Road Ride – Nick o’Pendle, Waddington Fell

A group of 7 intrepid CycleChat riders gathered this morning in Hebden Bridge, determined to make the most of the forecast sunshine by riding the route of the Season of Mists audax event.

I started off on the official ride last Sunday, but horrendous weather conditions led to me and 2 other CycleChat members abandoning pretty early on. We made a promise then, that we would have another go today if the weather was good. It was, so we did!

I met Alun, Russ (CycleChat: Sysagent), Lee (a friend of Russ), Mark (longers), Will (Bokonon) and Kevin (tubbycyclist) at the Market Place car park at 09:45 and we were on our way by 10:00.

Conditions started off overcast, with a strong wind blowing from the East and our outward ride was heading NW so we’d have a cross-tailwind helping us for the first few hours.

The first climb of the day was straight up the Heptonstall Road, a bit of a shock to the system with legs not yet warmed up! Gradually we eased into the ride though, and it wasn’t long before the cloud cover started to break up and let the sunshine through.

It didn’t take us long to make our way over the Long Causeway to Mereclough where I stopped at the same place as on last week’s ride to take a photograph showing the dramatic improvement in weather conditions…

View from Mereclough - wet
Last week’s view from Mereclough – wet

View from Mereclough - sunny
Today’s view from Mereclough – sunny

That was more like it!

We carried on down through Burnley. I’m not keen on some parts of the town, but this route manages to take us down some fairly pleasant streets. And anyway, it wasn’t take long before we were climbing out the other side to the village of Fence.

It’s funny how the mind works – I haven’t ridden up that road since Season of Mists 2009 but I had vivid flashbacks of doing so. That’s where I stopped for a pee behind a hedge, that’s where I looked at the horses and so on and so forth…

Fence is where the route starts to get really pleasant. We ride up to a little lane which runs along parallel to Pendle Hill. It’s tranquil and scenic – my kind of cycling countryside!

Traffic jam at Fence
Traffic jam at Fence

Pendle Hill from Forest of Pendle
Pendle Hill from Forest of Pendle

CycleChatters, Forest of Pendle
CycleChatters, Forest of Pendle [L-R: tubbycylist, Lee, Bokonon, Longers, Alun, Sysagent]

We could see the Nick o’ Pendle to our right above the village of Sabden. It was already clear that Alun, Kevin and I would be bringing up the rear on that climb. It’s steep and the other 4 riders were much quicker than us uphill. What actually transpired was that we came across Will just a few yards into the climb. He had punctured, so we stopped to see if he was okay. I spotted what looked like a big thorn sticking into the tyre so Will pulled that out and began his repair. We checked that he had all that he needed and then set off after the other riders. Will would leave us for dead if we waited for him in Sabden, and then everybody would have to wait even longer for us to do the climb ourselves. Better to crawl on up there and Will could sprint up when he was ready.

I found the climb slightly easier than anticipated, probably because it was wind-assisted. I’m not super-fit at the moment, so I don’t think strong legs could explain it!

I got to the summit and told Mark et al what was going on, then I clambered up the hillside to take some more photos.

I can’t make out whether the next one is of Alun or Kevin riding to the top of ‘The Nick’…

Lone cyclist climbing Nick o' Pendle
Lone cyclist climbing Nick o’ Pendle

Will seemed to be taking a long time, so Mark decided to ride back down the hill and check that all was well. I think he just wanted to ride it again. (Once a year is enough for me! :wink:)

Cyclists, Nick o' Pendle
Cyclists, Nick o’ Pendle

Soon, Will and Mark were back with us and we did a rapid descent to the A59, then on through Clitheroe to Waddington. Season of Mists uses the Country Kitchen cafe as an audax control point but we decided not to stop there this time. Unlike on the SoM event, we were only intending to make one cafe stop on this ride and Waddington was therefore too early. Also, the climb of Waddington Fell isn’t so pleasant straight after sitting eating and drinking in the cafe for 30 minutes or so. We’d stop at Slaidburn instead.

We began to climb but were barely half a mile from the village when there was a shout from Russ up ahead – another problem! It turned out that his rear derailleur endstop hadn’t been adjusted properly so his mech got caught in his wheel when he tried to engage his bottom gear. Fortunately, with an application of brute force, Russ was able to straighten things out enough to carry on. (I noticed later, when riding behind Russ, that he had bent one of the stays on the back of his bike when he did that.)

Kevin was starting to suffer on that climb. He has done even less riding recently than me or Alun and you can only go so far on ‘muscle memory’!

Waddington Fell (Waddington side)
Waddington Fell (Waddington side)

A couple of things were becoming clear… Alun, Kevin and I were really going to start to suffer later in the ride, and we were also losing lots of time with our slow climbing and these delays for ‘mechanicals’. We took a vote on it, and decided to cut out the scenic loop round designated ‘quiet lanes’ from Newton via Laythams to Slaidburn which is a feature of the official SoM route and went straight there on the B6478 instead. We were starting to get cross-headwinds now and they would continue for the remainder of the ride which was primarily towards the SE.

We stopped at Riverbank Tearooms in Slaidburn. Unfortunately, it seemed like the sunshine had persuaded everybody else, his wife, their daughter and her dog to do the same! We took quite a long time to be served and the time was ticking away…

Kevin made the decision to go on ahead since he felt he needed a headstart on us and he knew the route.

Eventually we were ready to set off after Kevin. We were way behind schedule and a quick calculation revealed that we would be struggling to get back to Hebden Bridge in daylight even if we averaged the speed that we had already been doing. In reality, there was still some stiff climbing to do, so it was more likely that we would actually slow down!

Russ had already decided to cut his ride short. He didn’t trust his battered bike to carry on functioning so he was going to get on the A59 shortly after Chatburn and follow that, the A671 and the A680 home to Great Harwood. We could go with him, stay on the A671 to Padiham, then take the A646 back to Hebden Bridge. It was a slightly longer way back, but there was much less climbing involved so we’d be riding at a much higher speed. All we needed to do was to tell Kevin what the plan was, catch up with him and put the plan into action. So, I took my phone out of my bag and… discovered that I didn’t know Kevin’s number – curses! Oh well, surely we’d catch him before we diverted from the planned route at Chatburn? Nope…

Kevin must have got some strength back in his legs because there was no sign of him. We got to Chatburn, and were wondering what to do next when Mark kindly volunteered to set off in pursuit of Kevin to let him know what was happening and ride back with him. What a star!

The rest of us set off on our A-road fest. That was the end of our scenic lanes for today!

Russ set a strong pace back to his turn off the A671. Will, Lee, Alun and I then continued on through Padiham.

I was starting to get tired and was lagging behind on the drag up Rossendale Road. Will and Lee got way ahead, and Alun was having a rest somewhere in between before the road kicks up to climb to the traffic lights at Manchester Road. Just as I reached Alun, a text message from Mark came in – he’d found Kevin just after Downham and the two of them had decided to continue on the original route. I sent a quick reply and then Alun and I set off after Will and Lee. We never saw them again! They had clearly decided that time was getting on and were riding back at their own pace.

Alun and I got back to the car park at 18:15. We’d covered 67 miles (104 km), slightly further than planned but our detour had saved time and energy. I wondered about Mark and Kevin – would they get back before it got dark? If Kevin’s legs had packed up altogether, they could be riding for an hour or more on very bleak dark roads out Widdop way. It turned out that they got back just as it got dark and the streetlamps came on. Oh, and Will and Lee had made it back a whole 25 minutes faster than Alun and I, so it shows how slowly we were riding.

All in all, a nice day out with my cycling pals. It’s a pity that some of us were under-prepared for the ride, but it was still a good ride, especially given the fine sunny weather. (Overall, the wind helped as much as it hindered.)

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2 Responses to “Road Ride – Nick o’Pendle, Waddington Fell”

  1. Glad you finally got your ride in.
    I always used to like Nick o’ Pendle.

  2. Even though I find it hard work at my current weight, I like it too! It was nice having a tailwind going up the climb that day.

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