Road Ride – Saddleworth Moor Hilly

Today's ride was supposed to include miscellaneous other members of the CycleChat forum but one by one they dropped out. I've obviously lost my magic touch… 😉

Never mind – Buddy Bill is still here at the end of his long summer break in the UK and he volunteered to accompany me for a little tour of the local hills. I'd come up with a tough route; too tough in fact – we both ran out of food and drink, and very low on energy so we cut out a couple of hills in the late stages of the ride.

The route we ended up taking: Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Scout Road, hilly lanes to Baitings Reservoir, more hilly lanes to Booth Wood Reservoir, even more hilly lanes to Ringstone Edge Reservoir, a loop round Scammonden Water, Pole Moor, Bradshaw, Marsden, back road to Standedge, Diggle, Tunstead, Saddleworth Moor, Wessenden Head, Meltham, Holt Head, Slaithwaite, Scapegoat Hill, Outlane, Stainland, Barkisland, Ripponden, Sowerby Bridge, Hollins Mill Lane, Rose Grove Lane, A646 to Luddenden Foot, Calder Valley Cycleway to Mytholmroyd, then Hebden Bridge.

Bill and I rode to the planned rendezvous point (Market Place car park, Hebden Bridge) in case anybody turned up unannounced (it has happened before on my rides). I don't know why somebody would travel 20-30 miles to do a social ride but not say that they were coming, but there you go. We waited 20 minutes but then just the two of us set off.

Conditions were very pleasant early on. We were both wearing leg warmers and gilets and we thought that they would have to come off after an hour or so, but the sunny conditions didn't last long. The clouds rolled in and a cool wind picked up.

Some Yorkshire hills
Some Yorkshire hills

We rode along at an easy pace, Bill going ahead on the steep little climbs we encountered.

We soon realised that we hadn't brought any money with us so we couldn't buy anything to eat or drink later on. I ended up not drinking as much as I would have liked.

M62, Scammonden dam
M62, Scammonden dam

As we began the climb out of Marsden, the wind started to get stronger and it was pretty gusty as we got towards the turn onto the A62.

I'd made a slight mistake when plotting the route and at Diggle we ended up going down a tiny lane absolutely splattered with cow pats. It wasn't much more than a farm track and Bill was not amused. Fortunately it was only about half a mile in length.

Uppermill and Greenfield, Saddleworth
Uppermill and Greenfield, Saddleworth

The lanes criss-cross the hillsides on the way over towards Tunstead. It's pretty tiring going up a little 20% climb only to immediately drop down and then have to do it again. My concentration lapsed as we came round a bend onto a descent and I found myself going much too fast on a shockingly bad surface. I was swerving round and bouncing off ruts and potholes as I desperately scrubbed off speed. That was much too close for comfort… 😯

Bill is a pretty good climber but even he was starting to feel the cost of all the steep little hills we'd ridden up by the time we turned onto the climb of Saddleworth Moor. He decided to ride up at his own pace and I followed at mine, stopping to take a few pictures of the impressive hills looming up on the right. This is the northernmost part of the Peak District.

Dovestone Reservoir, Saddleworth
Dovestone Reservoir, Saddleworth

If you ever ride up that road, be careful of the traffic! People drive too fast and too close. I wasn't comfortable with some of the driving I encountered, and my feelings were reinforced by a police notice appealing for witnesses to a serious accident which had occurred a few days earlier. There were still large pieces of car spread over the hill at the side of the road and about 50 yards of moorland had been gouged out by the wreckage. Something really terrible had obviously happened, and great speed was clearly a factor. When I rejoined Bill at Wessenden Head, he echoed my feelings – a lovely climb spoiled by stupid driving.

The descent to Meltham is extremely fast. Bill shot off at about 50 mph and I left him to it and stopped partway down to take more pictures.

Meltham from Wessenden Head
Meltham from Wessenden Head

Bill was out of water and I didn't have any spare; in fact, I'd been eking out my drinks for some time to avoid running out. Bill only made it halfway up the drag to Holt Head before deciding that he was going to get a drink by his traditional method – visiting the nearest stream. That's great when it is freshly melted snow off an alpine peak, but not so good when it comes off a Pennine bog with dead sheep and heaven knows what else littered about its surface. It didn't stop Bill. He clambered over a wall and scooped up 500 mL of peat-coloured water, probably crawling with water-borne parasites – nice!

I'd come to the conclusion that we needed to simplify the route home. We dropped down into Slaithwaite and still did the rather brutal climb of Scapegoat Hill, but I'd gone right off the idea of tackling Penny Hill to Krumlin. I'll ride it another time when my legs aren't already tired.

We took the easier route to Barkisland via Stainland, but to be honest, even that felt tiring.

After a quick descent to Ripponden, I opted for the easiest route home – straight down the Ryburn Valley to Sowerby Bridge, then Hollins Mill Lane and Rose Grove Lane, a short stretch of the A646 to Luddenden Foot, then the Calder Valley Cycleway home to Hebden Bridge.

I was feeling pretty tired, but then something almost unheard of happened – Bill announced that he was too! I've ridden many hundreds of miles with him over the years and he has never said that before!

I checked the statistics after the ride: 58.5 miles (94 km) with 7,000 ft of hills (2,150 m). Not long, but very hilly. Mind you, next weekend's Season of Mists is 62 miles (100 km) with 8,500 ft of hills (2,550 m) – yikes!

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6 Responses to “Road Ride – Saddleworth Moor Hilly”

  1. That is a lot of climbing for the distance!

  2. It certainly felt like it!

    I’m sure that one reason why we both felt so tired was that we were dehydrated and hungry. I got home weighing over 5 pounds (2.5 kg) less than I did in the morning!

    Even though I’m still slow, I feel like I’m making progress. The point at which I start getting backache is much later in the rides than it was at the start of the year. (Er, no – I keep forgetting to do The Plank! :oops:)

  3. What a cracking route that was Colin,we really do have some top notch cycling routes round here.
    As usual first class report and superb pictures.
    Slight delay with bike collection im afraid ! Pauls on is own in the shop at the moment due to holidays and asked if i could wait another week or two, so Tues Oct 13th is the day.
    Best of luck with SOM looking forward to the report already.

  4. Hi Andy.

    Yes, indeed, but I’ll enjoy the hills more when I get the rest of my blubber off! I’m almost ready to resume my official ‘progress reports’ on that – I’m about a pound away from the lightest I got to earlier this year before I lapsed and then got ill.

    I had a feeling that the bike would be another few weeks… I’m thinking of organising another ride for late October so you will have to come along on that.

    SoM is going to be tough, especially if the weather is bad. Forecasts are a bit variable at the moment. Could we possibly have good weather for the third year in a row?

  5. Looks like a great ride. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.

  6. Well, there will be others! I’m thinking of arranging another one for either the end of October or perhaps the 1st November. Keep an eye on CycleChat for details.

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