Monday, 22 April 2013

Return to the Midlands

The march to complete the remaining climbs out of the hundred continues and last week I had a week booked off work so I could tackle some more. The plan was simple; drive to Derbyshire, stay in holiday cottage in the heart of the Peak District and take on several of the remaining climbs in the Midlands region and a few from Yorkshire. I even had a trip over the border into Cheshire.


After a seemingly never ending drive up on the Saturday to Stanton in Peak just outside Matlock my first challenge of the week was to take on the climb up to Riber Castle on the Sunday morning. It was a climb I put off when I was in the area last year and I’m pleased I did. It is a tough climb with a rating of 9/10 and I feel I returned to it with more experience of the steep stuff and a lighter more responsive bike. The last time I was in Matlock I had also just struggled up Bank Road which is a climb steep enough to put you off riding anything else on the same day.

Riber Castle really is quite a long way up - I'm glad I only saw it from this angle after completing the climb

After parking halfway up the climb it was time to descend to the bottom and start the long grind to the top. It is by no means one of the longest climbs but the really tough gradients don’t come until the very end and you have a chance to get into your stride as the climb builds over the course of a long drag up through suburban streets.

The weather was good and I felt pretty decent as I started the climb. I wasn’t going to be setting any records but I felt comfortable and was nicely warmed up by the time I reached the first fearsome hairpin that marks the start of Riber Road. In the 100 climbs book Simon Warren states that speeding up and swinging wide is the best way to tackle this first bend and to keep your momentum up. The road is so steep at this first corner the pavement has been replaced with steps and so I was going to need as much speed going into it as possible. As I accelerated I felt my front wheel lift which was a bit unnerving and just as I got the bike back in shape and I started to swing wide I encountered something that Mr Warren states is a risk on this climb; an oncoming car trying to use the bit of road yo have just swung onto. Put simply I was on the wrong side of the road and had to almost fall sideways to get out of the way. It was entirely my fault but does go to show that slow and steady on some of the busier climbs may sometimes be the best way. After uttering the odd swear word it was time to remount and stagger on up the increasing gradient.

With each hair pin bend the road seems to get steeper and by the time the top homed into view I was going flat out but covering the ground very slowly. Actually that’s how I finish on most of the steeper climbs. After reaching the top it was time to descend back to the car and somehow the tight, steep hair pin bends were even worse on the way down. It felt good to have finally ridden the Riber climb and not experienced the sort of difficulty on the steep bits I was expecting.

Riber was to be the only climb I tackled on the Sunday as I had a big day out planned for the Monday during which I would take on Michaelgate in Lincoln and Terrace Hill.


Michaelgate must be one of the shortest climbs in the book and is located in the heart of Lincoln. The drive to Lincoln was relatively straightforward but trying to get parked and find the climb itself proved to be time consuming. First off my crapnav had a bit of a meltdown and seemed convinced that Lincoln didn’t have any decent parking near the centre of the city.

Lincoln Castle, apparently built to repel people trying to find somewhere to park

Once I did finally locate a car park I then had to try and find the climb. My dad was intending to try and film me as a reached to top of the climb but after dragging the dog around the centre of Lincoln for twenty minutes I decided I would go off on my bike, find the climb and then ring him with directions on how to find it. It was quite a hot day and it didn’t seem fair to lead them both on a wild goose chase (quick tip: go to the cathedral, find Steep Hill from there and Michaelgate can be found halfway down). Needless to say this didn’t work and I managed to find the climb and ride it before being able to get through to my dad on his mobile. Because of this I had nowhere to leave my shoes and camera kit and ended up having to ride the climb with a courier bag loaded with stuff slung over my shoulder. In truth this wasn’t much of a hindrance as the climb is very short. Being a cobbled climb it is also very bouncy but my riding style of staying in the saddle and spinning a low gear seems to work quite well on this type of climb. In fact when I tried to stand on the pedals to inject a bit more pace I nearly got bounced to a halt.

As I reached the junction with Steep Hill I swung into the side street that leads up to the left and reached the end of climb and a nice smooth tarmac road. After this it was time to retrieve my dad and the dog from a bench near the Cathedral before heading off for some lunch and the drive to Terrace Hill.

If I had just headed here first and worked my way downhill I would have saved a lot of time in finding the climb

Unfortunately the good form I had felt on Riber the day before and on Michaelgate was to vanish when I got to Terrace Hill. Stay tuned for more details...

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