Season of Mists 2011

I previously posted this report on CycleChat but decided that I really should have posted it here so I've cut and pasted it, and linked to it from the CycleChat ride thread. (Sorry, no photos on this report. The light was poor and there was rain on the lens of my camera. Refer to the pictures on my 2009 ride report if you want to enjoy the scenery in better conditions!)

Season of Mists (SoM)is one of a pair of sister audax events which start from and finish in Hebden Bridge, the sister event being Spring Into The Dales, or SITD. I've ridden both of them before, but last year's SoM was plagued by torrential rain so I abandoned early on, and I was ill for this year's SITD. I had unfinished business with the event and really wanted to have a good ride today.

The weather leading up to today has been spectacularly good and many UK weather records have been broken. It was 27°C here yesterday, in October!

Of course, it couldn't last … Despite a promising forecast, I got up to overcast skies and the threat of rain, but it was still unseasonably mild. I decided to risk riding in summer kit. I probably should have taken a rain jacket, but I chose to be optimistic. Not really a sensible move, given how exposed this route is and how changeable the weather can be round here.

I had arranged to meet up with fellow CycleChat members Alun, oldfatfool and tubbycyclist, which I duly did at Salem Mill, the event HQ. I saw Uncle Phil and Mrs Uncle Phil on the way to the start, and disappearing up the first hill in front of me, not to be seen again on the ride, which was also true of oldfatfool and tubbycyclist. Alun and I took up our position at the rear of the group and watched the rest of them all disappear into the distance. From then on, we just rode round together.

Now, where was that forecast sunshine? We saw none whatsoever all day. In fact it was overcast when we set off, became drizzly, and later on we had persistent rain. There was a blustery SW wind which was a bit of a crosswind, slightly helping us out, but hindering us on the way back. A bit depressing, given the glorious weather of last week (and today, here)! Still, at least we didn't overheat …

I had taken a chance on shorts, no base layer and a gilet rather than a full jacket. I had arm warmers on all day, but I wasn't really dressed for a damp day at the start of October. The amazing thing was though – I hardly felt cold all day, despite being wet for 8.5 hours. It was very mild.

I descended ahead of Alun into the dip at Jack Bridge and powered my way up the first part of the steep climb past the New Delight pub. As I lost my momentum, I threw my chain down at the granny ring only for it to drop down onto the bottom bracket shell. Very strange – that's the first time it has happened since I fitted my Deda Dog Fang!

I looked down at the dropped chain and tried to understand what had happened. Then I realised what the problem was … I'd fitted a new bottom bracket on Saturday night. I'd double-checked that I was buying the right one – 111 mm for double chainsets, 115.5 mm for triples, so I needed a 115.5 mm one. When I put the chain back on the little ring, the end of my Dog Fang was about 5.5 mm away from the chain, rather than the 1 mm it used to be – my old bottom bracket had been too short! That explained some of the front-shifting problems I had over the past couple of years, and the apparent chainline problems which had led to scraping noises in certain gear combinations. Damn – two years of problems due to one stupid mistake!

That new bottom bracket has transformed my bike! I hadn't realised just how bad the old one had been for the last 6 months or more, but the smoothness of the new one makes it obvious. The funny noises have gone, the front-shifting is much better and the pedalling action is now so nice.

We rode on round to Waddington and had a short stop at Country Kitchen. We were already getting close to the cut-off speed, and we also didn't want to tackle the climb of Waddington Fell with cold legs and full bellies.

Something positive has definitely happened to my cycling! It is probably due to a combination of 3 good rides in the Midlands a month ago, a forum ride a fortnight ago, and me actually getting my saddle position right. Of course, having an efficient new bottom bracket certainly helps too. At any rate – it has been 4 years since I felt so good on the climbs. Not quick, just never struggling. I never felt that I was having to overreach myself to get to the summits. Spin, spin, spin and then I was there. Several times, my mind started to wander and my body just did its thing on auto-pilot. That's a good feeling!

Alun was soldiering on. He wasn't finding it easy, but he wasn't going to give up either.

We got to Newton and I headed off to the left to take in the extra little loop that we had to do round to Slaidburn. Alun, meanwhile had stopped at a sign pointing the other way, the direct road. I shook my head and pointed the other way. Stalemate! I have ridden the event several times before, and I had my GPS to jog my memory, should I have needed it. Eventually Alun rode up to me and I reminded him of the loop. He was beginning to get tired and we were not quite halfway round …

We descended to Slaidburn and were immediately faced with a steep climb back up from the river. I went on ahead at my own pace and waited higher up at the right turn which took us back towards Grindleton.

I remembered how the next stretch of road had done my head in when I was feeling rough on previous rides. It did the same thing to Alun yesterday! Its profile is a bit like a roller coaster, up-down-up-down-up … The ups are long and steep enough to sap your strength when your energy levels are low. Psychologically, it was one of the harder parts of the ride.

At long last we descended to Grindleton, then we stopped at Chatburn so I could buy some water and a Twix from the village store. I'd been doing some calculations and had a feeling the control at Coldwell might be closed by the time we got there and I didn't have enough supplies to last until we got back to Hebden Bridge.

The next part of the route is a killer when you are tired. The road climbs up through the village of Downham in several steep ramps which can really hurt. I was finally starting to feel my efforts, but for once I made the ascent without considering dismounting. Higher up, a small, fit woman rode past me at double my speed. I joked about her teasing us by making it look so easy! She chuckled, continued and disappeared off into the distance.

Going down! (Before immediately going back up again, naturally! Such is the nature of the SoM route …) I had been seriously caught out by this descent on a previous edition of SoM. I had gone into a 90° RH bend and realised to my horror that I wasn't going to make it – there was a big pile of gravel there in front of me so I couldn't bank the bike over. I was saved by the fact that there was an ideally situated farm track straight on which I had shot up, rattling over a greasy cattle grid!

I warned Alun to take care on the descent. The road surface has been vastly improved since I last used it. It used to be gravel-strewn, rutted and potholed, with water running across it. Now, it has good quality tarmac and was a pleasure to ride down. Which we did …

Okay, no time to enjoy the pleasures of the hamlet of Roughlee – Barrowford was awaiting us, after yet another stiff little climb, of course!

All things considered, Alun was bearing up well, but the relentless hills were getting to him. We agreed that we both need to get a lot fitter in order to really enjoy routes as hard as that one.

Up-up-up, down-down-down! I led Alun into the 2 big roundabouts leading to Nelson, headed into the town centre, turned round to speak to him, and … he was nowhere to be seen! Damn – I didn't have my phone with me. I didn't want Alun to be lost this late in the day. We were fighting to get to Coldwell before the cut-off, and every second counted.

I turned round and found Alun a few hundred yards down the road. I'm not sure what had happened. Perhaps he hadn't spotted which exit I'd taken from the second roundabout?

Anyway, no harm done … We climbed out of Nelson together, but then the road steepened and I went on ahead. We were not going to get to Coldwell in time. Never mind, no speed records broken on that ride, but at least we'd tackled it.

Yep – Coldwell Activity Centre was deserted, no audax control desk in sight.

Onward …

I'd been wondering whether to even attempt The Bastard Climb at Thursden, but one look at it reminded me what a brute it is. The road was very wet and I didn't fancy trying to climb standing up and have my back wheel slide away from me. We walked up together.

At the summit, I asked Alun if he wanted to race back past Widdop in an attempt to meet the deadline for the ride which I'd calculated was 17:20. We had already failed in terms of getting to each control in time, but I was beginning to worry about the catering supplies running out before we got back.

And so it came to pass … We couldn't maintain enough speed and eventually limped back to event HQ 15 minutes beyond the deadline. I immediately saw the remains of the food and drink about to be locked into the boot of a car outside. Oops!

One of the catering ladies asked what had gone wrong, why were we so late? I told her that we would have got back much sooner, only we hadn't been riding fast enough! She was good to us, unpacking some flapjack, fruitcake and parkin, and supplies for tea and coffee. We were able to have a little snack there before heading off into the gloom.

Well, it was a character-building ride for Alun and myself. It made up for us abandoning the event last year. We must try and get fitter in time for Spring Into The Dales 2012 though!

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Lessons from this ride – bikes really do work better with good bottom brackets, lightweight rain jackets don't weigh much so carry them if there is any chance of rain, and Crud Roadracer Mudguards are still a great investment for the UK climate! (Thanks Mister Crud, your fine product kept my lard arse dry and my bike 90% cleaner than it otherwise would have been.)

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5 Responses to “Season of Mists 2011”

  1. Shame I was working would have loved to do this event.

    But nearly missing out on food is bad!

  2. Hi Amy – nice to hear from you again. I haven’t been commenting on many blogs recently but I am still subscribed to your RSS feed and follow your adventures. Congratulations on all of them and I hope you get over your illness and injury problems soon!

    Yes – we were looking forward to the food after SoM but when we were late arriving at Coldwell, I had a sneaky suspicion that they would be packing up by the time we got back to HQ! It was nice of them to unpack a few cake tins for us because it had been a long day for them and they must have wanted to get home.

  3. That is why I love Audax events, so friendly!

    I’ve been rubbish at commenting recently as well, glad you are posting again!

  4. Sorry we missed you Colin; I don’t know how we did. We were about the last to be controlled at Coldwell, after I nearly bonked and my chain snapped, and certainly the last to get any tea there.

    See you at next years SITD?

  5. I saw you and Clare getting your bikes ready in the car park as I rode past. I called out ‘hello’ to you both but I had a feeling that you didn’t recognise me (probably because I’ve put so much weight on).

    You were literally just about 20 yards ahead of me, Alun, tubbycyclist and oldfatfool at the foot of Heptonstall Road but you were climbing faster than us so we didn’t see you again!

    Yes, I’ll certainly be up for SITD again in 2012. Illness forced me to miss this year’s event which I was upset about because it was such a lovely day. Hopefully I will have a good winter and be fit enough to do a reasonable time next year. I used to do it in about 6 hours but the last couple of times took me over 8 hours.

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