Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Peak District Adventure - Part Two

Day two of my time in Derbyshire started early, very early. 5.30am early in fact. I planned to do Bank Road and Riber then drive across to the climb at Peaslows before driving home to Devon. Seeing as how Bank Road is in the middle of Matlock and I had a full day planned I reasoned it would be best to see off that climb, and the one up to Riber Castle, before the roads got too busy. Bank Road is after all one of the main streets in Matlock and a steep hill is bad enough without being buzzed by lots of traffic.

In order to make sure I could get up and out of where I was staying with as few delays as possible I built the Cross Check up the night before. That way I could get up, get dressed, wheel the bike out to the car and then onto the first climb of the day. Thankfully every Travelodge room seems to have some dead space in it's layout and I managed to fit the bike into an already crowded room with no bother. Not sure what the receptionist made of a portly bloke wheeling a bike past her desk first thing in the morning but I didn't hang around to find out. I was tempted to ride it out to the car park but thought better of it at the last minute.

                 Very thoughtful of Travelodge to provide a space for a bicycle in every room

My early start meant I was able to get into Matlock and the foot of the first climb just before 6.30am. Bank Road itself is quite an intimidating climb. It is a relatively straight bit of road that just rises up in front of you with a gradient that slowly gets steeper as you get closer to the top. There is no opportunity to ease off and you have  no option but to dig in and get on with it.

It was a bit of a shock to the system starting a climb so early in the morning but I managed to winch my way up to the top in bottom gear without too much trouble. After a lot of driving and hill climbing the day before I actually felt quite fresh. I can only assume I'm either getting slightly better at this hill climbing lark or I was just still half asleep and wasn't fully aware of what I was doing. Either way after the ususal heavy breathing and slow pedalling routine I made it to the top and then descended back to the car with the intention of tackling the climb up to Riber Castle. It was on the road up to Riber I decided to alter my plans for the day.

The climb up to Riber is a steep one and ranked as a 9/10. As my underpowered Fiat struggled up to the top and I woke up half of Matlock by redlining it's puny engine in first gear I realised I wasn't going to be able to do the climb justice. Riber is a brute of a climb. If I was having trouble getting up it in my car I was almost certainly going to have a hard time on the bike. I've got to travel up to the area to complete a few of the other climbs in the book (most notably the Cat and Fiddle) at some point in the future and I was reluctant to tackle Riber knowing that I would in all probability grind to a halt half way up and have to resort to pushing my bike up. The final part of the climb has several savage hairpin bends that I know would have gotten the better of me at my current level of fitness. Stop on the upper section of the climb and the gradient, road surface and narrowness of the climb mean you will in all likelihood be unable to get going again. If I'm going to tackle that climb I want to do it properly and so I decided that Peaslows would be my next and final climb of the day. When I feel fitter and more up to the challenge I shall take on Riber but for now it can wait. No point in making a half arsed attempt when I know I can do better with a bit more training.

This decision to tackle only two climbs meant I was able to get back to the Travelodge at Alfreton, have breakfast, complete my packing and travel across to the climb up Peaslows by just after 10.30. The climb itself was a bit awkward to find, mainly because I relied on my crap nav and not the map, and so I was feeling a bit harassed as I started my descent from the car down to the start. Peaslows has a fairly steady 12% gradient all the way to the top. It is only ranked as a 4/10 but I struggled to get going on it. I was starting to feel a little fatigued by the combination of driving and cycling and it took until half way up the climb before I found any sort of regular rhythm. Just as I started hitting what I consider to be my stride my ride was interrupted by a small dog running out into the road to say hello. It was a very small dog and I was worried I might run it over so I had to stop. I didn't complain too much as a chance for a breather when cycling up a steep hill is always to be appreciated and it didn't take long before the dogs owner carried it away and I could get restarted.

If I'm being totally honest I found Peaslows a bit of a boring climb. The gradient isn't too bad but there isn't anything particularly interesting about the climb. It just drags uphill for longer than seems necessary and you eventually end up next to a rather unassuming reservoir. It wasn't one of my better efforts but it is one more to tick off the list and by the end of my time in Derbyshire I had bagged six climbs and upped my overall total to 17. I felt knackered but fairly happy as I drove back to Devon.

All I need to do now is finish off the rest of the climbs in the South West and then move onto the Welsh climbs. If I'm being honest I'm not looking forward to Wales. Some of the climbs are quite fearsome and I'm going to have to up my game if I'm to do them any justice. Before I even get there however the bike is going to need a bit of TLC. I built it up three years ago and it could do with a partial rebuild. Slinging it in and out of the car on numerous occastions over the last few months hasn't done it any favours either.

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