Sunday, 12 May 2013

Mow Cop

On the final day of my trip to Derbyshire I decided to drive home via Mow Cop. It was only about an hour away from Stanton in the Peak where we were staying and close to the motorway so it made sense to tackle it on the way home. The scenery as we travelled across Staffordshire was lovely so it was quite a pleasant drive.

On arriving at Mow Cop I have to say the steepness of the climb was pretty breath taking to behold. It isn’t as if I haven’t seen a 25% gradient before but when framed by houses and pavements the slope seemed to be all the more impressive. I can only assume the people living in the area have their handbrakes checked regularly.

The impressive looking Mow Cop Folly. I tried to focus on reaching this and not thinking about the gradient. Reach this and you are at the very top. 

I parked at Mow Cop folly which has a decent sized car park and the dog was taken for a short walk whilst I set the bike up. After battling against a strong head wind on Holme Moss the previous day I was feeling a bit stiff and sore. It had proved to be a really draining experience and whilst I felt full of energy it became all too clear as I freewheeled to the bottom of the climb that my legs weren’t at their best and I realised at that point I was going to have a hard time getting back up to the top. Whilst driving up and down the hill to check it out a couple of local club cyclists were riding up Mow Cop. One was clearly well in control of the situation and got to the top surprisingly quickly. His riding buddy however took about five more minutes to catch up with him and as he rolled to a stop to catch his breath at the top it was clear from the look on his face that he hadn’t enjoyed the experience. I suspected I would be slower still.

Mow Cop is a climb that has a well deserved reputation. After crossing over the railway line at the bottom of the hill the gradient slowly ramps up and doesn‘t give you a chance to ease off. The lower part of the hill isn’t particularly steep but my legs just weren’t turning too easily and I quickly found myself battling my own fatigue more than the gradient. The further up I climbed the harder I found it to keep on top of even a low gear as the gradient increased. The sight of the 25% ramp up past the Cheshire View Inn didn’t do much to help with my motivation. It is really quite an impressive site as the road suddenly steps up in severity. I can imagine a few drunks have literally rolled down the hill after a night out at the pub. After a few days of doing OK on the climbs it was inevitable that I was going to have a bad day at some point and today was the day for suffering.

The video for this climb can be found at the top of the Video Bar on the right of the screen. For some reason Blogger has suffered a bit of a temporary meltdown when it comes to uploading videos. As soon as the glitch with the software gets resolved I'll imbed the video but for now you'll need to access it either from the video bar or through Youtube where my channel is called Cyclinguphillslowly (it seemed a fitting and accurate name!). You could of course just click on the link below:

Mow Cop Video

As I winched my way up to the Cheshire View Inn I thought I would back off for a moment before trying to accelerate onto the hardest part of the hill in an attempt to up my speed. Pushing such a low gear (rest assured, I was in bottom) however meant that a sharp kick through the pedals succeeded only in throwing my chain off. Cue the slowest bicycle crash in history as my bike came to a shuddering halt and then tried to roll backwards down the hill. After disentangling myself from the rear derailleur (I have no idea how but my right leg got jammed in it as I tried to stop myself falling over)I dragged my bike to the side of the road and spent a minute or two sticking the chain back on a making sure it wasn’t going to come off again. If one good thing came of it I did at least have a bit of a breather before remounting and finishing off the climb but I think it is fair to say my heart wasn’t in it by that point. I just didn’t have the pace to make a good fist of the steepest section and pedalled myself to a standstill. This then presented me with the new problem of trying to get going on a 25% gradient. After a lot of swearing and weaving all over the road I did manage it and was able to slowly winch myself up to the top of the hill and then back to the car park.

This is what the 100 Climbs will do to your car

On reflection my trip to the Peak District had been a fairly productive one and it was good to get some more the climbs ticked off. It was just a shame Mow Cop didn’t work out as smoothly as I had hoped.

Coming Soon

Of course, getting a further eight climbs out of the way doesn’t mean that I can rest on my laurels. Despite suffering on Mow Cop and having a long drive back home afterwards I was back on my bike the next day and have kept on top of my riding since. I have a busy couple of months ahead of me and my next stop will be North Wales. Then I’ll be off to Yorkshire before returning to Wales to finish off the remaining rides in the South.

To make my fixed gear bike easier to live with on longer training rides I’ve fitted a freewheel to the flip flop hub and it has been a revelation. In fact it is the bike I’ve been riding the most on my recent training rides and I’ve found that I’m now holding onto the higher gears a bit longer on certain gradients. Hopefully that bodes well for the future rides.

Time for an upgrade in the saddle department
I’ve also decided to change the saddle on the Uncle John. I’ve fitted a San Maro Concor Super Corsa. It looks quite retro but feels better to sit on when the road goes up as it’s shape gives me more of a perch to push against. The old saddle was flat and quite unsupportive and also creaked like hell which was always off putting so it was time for a change. I’ve only been out on the Concor a few times and I may find I don’t get on with it long term but my initial impressions of it are good. Hopefully I won’t find out halfway up the Horseshoe Pass that I’ve actually bought a leather covered razor blade.

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