Road Ride – Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I'd organised a ride from Hebden Bridge to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at West Bretton between Wakefield and Barnsley on a very hilly 85 mile (137 km) route. Only two other CycleChat riders could make it – Paul (‘Kestevan‘) and Andy (‘aJohnson‘).

Andy is becoming a bit of a regular on my rides but this was Paul's first time (work and family commitments mean that he usually isn't free at times that the rest of us ride.)

I'd been worried about this ride because I've been off my bike with a mysterious illness since Spring into the Dales 2 weeks ago. I have been feeling better for a couple of days but today's route was pretty tough and I feared that I might get halfway round and then collapse! And so it was with some apprehension that I rode round to the meeting place at the usual car park to meet Andy and Paul…

The lads were waiting when I got to the car park so we didn't hang about. For once we actually got away a couple of minutes early.

As forecast, it was pretty cold in a strong northerly wind. The effort of climbing kept us warm but there was a big windchill factor on every descent. Andy had taken my advice and was wearing full winter kit. He is so skinny that he gets chilled really easily. Paul, on the other hand, like me, was carrying quite a few extra pounds and doesn't feel the cold to the same extent. I thought shorts and bare legs were a step too far though. I had my lightweight legwarmers on and felt about right.

Andy in winter kit, Paul in shorts!
Andy in winter kit, Paul in shorts!

Andy is a natural climber and Paul is a lot stronger than me so the two of them pulled away from me every time the road went uphill at more than about 5% gradient. Never mind, it was my first ride after 2 weeks off with that bug so I was pleased to just be able to do the ride.

It definitely was a hilly route. Very little of the ride was on flat roads.

We were following the West Yorkshire Cycle Route out to Meltham, but deviated from it there to ride down Upperthong Lane into Holmfirth. This part of the ride was pretty new to me. We crossed the main road and climbed out of Holmfirth on the A635 to New Mill where we left the main road and got back on some nice quiet lanes.

I don't know how it happened, but looking at my GPS tracklog I can see that we took a wrong turn and took a different road up to Fulstone than the one I'd intended. All I can think is that I didn't look at the GPS for a while and didn't notice at the time. Fortunately the two roads came back together further on or we'd have had to backtrack.

There was some steep climbing on the way up to Emley Moor. I'd wanted to get a good look at the TV mast close up and had planned the route to take us right next to it on the way to Emley village.

Emley Moor mast from below
Emley Moor mast from below

A quick blast down through the village and soon we we were climbing on the busy A636 to the roundabout with the equally busy A637 to West Bretton where we turned off for the Sculpture Park. At that point it looked like the weather was going to turn really nasty for us. The skies were going black and we felt a few spots of rain. We could worry about that after our cafe stop.

Ah yes, the cafe stop… 😉 Here's what I said about it on the CycleChat forum:

We wandered about trying to find the restaurant/cafe. There were signs for ‘The Underground Gallery' and that kind of thing but we didn't see a single one for the cafe!

By trial and error we finally located the cafe. We got quite a few strange looks from the massed crowds of art lovers. Just who are these sweaty men in lycra?

My sandwich was very nice but £4.50 was a steep price to pay. My sandwich, cake and coffee came to £9.05 which is more than I could really afford. In fact, I had to dig right down into my small change and only just had enough to pay my bill! (5p to spare)

We saw a tripod next to a large black circle in the grass. We couldn't work out whether a surveyor had just stopped for a break or whether it was in fact a work of art, but there you go.

A big red metal cone with another big piece of red metal next to it was clearly ‘art', where art is defined as ‘It doesn't have a purpose, isn't natural and didn't get there by accident'!

Eventually we were ensconced in the cafe next to a wall displaying photographs of some of the ‘works'. Deeply moving works such as a sign bearing the stimulating thoughts “We see through our eyes. We hear through our ears.” Wow – I was so intrigued, I almost forgot to eat my sandwich! (Did I tell you that it cost £4.50?). In a flash of artistic brilliance, aJ came up with the concept of a sister work – a sheet of A3 paper on which he would write “We smell through our noses. We ride on our bikes.” He has a bright future in The Art World!

Person 1: “Is that pile of bricks a work of art?”

Person 2: “How can we tell just by looking at the bricks?”

Person 1: “Well it's either art or it isn't!”

Person 2: “No, no, no! If an artist bought the bricks from a builders yard and installed them in the gallery – that is art. If delivery men merely dumped them there for builders to use in the new gallery extension, then they remain nothing more than a pile of bricks!”

Person 1: “Oh, I understand now – thank you – my life is enriched beyond measure!”

Philistine remarks aside, I actually think that the Park is very nice and would be good for a family visit. If you can afford the prices in the cafe then that is worth a visit too (if you can find it!). I just don't think it is a good place to stop on a CC forum ride.

Andy developed sore shoulders on the ride out and phoned his dad to drive over to pick him up from the cafe so we left him there and set off on our ride home. I was aware that our average speed was low and a quick calculation had me worried about getting back in daylight. Still, nowt could be done about it – Paul could have ridden quicker but I was riding at a speed that I could sustain. No point in burning myself out riding quicker and then struggling to get over the last few hills.

We eventually got back to Holmbridge above Holmfirth at about 6:00 pm. Paul lives just down the road, so I said goodbye to him and continued alone.

I had a hard ride back in conditions which were threatening to turn very nasty. It had gone black and I could feel spots of rain. If it had really let rip it would have been freezing but the rain held off while I did the stiff climb up from Holmbridge past Digley reservoir. Hail started to fall as I began the fast descent into Meltham, but fortunately not enough to make the road slippery.

I took a different route of Meltham to the one I usually do. I turned right just after the town centre, climbed over Blackmoorfoot and did a rapid descent to Slaithwaite.

From Slaithwaite, the climb of Scapegoat Hill felt really hard and then I had to descend and climb again. Normally I'd climb all the way to Barkisland, but I'd planned another change to my usual route. I turned right and climbed through upper Greetland to Norland Moor. By the time I got up there the sun was setting and I didn't have a front light with me! I decided to drop straight down into Sowerby Bridge and ride back along the Calder Valley Cycleway to avoid traffic. The descent of Scar Head is too steep, twisty and narrow – I won't do it again. It's an accident waiting to happen. It would make a superbly challenging climb though. I'll wait until I'm really fit and unleash it on some unsuspecting CycleChat members, preferably those on fixedwheel bikes! Only kidding chaps, would I do that to you? 😉

A Sunday night on a bank holiday weekend – you can guess what that meant…

As I got into town, I heard a loud banging noise as I rode under the railway viaduct. Turned out to be 3 lads walking along, one of whom was carrying a 3 foot piece of timber and smacking hell out of everything he walked past. I turned down the normally quiet little lane which I use to get onto the Cycleway – it was wall-to-wall young drunks. I got jeered at by one lot, and another lot started chanting “Fitness, fitness!” They were mostly walking in the same direction as me which was towards a small backstreet pub. I'd seen that before and wondered how they stayed in business in that out-of-the-way location, but it's obviously somewhere cool for the young of Sowerby Bridge. People were staggering all over the road so I was made clicking noises with my brake levers and coughed a lot to alert them but they were oblivious to me. I ended up riding a slalom course around them. It was a really scary experience made even more so when a bloke smacked another in the face right in front of me! The victim fell to the ground and started swearing at the assailant, then stood up, then fell over then stood up again…

As soon as I could see a clear path, I found energy from somewhere and sprinted away from the chaos before someone took a swing at me, or kicked the bike. Riders on the 3 Coasts audax were attacked riding through Sowerby Bridge at night a few years back. I definitely will not be doing that again!

It was dark by the time I got on the cycleway and I had to take my glasses off because they were filtering out what was left of the light. I finally limped home at 09:05 pm. So, that was 85 very hilly miles after being ill for 2 weeks and not being on a bike! In truth, it had been just a bit too much. Still, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger!

I'm not getting much fitter because doing tough little rides with not much in between means that whatever fitness gains I make are lost between rides. I've talked to Paul and others about this and have come to the conclusion that I need to try and simulate the regular commuting they do by bike. If I don't have a social ride organised on a given day, and if it isn't designated as a rest day or a walking day, then I should get my bike out and do an hour or so. It doesn't have to be a long ride – just riding up to Blackstone Edge or Cock Hill and coming straight back down would be enough. 3 or 4 of those a week would certainly keep the old legs ticking over.

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4 Responses to “Road Ride – Yorkshire Sculpture Park”

  1. It’s amazing how much fitness comes from short rides. Ali does very little but her commute, 2miles each way, week to week. But that gives her enough fitness to do a reasonable ride every so now and again.

  2. It’s definitely true. I keep making the excuse that I’m too heavy to ride up hills very quickly but Paul was leaving me for dead on that ride and he is the same weight as me! It’s the old bike commute that makes most of the difference.

    I have a friend in the Midlands who is overweight. I went to see him a couple of years ago and I could tell straight away that he’d lost weight, nearly 30 pounds it turned out. He also looked a lot healthier. That was after he started cycling 1.5 miles to work in the morning and 1.5 miles back in the evening! In the end, his job was relocated and he had to start using the works van and he went right back to where he’d been before.

    I haven’t touched my bike since last weekend. I’ve just done one very easy stroll along the canal towpath. Barely enough to even mention really. And I’m supposed to be going out and doing a 75 miler tomorrow. It’s not the way to go about things…

  3. I keep meaning to get out on one of these rides. Its just not easy living miles away.

  4. It would be great if you did make it one day. Knowing you, you’d probably ride here and back as well!

    The problem with my rides is that they are so slow. I’m beginning to feel a bit guilty about how much waiting most of the other riders have to do while I limp up the hills. I know my weight is part of the problem, but mainly it is lack of fitness and that is due to lack of riding. Paul was much quicker than me on the climbs and he is the same weight. The thing is – he commutes by bike so gets his cycling in no matter what.

    I haven’t been on my bike since the Sculpture Park ride and that is 8 days now! Something has happened to me over the past 2 or 3 years. I used to get out 4 or 5 times a week, no problem but I’m struggling for motivation now. If I’m not meeting other riders I often just don’t bother even if it is a nice sunny day.

    I’d like to get out for a ride today, even if it is just a short one but I have loads of things to do and might not get round to it.

    Don’t forget – REST YOUR KNEES. I hope they recover once you stop battering them for a while!

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