Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Halifax Lane

I had been intending to do two climbs in Yorkshire on the 7th June as it was my last full day in the county before travelling home. It was forecast to be another hot day so I was intending to get up really early and try to tick off the Halifax Lane climb before 10am leaving me plenty of time to sort out the Shibden Wall climb before the temperature shot up at mid day cooking me and the dog. Things didn’t quite work out like that.

When I woke up on the morning of the 7th I felt awful. The fatigue of a week on the road trying to tick off climbs had been catching up on me since the day before and my knees ached, I felt exhausted and my legs generally felt stiff and not up to a hard days work. As a consequence we got on the road later than planned and it wasn’t until about 10am that we actually arrived at the village of Luddenden to start the climb.

Luddenden is a curious place. Every road I drove on that lead into the village seemed to be a monstrously steep climb. The road out of the village has a steep hairpin of such ferocity that lorries are banned from it. Whilst scouting out the climb I drove past the turn off that I was meant to take and ended up on a single track road that was half cobbles, half tarmac and featured a hairpin bend of such steepness and tightness I wasn’t such my car would make it. In fact the road was so steep and rough I took some convincing it was actually a road and not some sadists idea of a bike path.

As a consequence of my poor route finding I started the climb up Halifax Lane not totally convinced I was on the right road or where to turn off. In fact I did end up overshooting the junction I needed to turn left into and it was only a quick call to my ‘support team’ who had access to the little black book that saw me on the right road.

My tiredness and the heat meant I was slow up this climb but I am convinced it is not the hardest road out of the village to ride. I’m not volunteering to test my theory but I did feel that in between the hairpins Halifax Lane is actually not that fearsome a climb. OK, I’m more of a tourist than a competitive hill climber but there seemed to be a wealth of nasty stretches of tarmac in the area.

I had already decided before starting the climb that it would be my last in Yorkshire; I was simply too knackered to put in a decent effort on any more climbs and as I descended back to the car I noted that even my hands were feeling tired after a week of hard braking on steep descents. It was well after lunchtime before we got back to Bradley and it was nice to have an afternoon of not doing much at all and preparing for the journey back to the South West the following day.
My next trip is to South Wales as I still have some unfinished business to attend to there. Hopefully I’ll be a bit quicker in getting the videos up and onto the blog.


Greenhow Hill

This climb really didn’t go to plan. The idea was to ride Park Rash and then take on Greenhow Hill all before lunch. Unfortunately I took a bit longer riding Park Rash than planned and then, when trying to drive to Pately Bridge I found that the most direct route was closed for road works. That meant a fairly sizeable detour on an already very hot day. I took the decision to break for lunch before reaching Pately Bridge. Having lunch meant I got to the start of the climb fuelled up but the heat had been rising over lunch time and into the early afternoon and in a car without aircon I started my descent feeling very warm. Hot weather had always been my Achilles heel and as soon as I started pedaling back up it was clear I was going to suffer.

Greenhow Hill goes up in a series of steps, each one with a gradient slightly less than the one before. I managed to blow a gasket on the first steepest section and never really got on top of the climb. It was only when I reached the upper slopes where the road was more open did I get a chance to cool off a bit but by then the damage was done and I was locked into full on grovel mode. The very top part of the climb has only a very shallow gradient and I did manage to knock the bike up a couple of gears but it was by no means a stunning ride by me.

An old kiln just below the top of Greenhow Hill. I was took knackered to explore the rest of the old industrial site.
The drive back to the holiday cottage in Bradley was done with all of the car windows open as fast as I could in order to get some cooler air blowing through the car. I wasn’t worried about just myself; the dog had been having a hard time all day in the heat and really didn’t seem too happy at all.

With an equally hot day forecast for the final day of my trip to Yorkshire and with fatigue potentially becoming an issue I was going to have to give my plans for the following day some careful consideration.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Park Rash

Park Rash was my first climb of the day and as I drove my little Fiat towards it along the single track road that leads to it from Kettlewell the site of the first couple of corners caused a sharp intake of breath. It looks like someone has just draped a strip of tarmac over the hill side. It isn’t quite as savage as it looks once you start to ride it but it is certainly a road that, on appearance alone, makes you nervous. In fact the hairpin bends are probably worse on the descent. As I rode down from the top where I had parked the car I approached the two corners carrying quite a lot of speed. The surface of the road is rough and that, combined with sharp braking, made my back wheel skip all over the road. It certainly woke me up that morning. It also reinforced the point that if hairpin bends look bad going up you need to treat them with a lot of respect on the way down

For me it is a point of honour to try and put in a decent effort when it comes to uphill hairpin bends and I think this was ultimately my undoing. In short I overdid it and seemed to burn through my reserves on the lower slopes of the climb. It meant that I was struggling for most of the ride and at times really found it difficult to lift my pace. A competitive hill climber would have no doubt used the undulating mid section of the climb to increase their speed. I on the other hand found it a brilliant bit of road to go slow on as I attempted to recover from my earlier efforts. It wasn’t my prettiest ride and I suspect my dad and the dog were getting pretty fed up waiting for me at the top, especially as it was shaping up to be another hot day. Once I did hit the final steep ramp up to the summit I had managed to get on top of my pace but that pace was slow and I was only able to winch myself up in a low gear.

Looking back on the experience it is one amazing bit of road. The middle section where you can see the road stretching off to the start of the final climb to the summit is breathtaking. Its just a shame that this climb quite literally took my breath away and I was too busy trying to breath and pedal at the same time to fully appreciate it.
My support team going for a stroll at the top of Park Rash
My next climb of the day was to be Greenhow Hill and in the afternoon heat I was about to start suffering far more than I did on Park Rash. More to follow.

Norwood Edge

It seemed such a simple plan; get up early, drive for half an hour from Bradley to the Norwood Edge climb, ride up the hill then be back in time for breakfast and take the rest of the day off. I figured that me, my dad and the dog could do with a day off from slogging around the countryside in hot weather and the nearby town of Skipton looked like an interesting place to spend a few hours

Simple plans however don’t always work out. Firstly I managed to get to Otley OK but my sat nav didn’t recognise the village of Farnley that I was aiming for. It turns out Farnley is more of a little hamlet than a village and whilst it shows up on Maps Tom Tom doesn’t believe it exists and so I went sailing down the road in entirely the wrong direction. I did eventually end up at a reservoir but it was clearly the wrong one. It was time to ditch the crap nav and rely on old fashioned road signs and a road atlas to retrace my steps to the junction I should have turned into. I finally ended up on a road that looked like it was the right one after a frustrating drive down some narrow lanes I could have easily avoided.

Referring to the little black book of pain and its route description confirmed that after a wasted 20 minutes I had indeed found the correct bit of road so I pulled off into a forestry commission car park at the summit of the climb, put the bike together and descended to the start.

The first thing that struck me as I started my ride was how busy the road was. It doesn’t come across in the accompanying video but there were a lot of aggregate trucks thundering up and down Norwood Edge. After a couple of days of riding on quite rural lanes it was a bit of a shock to the system. The second thing that struck me as I started to ride back up to the car was just how much of shock to my system the climb was proving to be. After two decent days on the bike it seems Norwood Edge was the bit of road where my body decided it had earned a break from all this cycling nonsense and no matter how hard I tried it was a struggle to get on top of the gears and establish a decent pace. Thankfully it was the only ride I intended to tackle that day as I was clearly trying to ride a bike with somebody elses legs and whoever they are they had obviously pedalled a bike uphill before.


Finding yourself pedalling squares before you have even reached the steep part of a climb is pretty depressing and the ride up Norwood Edge was a joyless grind to the top. As the gradient eased towards the summit I was able to recover a little bit but I really should have been pressing on and riding much harder. I’m fully prepared to admit that I’m not the fastest rider in the world but I had hoped for a better performance on a 5/10 rated climb. Pulling into the little car park at the top I noticed a nice piece of singletrack trail snaking towards the tree line and I thought about how much more fun I could have had riding that instead. Still, I had another of the climbs ticked off the list and the rest of the day to relax so I guess it had been a productive morning after all.

The ride I would rather have done was snaking through the forest. Another time maybe

After getting back to Bradley and having breakfast it was off to Skipton for a wander around and lunch. Skipton is quite a nice town with a prosperous feel to it. The market and shops were really drawing in the crowds and the place seemed to be full of large elderly Northern women in garish clothes picking through the contents of the numerous market stalls. It was actually quite nice to be a tourist for the afternoon and take in the sights of Skipton including a nice lunch outside the Castle Inn. The following day would see me taking on a couple of pretty fierce climbs so the rest was much needed. I could only hope that my legs would decide to start working properly before I took on Park Rash.

Day Trip to Lancashire Part 3 - Cross of Greet

Slaidburn is a nice little village and my dad and I had lunch in the Hark to Bounty Inn and I can honestly say I had the best burger I have ever tasted. The dog approved as well and it was frankly a bit of a wrench to leave the shade of the pub beer garden to climb back into the car before heading towards the final ride of the day.
One thing I must point out about the village of Slaidburn is that it has a really stunning statue on the war memorial in the centre of the village. I feel foolish for missing the chance to take a picture of it. I also feel foolish for misreading the map and sailing past the war memorial and heading off in the wrong direction when trying to find the start of the Cross of Greet climb.

The road out to the climb once I did finally start heading in the right direction seemed to take forever and is at times narrow, poorly surfaced and steep. The only decent place to part was just past the summit in an over sized lay by. It was getting late in the day by the time I started my ride down to the start and I was feeling tired and not fully up to the task. Still the descent was technical, fast and fun and after a while it hit me that I was riding somewhere really special. The gradient on the climb is never too steep but you truly get the feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere on some remote mountain pass. The traffic is light and all I could hear was the sound of my own wheezing as I tried to inject some pace into my riding.

Apart from the sound of a fat man wheezing this was actually a very tranquil spot
In truth I failed as I was feeling just a bit too hot and road surface was proving to be quite coarse and draggy. As the climb continued my pace stayed resolutely slow and it was a relief to reach the final steeper stretch and the cattle grid marking the top of the climb.

That joyous feeling of rattling across the last cattle grid of the day

Still, it is another climb ticked off the list and my trip across the border into Lancashire had been productive and with an easier day planned for the following day my week up North seemed to be going well. More updates to follow.


Day Trip to Lancashire Part 2 - Trough of Bowland

The Trough of Bowland is a really very pretty valley with lots of steep little climbs and nice views. It was only a relatively short drive to the start of the climb from the top of Jubilee Tower and I managed to park in some shade near the start of the climb; it was turning into another hot day and the dog was already starting to suffer with the heat.

Some much needed shade in the Forest of Bowland

There were loads of cyclists out enjoying the local roads and the weather and I got on the bike looking forward to the climb. At first the gradient is gentle as the road meanders through the valley before finally ramping up. Even when things do get steep they aren’t too drastic. My main problem was dealing with the heat which has always been my achilles heal. As I got to the steep part of the climb I started to slow as my temperature rose. Mind you, I was doing better than one bloke I spotted in the distance who had climbed off his bike as soon as the road went properly up. Sadly at my slow speed he was too far ahead for me to catch up with and he remounted about three quarters of the way up the climb. I may be slow but I never walk.

After an enjoyable, if slow climb up to the top, I had an even more enjoyable ride back down to the car. The road back down was wide enough and smooth enough to get up to a decent speed which certainly helped me cool off. After completing the usual process of packing away the bike and my cameras it was off to Slaidburn for lunch before tackling the Cross if Greet climb.

Day Trip to Lancashire

It seems a bit daft really; to be based in Yorkshire for a weeks cycling and to end up spending a day in Lancashire but there was method in my madness. The Jubilee Tower, Trough of Bowland and Cross of Greet climbs are all very close to each other and so it made sense to drive for an hour or so from Bradley where I was staying, start off with the Jubilee Tower climb and work my way backwards.
Jubilee Tower
The weather was perfect and near the tower of Jubilee Tower fame there was a handy car park so I parked up, set up the bike and largely free wheeled my way down to the start of the climb. The weather was amazing and the views were equally spectacular on the way down and it was nice to be hurtling down a decently surfaced road in good weather. It was even nicer to get to the bottom and not find myself wet through or frozen to the bike.

The view from the top was crystal clear in the fantastic weather
The Jubilee Tower climb is by no means one of the hardest of the hundred climbs but it does have a pretty long steep section that tops out at 14% near the start. My high speed descent had been great fun but on the lower slopes it was a struggle to get my legs turning over a decent sized gear. In short I started slow and it was only until I got to the mid point of the climb that I was able to start moving up through the gears although I never reached a particularly high speed. In fact I was passed by a chap in his sixties in full club gear and despite my best efforts to shift up a few gears and up my pace he was soon a disappearing spec on the horizon. Oh well, I did have two other climbs to tackle and it is important to pace yourself. That’s my story anyway.

The upper part of the climb has a fairly gentle gradient so spinning my way back up to the car park wasn’t too troublesome and I took a bit of time to take in the view and look at the Jubilee Tower itself. It was apparently constructed to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria but I’ve got to be honest and state that it is a fairly unremarkable building. It is square, squat and looks like it should have a public toilet housed within it. Mind you the views from the top are pretty good.

Surely even Queen Victoria expected something a bit more impressive to mark her diamond jubilee

After packing the bike away it was time to travel back down the road to the Trough of Bowland climb which I had been able to scope out on my way through earlier in the morning.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Langcliffe Scar

Langcliffe Scar is shorter in length compared to Malham Cove but has steeper gradients and a couple of really steep uphill bends to tackle. Descending to the start from the top was fast and fun but as with a lot of climbs I struggled to get going on the lower part of the hill. Taking on the 100 climbs means you have very little chance for a warm up before the road starts going uphill and most climbs are tackled after at least 40 minutes sat in the car.

The views were impressive all week

On Langcliffe Scar I struggled to get the legs turning early on and even when I did find some semblance of pace it wasn’t fast. Making sure I cleared the steep hair pin bends only served to get me really hot and so I ended up feeling pretty cooked quite early on. As with Malham Cove the local rock formations really dominate the view, especially at the top of the climb so at least my slow pace allowed me to have a good look.

Langcliffe Scar was the second and final climb of the day. I had a trip over the border into Lancashire planned for the Tuesday and the dog was starting to struggle in the heat. He is getting on in years for a Cocker Spaniel and with my car not having air con I was aware that the week could turn into a bit of an ordeal for him unless we made efforts to keep him cool. As the temperatures stayed high all week I very quickly got used to driving everywhere with all of the car windows open at high speed.

One very hot and unhappy dog at the top of Langcliffe Scar

After getting back to our base in Bradley it was time for dinner and a fairly early night as the following day I would be taking on three climbs and covering quite a bit of mileage in between them. More to follow.

Malham Cove

On Saturday the 1st April I arrived in the very lovely village of Bradley just outside Skipton with my dad and the dog, and my bike, for a week of hill climbing fun in Yorkshire. After taking the Sunday off it was straight down to business on the Monday morning with the climb at Malham Cove. The weather was fantastic with high temperatures, no wind and absolutely no chance of rain. After months of bad weather it made a change to be riding without needing to don full winter gear although a breeze would have helped to take the edge of the temperatures a bit.

I took a break on the descent to grab a quick photo
With limited parking at the top of the climb I left the car in the care of my dad and the dog in the Malham visitor centre car park and rode through the village to get to the start. It wasn’t long before the road started to ramp up and my attempt to keep a high gear turning over were derailed by me slowing to look at the fantastic rock formations. I was quickly crashing down through the gears in order to keep moving forward but in truth Malham Cove isn’t the steepest of climbs, its just that I wasn’t quite tuned into the task at hand. It was mid morning by the time I started the climb and the sun had had plenty of time to heat things up. As you ride up the climb the dry stone walls obscure your view of the road ahead and it also felt like they were reflecting light and heat back onto the road. I was feeling pretty hot and breathless by the time I reached the summit.

After a quick descent back to the car park it was time for lunch and a walk for the dog in the local stream and then onto Langcliffe Scar.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

A bit of an update

I’ve just come back from a week in Yorkshire where I managed to tick off another nine climbs. The weather and scenery was amazing and the roads largely steep. Nine climbs in the space of a week means that I have a terrifying amount of video editing to plough through (it takes time to produce poor quality videos) but hopefully the first couple of climbs will be up on the blog by the end of the week.

I've just spent a week looking at views like this so despite the hard work involved I'm not complaining

Over the course of the last week I took on the following climbs in between large pub lunches:

Malham Cove - very picturesque and steep

Langcliffe Scar - quite picturesque and steep with some amazing hairpin bends

Jubilee Tower - great views from the top, long slog to get to them. The tower itself was a bit of a disappointment

Trough of Bowland - Lovely little climb and by far the easiest of the week

Cross of Greet - a pretty stunning ride up through a valley and at the speed I was moving there was plenty of time to take in the view

Norwood Edge - I got lost finding it and then lost my mojo on the way up

Park Rash - Nuts to look at but manageable to ride, just

Greenhow Hill - A bit of a slog and I struggled with the heat

Halifax Lane - strangely not the hardest hill leading out of the village of Luddenden. I managed to find one that even my car struggled with.

Right, that’s all for now. I need to go and swear loudly and continuously at some video editing software.