Road Ride – Season of Mists (2009)

Somehow, it was time for Season of Mists again – where does the time go?

This area experienced some really horrendous cycling conditions yesterday. If you want an example, take a look at this video clip taken at the top of the back road climb from Marsden to Standedge! 😯 I rode up there with my friend Bill last week and it was pretty hard, but nowhere near as bad as that…

Fortunately, the forecast for today was much better – sunny spells, and scattered showers. Fairly mild, but breezy.

I've been caught out on these rides before by under-dressing, or over-dressing in clothing which can't (sensibly) be removed (long sleeved jersey, cycling tights with no shorts underneath – that kind of thing). I decided to do the sensible thing and dress in layers which could be removed or replaced as desired. As it turned out, I ended up keeping everything on all day, though I did roll my arm warmers down and my base layer sleeves up a few times.

As usual, it was very cold in the valley first thing so I signed on at event HQ and went back outside to warm up on the A646 ready to tackle the steepish climb to Heptonstall village. I saw a few people I know and said hi to them but I knew that they were going to be too quick for me and would drop me on that first climb. I expect people to wait for me on the rides that I organise, but not on official events like SoM. Always find someone who is going at a pace that you will be happy with and stick with them. So, my hellos were also goodbyes. And then we were off…

As soon as I turned onto the Heptonstall Road, an older, smaller rider came up alongside me and identified himself as ‘Jim', a rider I acted as Good Samaritan to on last year's event, at the top of the Nick o' Pendle climb. Jim had appeared at the top of the hill while I stood there eating a bar of chocolate and admiring the views. He was walking his bike and had his chain wrapped round a stick like some evil, oily black snake. He'd snapped it on the steepest part of the climb and had thought that his day out was ruined. Fortunately, I not only had a chain splitter on my multi-tool, but I also knew how to use it. I fixed his bike and then we rode round the second part of last year's route together.

Jim had remembered that my navigation by GPS had been very useful last year, and he seemed to want some company so we decided to ride today's event together.

It turned out that Jim was slightly quicker than me on the steeper climbs, but I was quicker on the descents. We were happy to ride along at a steady pace all day.

As anticipated, we got towards the top of the first climb just as a local minibus arrived up there. The driver had to wait as the last of us lurched up over the village cobbles.

Black clouds were building up; I had a bad feeling about this… Yeah, sure enough, we were hit by heavy showers as we climbed up from Blackshaw Head towards the Long Causeway. If it stayed like that for the rest of the day, it was going to be a pretty unpleasant experience. Fortunately, it didn't! By the time we got to Coal Clough wind farm, the rain had stopped. The roads were wet for the next couple of hours, but no more rain fell.

I flew down the Causeway ahead of Jim and spotted a motorcyclist standing next to his machine in a lay-by to our left. He had a phone pressed to his head and a freshly opened can of Special Brew (9% strong lager) at his feet. Just what you want on the roads – pissed up bikers at 9:45 on a Sunday morning!

The sun started to shine and conditions got warmer. It was becoming a very pleasant day to be out on the bikes.

Burnley came and went and soon we got to Fence and the nice run along the hilltop to Padiham Heights where I stopped to take a picture of the Nick o'Pendle looming up over the village of Sabden below us.

Nick o'Pendle, Sabden
Nick o'Pendle, Sabden

It's a stiff climb that! Jim had gone on ahead and I was just chatting to another rider when a tall, scrawny cyclist overtook us and rapidly rode off up the hill ahead of us. Just when you are feeling pretty fit, someone who is actually fit comes along and shows you how it should be done! Never mind – the Nick felt easier than any other time I've ridden up it so I am clearly making progress.

I stopped at the top of the climb to take another picture, this one of Clitheroe and the big hills beyond.

Clitheroe from Nick o'Pendle
Clitheroe from Nick o'Pendle

Jim was waiting for me on the run into town and we quickly made our way to the first checkpoint at one of my favourite cyclists' cafes – Country Kitchen in Waddington. As usual, I bought a postcard for my elderly mother – I think she's had pretty much all of them this year; I'll have to ask the staff there to stock some new ones! 😉

We probably stopped for about 20 minutes. I had a nice piece of chocolate cake and a can of Coke. One has to keep the old blood sugar levels up, don't you know!

We both felt a bit chilled coming out of the warm cafe into the breeze. Conditions were very pleasant, but it took the effort of cycling to keep warm.

The climb of Waddington Fell soon warmed us up again. We had a laugh when another racing whippet shot past us at an unfeasibly fast pace. It's pretty humbling to see that kind of thing, but I suppose it gives us something to aim for!

I began to feel that I was on a really good day. I don't know why these things happen, but I didn't have the usual pain going up that climb. It isn't easy for me at my current size, but I didn't grovel the way that I normally do. I even had enough strength left to accelerate on the steeper section higher up to get it over with quicker.

I waited at the top for Jim to catch up with me and warned him about the tight right-hand bend on the descent, and the ever-present dozy sheep wandering about, then I began my descent, only to stop after a few hundred metres to take another picture. That's Jim in the foreground (in the expanded picture); the dozy sheep were behind me!

Waddington Fell descent (north side)
Waddington Fell descent (north side)

I replaced the camera in my bar-bag and set off in pursuit of the two riders in the distance, catching them just before the bridge at Newton. Jim arrived shortly afterwards and the four of us set off up the ‘Quiet Lane' via Laythams to Slaidburn. It's a really nice road that, and one that I hadn't actually spotted myself when I worked out my first routes in this area about 15 years ago. Very scenic.

There's something about the climb from Slaidburn to Beacon Hill on Grindleton Fell that both Jim and I find tiring. We think it is because it isn't a steady climb, but has lots of little undulations which gradually wear you down. We couldn't get into a good rhythm along there. Still, the views of Pendle Hill from the top made the hard work worth while…

Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill

After a quick descent to Grindleton, we crossed the river Ribble and began to climb again through Chatburn and Downham, then more steeply up Downham Moor. I had an enforced photo-break when a motorcycle rally came up behind us. I wasn't going to struggle on a climb with literally scores (possibly hundreds) of motorcyclists zooming past, so I took some snaps of the Ribble valley below instead.

Ribble Valley
Ribble Valley

Once the road was clear again, I remounted and rode back up to Jim and we soon crested the hill and began a hair-raising descent to Roughlee. SoM organiser Chris Crossland had issued warnings about that descent at the start of the ride. I already knew what to expect, having done it a few weeks ago on my ‘Barlick Bash' ride. On that occasion I'd had to overshoot a bend and go up a farm track over a cattle grid when faced with a large patch of gravel on the ‘racing line'!

A short climb from Roughlee led into a rapid descent to Barrowford. A quick journey through the grottier bits of town and soon we were climbing back up into the local countryside. It starts off as quite a gentle climb but the top section kicks up significantly as you get to the posher areas. By now, I could certainly tell that I'd done some big hills, but why wasn't I suffering more? Never mind, ‘suffering more' isn't something that I ever put on my Christmas list, so I wasn't complaining…

We had a 10 minute stop at Coldwell Activity Centre. I just had another chocolatey treat and then we set off to tackle the last real challenge of the day, the tough little climb at Thursden. Jim went on ahead, but I wasn't too far behind. It hurt, but much less than it sometimes does. Good!

Now was the bit I'd been looking forward to! SoM isn't a tough 100 km ride; it's actually a very tough 90 km ride followed by a very easy 10 km ride! 😉 Unless you are on your last legs, the last few undulations to Widdop and beyond shouldn't prevent you having a good quick blast back to Slack Bottom and then a very fast quick descent to Hebden Bridge. I prefer to drop down through Lee Wood, rather than face the traffic and cobbles of Heptonstall.

We got back to Salem Mill at about 16:10 which was pleasing given how long and numerous our stops had been. Including my warm-up on the A646, I'd done 105 km (65.3 miles). There was the usual ample spread laid on for us so we loaded our plates and tucked in. At that moment, we saw that heavy rain was lashing down outside. By the time we were ready to leave the mill, the rain had stopped again – jammy, or what? 😉

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6 Responses to “Road Ride – Season of Mists (2009)”

  1. Just looking at the photos is enough to make me wish I’d made the effort to ride.

  2. Well, it is a great route but you are putting in some serious mileages on those singlespeed bikes of yours Jon. You do need to rest sometimes you know or you’ll eventually burn yourself out! 😉

  3. Looks a great ride!

    My diary gets more gaos come November for a Colin ride!

  4. As long as we don’t get an early winter like last year with snow and ice everywhere!

  5. Hiya col…..long time no see…..sounds like you’re doing brilliantly with the biking and walking…well done!! Must catch up soon…Carrie x x

  6. That’s spooky timing – I was just clearing out my old emails last night and noticed to my horror that it is 6 months since we were last in touch! I’m off out for another walk soon but I’ll email you when I get home. 🙂

    Bill was asking after you; he’s been in Yorkshire for a couple of months but he is jetting off back to his sunny island retreat next week.

    We’ll have to arrange another MTB ride when we both have a day free, but you’ll have to actually turn up this time! 😉

    See ya soon,
    Col x

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