Road Ride – ‘Spring Into The Dales’ 2009

Spring Into The Dales had come round again! It is a scenic organised ride from Hebden Bridge to Wharfedale and back. It is 111 km in length and tackles 2,232 m of tough hills (for imperialists –  69 miles, 7,300 ft).

This year’s route: Hebden Bridge – Oxenhope – Stanbury – Laneshaw Bridge – Earby – West Marton – Gargrave – Cracoe – Burnsall – Bolton Abbey – Halton East – Draughton – Silsden – Keighley – Oxenhope – Hebden Bridge.

Conditions in 2005 were cold – there was still snow on top of Pendle Hill and the big hills around Wharfedale. By contrast, I’d frazzled in the sunshine in 2006 and 2007. I was over-dressed in nearly full winter cycling kit. In 2008 conditions were so bad that I wimped out! I took one look out of my window and went back to bed – rain, dark clouds, strong winds – no thanks!

Today, we were promised great conditions again but it looked like it would be a murky, chilly start so I’d decided to dress flexibly in layers which could be removed or replaced as conditions changed. I wore a short-sleeved lightweight jersey on top of a long-sleeved base layer. I was wearing shorts over lightweight lycra leg-warmers. I wore a gilet (sleeveless windtop) and arm-warmers.

I got to Salem Mill at about 08:45 and could immediately see that there was a good turn-out. I’d be surprised if there weren’t more than 100 riders. They had obviously been checking the forecasts too.

I spotted a few cycling friends outside and said hello to them, then dashed upstairs to pick up my brevet card. I bumped into two guys I know (forum nicknames MSeries and Warburton) and said quick hellos to them, and then went off to join a long queue for the toilets. As a result, I emerged at the back of the field just before we were sent on our way.

Spring Into the Dales riders about to set off

I’d arranged to ride with Alun a fellow CycleChat forum member who had been on a couple of rides with me previously. Svendo was feeling somewhat hungover after drinking too much on previous nights so he tagged along with us, rather than going off with the faster riders.

We settled in the tail end of the field and didn’t make any real effort to overtake people.

There definitely was ‘a nip in the air’ when we set off up the Keighley Road. It wasn’t too bad while we climbing, but the descent to Oxenhope felt decidedly chilly.

From Oxenhope we climbed over Penistone Hill, passed through Stanbury, past Ponden reservoir and then made our way up the steep little climb to Scar Top. From there it is a drag up past Watersheddles reservoir. (I’ve been calling it Watersheddies for 20 years and have just discovered my mistake!).

As we climbed to the former Herders Inn, the clouds finally burned away. The sun started shining and was then with us for the rest of what had become a fine spring day.

I was riding a little slower than I normally do, and that spared me enough energy to be able to do the ride comfortably for once. On all previous attempts, I’ve gone quicker but then ‘hit the wall’ on the climb back out of Keighley.

We had a short stop at the control in Earby, and then made our way round towards the next control at Gargrave. On the way, we spotted a cyclist on foot pushing his bicycle. We stopped to ask if we could be of assistance, and he replied that we couldn’t help unless we had a spare pair of bicycle forks on us. He showed us what the problem was…

Rusted-through broken forks!

Yikes – that was one of the most scary sights I’ve ever seen as a cyclist! 😯 The bike had been ridden down some very steep descents just an hour before, but fortunately the problem didn’t manifest itself until the rider was tootling along a flat lane. He said that his mudguard started rubbing his wheel so he dismounted to investigate and saw that the front of his bike was about to break off! One very luck cyclist…

Take that as a reminder to check your bike regularly, and never, ever ignore funny noises, vibrations, or wobbles.

I’ve had a stem break after I ignored creaking sounds. I’ve had a front MTB tyre peel off the rim when I let the pressure get too low, and I’ve destroyed a front rim by trying to squeeze just one more ride out of a pair of brake blocks (what can you do when the last of the rubber wears away on a dangerous 25% descent – stop braking?).

We told the people manning the control at The Dalesman cafe at Gargrave what had happened but they had already been informed. They said that they’d drive the rider and his bike back to Hebden Bridge after the control closed.

After Gargrave, the day just got better and better. The weather was great, and the Dales scenery looked fantastic. To be honest, I’m very disappointed with the photographs that I took because they just don’t do justice to what we experienced. I carry my camera in a waterproof bag within a Camelbak bag on my back. That means it is a faff to take a picture. I have to stop, take the bag off my back, extract the waterproof bag, take the camera out… It really breaks up a ride to keep doing it so I don’t take as many pictures as I’d like to. I could take about 100 pictures on one battery charge but I usually only end up with about 20-30 and usually there will be something wrong with at least half of them (I’m not a photographer!).

Anyway, here’s a selection of what I did take…

The village in the distance is Grassington. Somehow, that fact slipped my mind on the ride and it really confused me. I knew that it wasn’t Burnsall, but I’d forgotten that Grassington was a few miles deeper into Wharfedale.


This is the lovely little singletrack lane between Cracoe and Thorpe on the way to Burnsall.

Singletrack Dales lane

Our group photo taken with the camera facing the other way.

Svendo, Alun, Me (ColinJ)

I wasn’t the slightest bit bothered that we were riding pretty slowly. As long as we beat the official minimum speed of 12 kph, I was happy (Alun and I eventually came in at 13.4 kph).

I was looking forward to the change of route that event organiser Chris Crossland had put in this year between Bolton Abbey and Silsden. It was lovely (apart from two brief encounters with the fast and busy A59 & A65, but we also encountered them on the old route).

There were a couple of stiff climbs to tackle around Draughton. They weren’t complete leg-breakers but they felt very tough after all the climbs that had gone before. At least I have nice low climbing gears for that kind of thing.

Draughton Height

17% gradient sign

I have to say – once we got back onto the A6034 for the descent into Silsden, my spirits sank a little. We’d had a great day out in lovely countryside, with very little traffic, then suddenly we were dumped back into noisy, smelly, fast-driving ‘real life’. Shucks… 😥

Alun and I got separated from Svendo on the run into Keighley and he finished his ride alone ahead of us. Alun and I made a brief stop at Rossi’s cafe to get our cards stamped and buy cold drinks and chocolate.

It’s a nice steady climb up to Haworth Brow from Keighley, ruined only by the traffic. After that, the traffic eases off and there are a couple of kms of flat road before we tackled the final climb of the day from Oxenhope to Cock Hill.

I knew that Alun was finding the last hill difficult so I used the altitude readings on my GPS to split it into 4 equal sections and we stopped to stretch our backs and take drinks. It certainly made it easier for me – it’s the first time in 4 or 5 editions of SITD, that I haven’t had back problems on that climb, and for once I completed the climb with energy to spare.

SITD doesn’t have a sting in the tail, it has a great 7 km (4 mile) descent back to Hebden Bridge. Just what you want when you are feeling tired.

There were still a few riders sitting around at event HQ when we got back. As usual there had been a fine spread laid on so we helped ourselves and tucked in. Alun and I chatted for about 20 minutes and then went our separate ways.

I think that was the best SITD yet! Watch out for a report on its sister event Season of Mists in October

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8 Responses to “Road Ride – ‘Spring Into The Dales’ 2009”

  1. HURRY UP !!!!!!! PLEASE !

  2. Waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit for it! 😉

    I’ll try and finish it Tuesday.

  3. It’s now wednesday!!!!

  4. Er… Okay, I’m off to the shops, and I’ll finish it when I get back! 😳

  5. Great report, it was a great day. You managed more pics than me I took none on the actual ride and just one on the way home!

  6. I’m going to get a small bar bag for the camera so I can get at it more easily.

    I need to RTFM because the camera often doesn’t manage to get the exposures right on its Auto setting. I’ve taken shots early afternoon in bright sunshine, that look like they were taken on a dull evening! It’s frustrating because the camera is capable of taking fantastically good pictures. Look how clear the larger picture of the broken forks is, and that is reduced to 23% of original size!

  7. Great report and loving the pictures !

  8. Thanks.

    I’ve just RTFM fof the camera and have learned how to adjust the exposure in semi-auto mode so I’m hoping I can improve the picture quality in future. The camera has often been under-exposing the photos and producing dark images. When I brighten them up on the PC, I lose detail. For example, the sky ends up looking one colour, whereas in the original picture I could see the clouds.

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