Road Ride – Rochdale To Blackpool (But Not Back Again!)

It was time for another CycleChat forum ride and for once, it wasn't starting from Hebden Bridge. Forum member Fluffy wanted to get his first half-century ride in and a group of us agreed to ride with him to keep him company…

Fluffy had come up with a first draft of the route, but I wasn't keen on it since it was basically on busy main roads all the way, and straight through the centre of Preston. I came up with an alternative route which was only 10% longer but which included some nice quiet roads. We agreed to do that instead.

I'd planned to ride back from Blackpool afterwards and didn't fancy the extra 13 mile ride into Rochdale first thing. I was already going to be doing 110 miles and haven't done anywhere near that this year. Enough's enough!

So, instead I took my bike in to Rochdale station by train. On the way, I received a text message from Amy (trio25) saying that she fancied getting a century ride in but she had only just read about the ride and couldn't make it to the start on time – she'd meet us further on.

I met up with a group of riders outside the station, some of whom I was expecting, plus a couple that I wasn't.

Svendo turned up on a lovely new Storck bike (we've ridden together several times before; I wasn't expecting him because he had a barbecue planned for mid-afternoon, but his girlfriend had let him loose as long as he turned back in plenty of time).

The other familiar face was Shaun (aka bromptonfb, named after his Brompton folding bike). He'd ridden over from Rossendale with newcomer Potsy.

400bhp was there with a mate (whose name I've forgotten – sorry! [PS his name is Gaz]).

We were expecting Fiona N to arrive by train soon after me, and so it came to pass. Fiona is a very experienced cyclist and I had an interesting chat with her on the ride. Stories like high-speed downhill skiing round a bend and encountering a moose, with very painful consequences, or deciding to cycle back from Australia on a mountain bike (as you do, of course, if you find yourself in Australia and need to get back to Europe – after all, it's only 10,000-odd miles! :wink:). Hopefully, she will come out on future rides because I've led a very sheltered life and would like to hear more about that kind of thing. Perhaps I'll even venture out into the world one day and have an adventure of my own?

Okay, off we went. We cycled down a few busy roads to get out of the town centre, then I took us down a quieter B-road which let us bypass a length of A-road that I wanted to avoid. I wasn't really warmed up, and even the small rises on the B-road had me wheezing quite badly. I reckon that I might have a very mild case of exercise-induced Asthma because I've noticed this before. I find it hard to breathe properly until I've been riding for an hour or so. I'm usually a lot better 4 or 5 hours into a ride than I am in the early stages, though you'd expect it to be the other way round.

There's not to much to say about the ride out through Whitworth. The surrounding hills look nice, but it's a fairly busy road and quite built-up in places. Something to be put up with rather than savoured.

We turned left before Bacup and headed down the Rossendale valley towards our first rendezvous point. It's a very busy road and the surface was awful. Not much fun! I wasn't concentrating and went straight on at a mini roundabout without giving way to a car where I should have done – I mentally slapped my own wrist; no harm done that time, but I should concentrate in traffic.

After Waterfoot we took the bypass and stopped at the Tesco filling station to pick up bigjim and Amy. Jim was another new face.

Our group of riders was getting bigger all the time, and we were going to meet another rider, garz, at Hud Hey as we came out of Haslingden and began the climb over to Blackburn. He was waiting there for us so we said a quick hello and began the climb. There is not much climbing to do from that side – the climb from Blackburn seems about 3 times as long.

It had become a lovely sunny day with blue skies, but it was not too hot. There was a constant nagging crosswind on this part of the route and it was forecast to become a headwind as we turned later at Longridge to make for the coast.

Our final pick-up was supposed to on the descent to Blackburn just as our road went over the motorway, but we were running late and I wondered whether Globalti might have made his way up the hill rather than hanging about halfway down it. Sure enough, he was waiting at the top, standing with another rider in front of a huge pile of silage bales. I didn't know the other rider but it turned out that Globalti had flagged him down, thinking he was one of us. They had been chatting up there waiting for us to arrive. [PS The mystery rider later signed up for CycleChat as CapnAhab so we might be seeing him on a future CC ride].

I took a group picture up there. I couldn't be bothered to use the camera timer and run across the road so I'm not in it. (I know what I look like anyway, so I don't need another picture of me!)

Centre (kneeling): Fluffy; Left-to-Right: bigjim, Fiona N, trio25, 400bhp's mate, 400bhp, garz, Svendo, bromptonfb, Globalti, CapnAhab, Potsy

It starts to get a bit confusing now! As far as I can recall, CapnAhab, Svendo, 400bhp and his mate all left us somewhere on the fringes of Blackburn. Oh, and Fluffy too – his boss had phoned him up and called him in to work, so his 50 miler had to be aborted. I don't know what mileage he ended up doing but I think it would fall short of 50. Never mind – there will be other opportunities in the future.

I hadn't been looking forward to the ride round the eastern flanks of Blackburn but it didn't turn out to be too bad. We took a little detour round a car park at Whitebirk to avoid the mega-roundabout there, and did half of the ring-road on a good cyclepath. The ring-road itself was okay at that time in those weather conditions but I wouldn't fancy it in a foul weather rush hour!

Soon, we got to Wilpshire and turned left for Ribchester. The road had been dug up for gasworks, but we got through okay on bikes. With caution, mind you, there were bike-sized trenches in places!

We dropped down towards Ribchester and I stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the River Ribble. (Apologies for the smudged fingerprint on the lens of my camera – I didn't notice it at the time!)

The River Ribble, near Ribchester
The River Ribble, near Ribchester

Amy was looking very good on her bike. She has definitely been putting in a lot of miles over the past year or so and it shows. What I didn't notice was that she was riding her fixed-wheel bike. I tend to blast ahead on the downhills and get dropped on the climbs so I didn't get the chance to observe her cadence at those times but she was moving along at a good steady pace on the flatter sections.

We climbed up to Longridge and got a bit spread out on the little climb before eventually regrouping by the Co-op in the town. Somebody else joined us there. I'm not sure who he was or how long he stayed with us, but I hadn't seen a male rider, in grey shorts on a yellow bike up to that point and we certainly had one when we left Longridge! [PS He was a friend of Garz – Mike]

I'd planned a detour out of Longridge off the B-road to Blackpool, taking us through a succession of small villages before eventually rejoining the b-road at Inskip for the final run to the coast. As I'd feared, we now had a strong headwind and riding into it was taking a fair effort. I rode alongside Globalti for a while and then Amy and found myself getting tired. I know I haven't been doing much riding and there was that wind, but surely I should be stronger than that? It had just occurred to me that my bike felt very ‘twitchy' when Shaun rode up behind me and told me that my back wheel was wobbling all over the place. I feared the worst…

Sure enough, I'd snapped a spoke! It might not have been quite so bad on my old 32-spoke wheels but my new Aksium rear wheel only has 24 spokes so the loss of one of them really trashes the wheel. It was jamming up really hard against the brake. I didn't want to mess about trying to retrue the wheel because I thought I'd do more harm than good and end up with more broken spokes. If another one went, I think I'd have been stuffed.

Shaun and Potsy stayed back with me but the other riders hadn't noticed what had happened and were miles down the road. Eventually, Amy rang me from Inskip. I told her that I was going to have to make repairs and then limp in to Blackpool. No need for their ride to be ruined too, perhaps I'd see them later?

The 3 of us took a good look at my bike. The wheel was so out of true that even undoing the rear brake cable didn't stop the brake jamming against the wheel. I ended up having to take a block off and the rear mudguard had to come off too. Drat!

Oh well, as long as I could get to Blackpool, I could catch the train back to Hebden Bridge. No 110 miler for me today, it would be 55 miles only, provided I could actually get to the station without my wheel giving up on me. We were still 12.5 miles from Blackpool, so I just had to ride very carefully for about 50 minutes or so. I cornered slowly, avoided any kind of bumps in the road, and lifted myself out of the saddle slightly so my legs acted as suspension to reduce shocks through the wheels.

I got there okay and rode straight round to the station. There was no point in hanging about if the train was due in (there is only one an hour and I didn't want to have to hang about an extra hour if I just missed one). I was in luck – there was one waiting at the platform, due out in 8 minutes. I said farewell to Shaun and Fluffy, and caught the train back.

It was a disappointing end to the ride for me but at least I'd got a good 55 mile ride in.

Shaun and Potsy rode back to Rossendale afterwards taking their total up to about 115 miles – Potsy's longest ride, and Shaun's second century ride on his Brompton in just a few days. Congratulations to both of them.

The others had struggled to find a good inexpensive chip shop in Blackpool, but had eventually been directed to one by a local cyclist. They split into two groups to ride home. Amy managed a century on her fixie so well done to her too!

Post mortem on my rear wheel

I bought the wheels about 6 weeks ago off a mate who had only ridden last summer on them. I spoke to him about the wheel problem and apparently, he'd been out on a ride one day when his rear mech went into the wheel and broke a couple of spokes. He replaced them and rode another few weeks on the wheels but eventually another spoke broke. I'm hoping that that one and the one I broke were the last of the damaged spokes from the original rear mech incident and that the wheel will be reliable after it has been repaired this time.

Pedal On sell Mavic parts so I'll buy a pack of 4 cassette side spokes and carry 3 as spares, wrapped in bubble-wrap in my seat tube. It's nearly always those spokes that break because they are under the greatest tension due to the rear wheel's dishing.

The spokes are straight-pull and my mate reckons that you can replace one without even having to take the wheel off the bike, so it wouldn't be a major problem if it happened again, though it would still be annoying.

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3 Responses to “Road Ride – Rochdale To Blackpool (But Not Back Again!)”

  1. It was a great ride! Shame you didn’t get to ride back.

  2. Yeah, but it’s just one of those things. I’m annoyed about the extra expense though – replacement spokes and the rail fare came to £22 which I can ill-afford at the moment.

  3. hi colin,

    thanks for the mention and unlucky for you. well done trio, on a fixed. well done potsy, it was really hard for him at the end but he dug deep.



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