Road Ride – Wet Blackstone Edge Ride

Bill came round yesterday, keen to get a little ride in. We had wind and sunny spells, but rain was forecast for about 4:00 pm. He decided to take a chance but I stayed at home. I saw him later and he told me that he’d been caught in heavy rain at Blackstone Edge and had turned round at the top of the climb and gone home to dry out.

Today, we once again had wind and sunny spells, with rain forecast for about 4:00 pm! This time, Bill thought better of it but I needed to get out and stretch my legs. The forecast must be wrong, it was a lovely sunny afternoon…


As I climbed through Cragg Vale, the sun was shining brightly. It felt great to be back on the bike again. Even though I haven’t done much cycling this year (only about 20 rides in total! :oops:), my legs felt pretty strong. I think the regular power-walks up to Heptonstall have been doing me good. I was using 2 gears higher than I normally do, without any difficulty.

As I got out onto the open moor, things began to change… I looked ahead and could see black clouds forming. It also worried me that most of the cars coming towards me had their headlights on. What the heck, I’d made the effort to come out. A little rain wouldn’t hurt me. I’d carry on unless lightning bolts started zapping down around me.

Then the heavens opened up! I got soaked in a matter of seconds. I couldn’t see a thing through my cycling glasses so I ended up with them pulled down to the tip of my nose and me peering over the top of them.

The rain was being driven towards me by the usual cross-headwind. It wasn’t pleasant but at least the rain wasn’t freezing so I was able to carry on.

I turned left at the junction by the reservoir and shot down the descent towards my turn down Blue Ball Lane. It was on that descent that I realised that my brakes weren’t working properly. I expected a slight reduction in power because of the wet conditions but this was a serious reduction. I have new wheels on the bike and one new pair of brake blocks but I wasn’t expecting that. On my old Mavic Open Pro rims, there would be a slight delay while the blocks skimmed any water off the braking surfaces, but then the brakes would start to ‘bite’ almost as well as on dry rims. I was having to pull really hard on the levers to get significant braking so all descents from then on were taken very gingerly – no heroic downhills today!

I made my way back over the lanes to Mytholmroyd, and back along the Calder Valley Cycleway to Hebden Bridge. The roads down in the valley were dry. Apparently they’d only had a few minutes of light showers down here!

I haven’t made a full investigation of the braking problem, but I can see that the water thrown up from the road surface was very black and oily. My bike is messy, despite the Crud Roadracer guards which I fitted last year. They keep spray off my upper half pretty effectively, but the bike still gets quite a bit of it. My legs were very oily too.

I reckon that many weeks of dry conditions have allowed a build up of oily gunk on the road surfaces and the heavy rain was bringing it out. Oily rims = low braking friction? I’ll have to clean them carefully before my next ride and see how I get on. It’s a bit scary doing over 40 mph and then finding out that it is hard to slow down!

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