley tea rooms.

The unfamiliar part of the route from Blacko to Laneshaw Bridge turned out to be a useful addition to my local route repertoire. I can use it to connect to other routes without the necessity to ride on heavily built-up or busy roads.

By the time we got to Laneshaw Bridge, we were on the roads that I used last weekend so I knew how slowly I'd go up the climb up to the defunct Herders pub. We decided that Kevin and I would climb at our own pace and the others would go ahead to the tearooms a couple of miles further on. No point in them waiting for us, and then have all 6 of us arriving at the tearooms together and having to queue for our lunches.

The split into two smaller groups worked out well. By the time that Kevin and I arrived at the tea rooms, our riding pals had just been served and the staff were ready to take our orders.

I liked the tearooms at Moor Lodge, Scar Top. The view from the window over the moors was as good as promised, though conditions were by then becoming gloomier. On a sunny day it would be a very fine sight.

We had a long stop, probably a bit too long given how late in the day it was. There was a fair amount of climbing left to do in the final 12 miles or so and Calum didn't have lights on his bike. Svendo volunteered to show Calum the way back and since they were both much quicker than me, it seemed like a good idea and off they went.

The clouds had closed in and a light drizzle had started. We remaining 4 riders would definitely not be getting back in daylight but fortunately we'd all got lights on our bikes and reflective patches on our clothing.

We passed through Stanbury and were about to climb to the fringes of Haworth when Phil's front tyre went flat again – same problem as last time! This time he inserted a ‘tyre boot' (a section of an old tyre) to cover the cut. (That repair held all the way back to Hebden Bridge.)

Another tough little climb over Penistone Hill and a quick descent led us round to Oxenhope and just one final climb.

It was an eerie sensation climbing to Cock Hill in the dark. Phil and Clare went on ahead and waited at the summit while Kevin and I slowly slogged our way after them.

Eventually we got back together and descended towards Hebden Bridge in the blackness. Our lights were bright enough to be seen by, though not bright enough to light up the road. Despite that, I was surprised how well I could see except when the headlights of oncoming cars dazzled me. I'd rather finish rides in daylight if possible so I won't be making a habit of riding in the dark at this time of year!

We got back safely and said our goodbyes. It had been an interesting ride with good company, but we took too long over it. Kevin and I will have to try and get fitter for when the forum rides start up again in 2011! Both of us have been considerably fitter in the past so we just need to get out on our bikes more often and get back to that kind of level again. Not so easily done over the winter, but we'll just have to see what we can do…

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