Road Ride – Scar Top, Otley

It was very sunny today and I had a good road ride planned for it with two CycleChat forum members – Paul (PaulB) and Martin (goodspeed).

Here’s a rough summary of the route: Hebden Bridge, Oxenhope, Stanbury, Scar Top, Oakworth, Slippery Ford, Laycock, Redcar (Keighley) Tarn, Steeton, Silsden, Brunthwaite, Nudge Hill, Addingham, Footbridge over the Wharfe, Ilkley, Askwith, Otley, East Chevin climb, The Chevin, Menston, Baildon outskirts, Eldwick, Bingley, Harden, Cullingworth, Manywells Height, Sawood, Oxenhope, Hebden Bridge.

It was a challenging hilly route. I was riding over to Oxenhope to meet Martin, and then we’d ride together over Penistone Hill, up through Stanbury and on to Scar Top where we’d meet Paul. We’d then go off and do the rest of the ride together in a big loop bringing us back to Oxenhope where I’d bid farewell to my companions and come back to Hebden Bridge over Cock Hill (Oxenhope Moor). It didn’t quite work out like that. Things went horribly wrong early on; almost terminally wrong in fact… 😕

I set off just gone 09:00 and met Martin as arranged at Oxenhope station at about 09:45. We set off to meet Paul, but had just ridden through Stanbury when my phone rang. It was Paul – he’d just been knocked off his bike by a doddery old motorist! 😯

Paul had been riding up from Laneshaw Bridge and was on the climb to the (now defunct) Herders Arms when a car came wide round a bend and hit him. Fortunately, it was just a glancing blow but it knocked him off the road into a ditch and against a dry stone wall. He was lucky to have only suffered cuts and bruises, but his bike was damaged and he was unable to continue so he was waiting for his wife to drive out and pick him up. He hoped that we’d have a good ride; we wished him a speedy recovery!

Apparently the old woman driver really didn’t have a clue what she’d done, and even started saying that it must have been Paul’s fault despite her being on the wrong side of the road and not seeing him. Her husband was berating her and said that he’d make sure that she gave up driving after that.

I know it’s tough, but there comes a time for many people when it isn’t safe for them to drive any more. My late father was really upset when he had to stop, but in truth, we should have made him do it sooner. I was in the car with him once when he started to pull out onto a busy road without looking. It was only me screaming at him to stop that averted an accident…

Enough of that – back to the cycling…!

There didn’t seem much point in going all the way to Scar Top when Paul wasn’t going to be there so we took a shortcut up Oldfield Lane to Oakworth, and then headed up the short climb before Slippery Ford.

We got flagged down by a farmer in a 4-wheel drive, who said ‘please take it easy – watch out for my sheep’! I wish I’d whipped my camera out because when we began our descent round the bend to Slippery Ford, we encountered a flock of sheep being urged up the hill by another farmer and some sheepdogs. It would have made a lovely photo but I couldn’t get to my camera in time. I must get a bar bag for it so I can get to it more quickly (I normally carry it in Camelbak bag on my back).

By the way – Slippery Ford isn’t any more – slippery, or a ford, that is! You can see where the ford used to be, but the road has been built up over the stream now. Good – I came off my bike in a (different) slippery ford once, so I don’t ride through them any more!

Soon we were riding along the road at the top of Newsholme Dean and as I looked down the lovely wooded valley, I couldn’t help thinking how close we were to Keighley. In a startling act of synchronicity, Martin suddenly announced that it was amazing that we were only a couple of miles from Keighley, but it was like a different world up there. I couldn’t have put it better myself! 😉

Newsholme Dean
Newsholme Dean

Soon we turned left at the village of Laycock and climbed up to a curious stretch of corrugated road. It was just as though a giant had concertinaed a longer road into that one. We’d whizz down into each dip and have to power our way back up the other side. In each dip, there were grooves in the road surface where vehicles had bottomed out. There were 3 or 4 of those dips before we got to Redcar Tarn (also now known as Keighley Tarn, according to the sign there). I wanted to stop to take another photo, and have a look at some of the wild birds there. Again, who’d have thought we were that close to Keighely!

Redcar Tarn (Keighley Tarn)
Redbike Redcar Tarn (a.k.a Keighley Tarn)

After that it was a very quick descent to Steeton which we soon passed through and then we headed down towards the big roundabout on the A629. As we approached the roundabout, we saw a mass of smoke blowing across the road ahead. It flitted through my mind that someone was illegally burning some rubbish because the smoke stank. As we got closer, we saw that the smoke was coming out of a car’s engine. Ouch, that looked expensive!

After a quick sprint round the roundabout, we headed for Silsden but turned off to the right just before we got into the town. (Or is it a village? When does a village become a town? I reckon it is too big to be called a village now – I’d call it a small town.)

As usual, I was navigating by GPS and I got into a conversation with Martin about the differences between his model and mine (his is an even older Garmin Etrex). Mine is about 3 years old, and I think that the design has been improved again since I bought it. Anyway, I switched it over to the mode of navigation that he has to use and told him that I didn’t like it, because it gave ambiguous directions. I proved my point by turning the wrong way at the next junction, but I soon realised my mistake. We turned round and took the right route up the steep climb through Brunthwaite to Brunthwaite Crag, where we had another short stop.

Aire valley from Brunthwaite Crag, above Silsden
Aire valley from Brunthwaite Crag

Once more (with feeling)… “Well, who’d have thought we are that close to Keighley!”

As you can see from the photo taken earlier at Redcar Tarn, I was on my Cannondale again. The steeper climbs were feeling harder work than they would be on my lower-geared Basso, but I haven’t put the new parts on that yet. I don’t have much time left to do that because I have the 126 mile (202 km) Red Rose Ride to do on June 14th and I’d prefer to ride the Basso for that one.

It didn’t take long to get to the top of the hill and do a rapid descent to the A65 between Addingham and Ilkley. This section of the route is part of the original Spring Into The Dales route, only in reverse, so I knew that there was a gate opposite the junction that we were about to come out of. That gate leads to a quiet road into Addingham where there is a footbridge which is a sneaky way of us getting to the other side of the Wharfe onto a nice lane round to North Ilkley.

I was okay in SPD shoes, but Martin had to take his shoes off to walk down the steps to the bridge. I took a photograph of the bridge and then we set off along the short path to the lane to Ilkley.

Footbridge over the Wharfe at Addingham
Footbridge over the Wharfe at Addingham

That’s the last photo taken on the ride. It began to feel too much like hard work to keep stopping and then have to start riding again. I just wanted to press on.

I haven’t mentioned the wind yet – it had been pretty windy all day and it was making the ride harder than it would have been without it, but at least it was helping to keep us cooler. Temperatures were soaring – I reckon they got to about the mid-20s Centigrade (high 70s Fahrenheit).

It was a nice run through the fringes of Ilkley and on to Otley where we’d planned a cafe stop. Once we got there, however, we found that the cafe was really busy and we decided to pass straight on through the town. What I hadn’t appreciated was the severity of the climb up the East Chevin. It was a solid 10% for 1 mile (1.6 km). Where the road was exposed to the sun, the heat coming off it was sapping my energy. Fortunately, there were some shaded spots where I could recover. Martin went on ahead as I toiled up in my lowest gear. Come back my Basso, all is forgiven – I promise to look after you in future!

Martin was waiting at the roadside at the top of the steep part of the climb. He was on the phone to his wife, probably explaining that he was going to be late home. I’d kept him hanging about again…

I spotted an ice-cream van ahead so I rode up to that and got a cone for Martin and one for me plus a cold can of Coke which I tipped into one of my bottles to drink on the bike.

Refreshed by the ices, we continued up the easier last part of the Chevin climb, then did a rapid descent to Menston after which there was a succession of steep climbs and descents over to Eldwick. I was starting to feeling tired and was glad that we were on the return leg.

We flew down the hill into Bingley where Martin shot past me at a red light – naughty! I don’t think he’d even noticed that the lights had changed. I would have thought me standing astride my bike in the middle of the road might have given him a clue, but there you go! 😉

And now, guess what? Yes, another steep little climb! We slogged our way up to Harden, and then on to Cullingworth. At least we were back on familiar roads now.

We stopped at a shop there and Martin bought more cold drinks for us. After a short stop we climbed up to Manywells Height, then on to Lane Bottom, before descending to the B6141 at Sawood, and dropping down to Oxenhope where I said goodbye to Martin and began my climb back over to Hebden Bridge.

As usual, it was a bit of a slog to the summit and then I remembered that pal Lisa was gardening at her mother’s house in Dodd Naze near Old Town. I did a quick descent to Pecket Well, then went round and had a cup of tea with her. After that, I plunged down through Birchcliffe and went home for a nice long soothing bath.

A lovely day on the bike. Martin didn’t complain at having to hang about for me, but I’m looking forward to being slimmer and fitter again so I can keep up with other riders. I did 64 miles (103 km) with about 7.200 ft (2,200 m) of hills, some of which were pretty steep.

Super! And the next one please…

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