Road Ride – Trough of Bowland Loop

Fellow CycleChat member Russ (CC name: Sysagent) organised a nice little ride over the Trough of Bowland, starting and finishing at Spring Wood picnic centre, Whalley. The route was 44 miles (71 km) in length and takes in some of my favourite local countryside so I was keen to join in.

If it had been a summer ride I would have ridden to Whalley and back but it’s a bit late in the year for that. I’d prefer to do that in the summer when it is warmer and we have plenty of daylight hours. No problem though – another CCer, Kevin (a.k.a. tubbycyclist), kindly offered me a lift from Hebden Bridge.

Kevin picked me up at 09:00 and we drove over to Spring Wood, arriving at about 09:50. We weren’t sure how many people were going to turn up. In the end, there were just 4 of us – myself, Kevin, Russ and John (Rammylad).

Forecasts leading up to today were pretty bad, which might explain the absence of some of the riders but we were actually pretty lucky with the weather. There was some wind, but it was mild for late October. It had been misty when Kevin and I left Hebden Bridge earlier, but the clouds slowly lifted during the day. In fact, the sun broke through a couple of times before the clouds closed in again.

We waited until 10:10 to give any latecomers a chance to catch us and then we went on our way.

We rode together through Great Mitton, but then Russ and John started to pull away from me and Kevin on the long drag up through Bashall Eaves to Cow Ark. We have been neglecting our cycling recently and it showed every time the road went up hill. There wasn’t a big problem with that because we’d always find Russ and John waiting patiently for us somewhere further up the road. They didn’t seem to mind the regular delays.

It’s a pity that low cloud was obscuring the fine views that we’d normally have on today’s route. I did take a few pictures but they didn’t really turn out very well but here is one taken from the top of the hill above Cow Ark, just before the steep descent to Whitewell.

Steep descent to Whitewell
Steep descent to Whitewell

John warned us about the descent. It is steep, the road surface is bumpy, there are a couple of bends and the road was damp and slippery. The others had gone on while I took the photo and then I set off in pursuit. I’m normally a fairly confident descender but I almost got into difficulty. I had such a juddering coming from my front wheel that I thought I’d got a puncture and stopped to check. All was okay. The Mavic Aksium wheels on my Basso now definitely aren’t as good for wet weather braking as my old Open Pro SUPs were and I’d put extra air in the tyres this morning. I think that the juddering was due to a combination of snatchy brakes and the tyres hopping about on the rough road surface. No harm done. I remounted and continued my descent, greeting a succession of cyclists coming up the other way. Some made the climb look easy, but a couple of riders at the back were really grovelling. I’m fairly sure that I’ve never done that climb before so I’ll make the effort one day – when I’m fit!

I caught up with my riding companions on the way to Dunsop Bridge. There had been some mention of calling in at the cafe there, but we decided that it was too early in the ride and we’d wait until we got to Chipping. We headed straight for ‘The Trough’.

Russ had bike problems on our previous ride 3 weeks ago and was having a few more today. His bike is not quite aligned properly at the back after his roadside repair last time (he had bent it back into shape after his rear mech got caught in his wheel). The chain was falling down the back of his cassette again and risking a similar problem to that on the last ride. He stopped to adjust the derailleur endstop to make sure that didn’t happen. John and Kevin had gone on ahead and once Russ was back on his bike, he left me for dead on the climb. It averages 10% for 1.2 km but there is a steeper section in the middle. I don’t have the fitness to climb that kind of thing quickly. It was a 30/28 gear slow ‘winching’ operation for me. Still, I didn’t have to get off and walk and that was all that I was bothered about.

We regrouped at the summit and then set off on our anti-clockwise circuit of the big fells to our left.

John mentioned the cyclists’ cafe at Scorton. I’ve been there once before but I didn’t realise how close we got to it. In fact, looking at the map when I got back, I can see that it would have only added a couple of miles and one steepish climb to our route for us to have gone there instead of to Chipping. That would have suited Kevin because his energy drained away from him on the climb to Oakenclough. He had taken his dog for a walk before coming out on the ride, and had only had a couple of pieces of toast for breakfast so his blood sugar was getting worryingly low. I, in contrast, had eaten a large bowl of porridge with a banana sliced into it and had been drinking carbo-drink all the way round. I wasn’t riding quickly, but I felt fine.

Kevin took a biscuit from his bag and scoffed that. I’m not sure that it would really have had much effect before Chipping, but psychologically it probably helped!

It was starting to get quite gloomy again and I felt a few spots of rain but we got to the Cobbled Corner cafe at Chipping before any significant rain actually fell.

A fairly lengthy stay at the cafe included an amusing confusion over a second poached egg for John. His 2 pieces of toast had eventually arrived with only one egg and he had been promised another. We waited, and waited and… eventually gave up and went outside to our bikes. I think John was a bit miffed about the egg-that-never-was when the cafe owner came out to us and said that his wife had actually cooked the second egg, but there had a been a mix-up. Apparently somebody had switched the numbers on the tables so the waitress had taken the egg upstairs which is where our table number should have been. We were in fact sitting downstairs. The waitress reported that we must have gone without waiting for the egg. Anyway, John ended up with a poached egg butty in his back pocket. Then he thought better of it and ate it before we set off but the egg burst and he got yolk on his nice Colnago bike. Well, it seemed funny at the time… 😉

It had rained while we were indoors and we had drizzle all the way back to Spring Wood, but not enough to bother us.

We all agreed that it had been a fine trip out on our bikes even if the weather hadn’t been that great. I said that I might organise something from Hebden Bridge in a couple of weeks time if we don’t get another of those premature winters.

As Kevin drove me home, the weather got worse and it was pretty wet back here in Hebden Bridge. We’d been lucky to miss the rain today!

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