The long spell of dry weather had me fancying a go over High Brown Knoll so I planned (then re-planned) a route out of Hebden Bridge. The original route had me checking out a long stretch of the Bronte Way from Oxenhope, however I realised this would be quite committing so revised the route to give me plenty of get outs. The final planned route was an ambitious 40 miler with over 5000ft of climb. In the end I took a get out option and the actual route was around 30 miles with still over 4000ft of climb.
My legs hadn't properly shaken off the Rivi half really, I don't know why I was surprised as it took about a week and a half to shake the last half marathon I did. I should check my training notes more often!
The ride starts with a long drag out of Hebden Bridge on the Keighley road. I was on the Titus as the On One seemed to have developed a knocking headset and the front brake was squealing with the pitch of nails down a blackboard, urgh. I had tried tightening the head set but to be honest the bolt was tight and I didn't want to twist it so much the star fangled nut wrenched out of the steerer tube (not that I've done that....recently).
Anyway full-suss magic carpet it was. I think the climb went on for about 2.5 miles, its not steep, just a drag but it gives a good indication of how things are. My climbing legs were not at all there, which was going to be a problem on a ride with a potential 5000ft of up.
A strong, cold headwind greeted me as I climbed out of the valley. I seemed to have a perpetual headwind for most of the day, the area isn't dotted with windfarms for nothing! I finally get to the bridleway to head over HBK and I had completely forgotten about the first part. It took all my mental resolve to not just roll back down the hill again.
The first part was indeed dry but its quite "steppy" and rutty peaty track, hard to describe but it can be tricky to ride and a pain to get going again if you stop. Then it leads to a short push - always a push which I had forgotten then onto the lovely track I remembered, dry as a bone and once on it initial petted lip forgotten:
It's not the best picture but it was the only one I took of the fantastic dry singletrack on the ride as generally I was enjoying riding it too much to stop. The trig point was practically luminous for the obligatory bike shot:
The lead grey skies never really brightened up much, Stoodley Pike is just visible in the distance. Due to the totally flat light I never really stopped to take many pictures. Anyway across the moor, almost entirely dry though there were a few boggy and foul smelling patches still.
Then it was the descent to Luddenden Dean, saddle down for the top steep part which was fun then about half way down it seemed to really have disintegrated. Normally, I am following one or two people down so you can see which ruts work and which don't. I had to find it out for myself and I had to pull the bike out of a dead end rut more than once, though I at least never parted company from it in an "over the bars" stylee.
What drops steeply down must come back up again (at least around Hebden Bridge) so it was a road slog up out of Luddenden Dean then pick up the bridleway along Cold Edge - which was indeed cold due to the wind. I also realised along Cold Edge that I hadn't in fact sorted the Titus gears properly and they were all out by one!
When I thought I was in lowest gear I was in the second lowest, great. I could get it into the lowest gear but I don't think it was great for the drive train, though in my typical fashion I pushed the worry to the back of my mind. I needed that gear dammit!
Soon it was the fast drop down to Ogden Water where I was glad I was on the Titus, flattened the cobbles out a bit. The cafe was open so I stopped and had a can of coke as I needed all the boost I could get and checked the Garmin to see what was what.
About 10 miles ish, 1.5 hours of riding time, a whopping 1 hour of paused time (where?) so far and an average speed of 6.9. Hmmmm....rethink. The full route is probably not a good idea, tired legs etc and I'm obviously in faff mode. Had a map check. I still really wanted to do the bridleway from Ogden over Thornton Moor to Oxenhope. I can then climb out of Oxenhope and head back towards Hebden.
Plan made and off towards Thornton Moor. The track was quite frankly, lovely! Dry as a bone, multiple line choices and I managed to not make a bad one. Great fun until the end when I got to a now sanitised piece of rocky descent - boooooooo:
It was still fast though and there is a promising looking track off to the right which needs some investigation. At the gate I was originally supposed to head straight down but a memory was dredged up from somewhere and I realised we normally head off left. Along and down another fun and rocky track which I really like. It finally pops out at a road and I have to get the map out to check how to get back on plan.
A grassy roll down a bridleway which eventually seems to go through someones garden, it felt a bit wrong riding my bike effectively on someones lawn, especially as I was now on a footpath I walked that short section. Productive greenhouse they had!
I kept checking the map going through Oxenhope and at one of the checks I finally noticed the name of the hill I was about to head over..."Stairs Hill"....that means I'm about to climb "Stairs Lane" oh feck. Not a sight for sore legs I can tell you:
I was in fail mode before I even got to it, convinced it was going to be one long push once the tarmac ran out...Bottom third or so was quite loose and I CBA'd fighting it but it also didn't take me long to get bored with pushing. The upper two thirds while still steep were mainly dry cobbles so I trundled up in diesel truck mode and managed to clear most of it.
I realised that whilst my legs hadn't livened up they hadn't actually gotten much worse either, steady effort was fine short hard efforts were not. Back up into the wind and a rather nice track across the top then a fast, eye watering, descent off the other side.
I was getting pretty close to Hebden again, one more steady climb then I could roll back into town. I thought I would roll straight onto Crimsworth Dean, dive down the little fun bridleway at Hardcastle Crags then back to the car.
However, I arrived at the turn off for the bridleway over to New Laithe moor and decided I wasn't ready to go back quite yet. I would head over to New Laithe moor then roll down the long fast fireroad, then the Hardcastle Crags bridleway back into town. A bit more descending payback I thought so off I headed.
Another nice stretch of bridleway which I haven't been on for a long time, through a field of cows and onto the wide track at New Laithe moor. I again decided I wasn't ready to go back to the car....so headed on towards the Gorple reservoirs. I knew the tracks well and they were steady riding, apart from the headwind, it was a bit of a grind for a while. It would also mean I could finish the ride with the descent from Jack's Bridge.
I soon pop out at the turnoff for the Pennine Bridleway past the Gorple reservoirs. I did have a big moment of indecision but sense prevailed and I decided not to head up over Widdop, if it had been less of a pig of a climb I may have done. Average speed had climbed up a little to 7.3.
I continued trundling past the reservoirs and up and over Heptonstall Moor. Finally, as I turned towards Colden I got a tailwind. A fast, easy ride down through Colden towards Jack's Bridge and the final descent of the day. This made me laugh:
I hate to think what has tried to get down there as the tarmac runs out quickly and it becomes a narrow track for a while, with a drop to the left. A Smart Car might be able to make it, just. Its a fast descent to finish on and I only had to slow for walkers twice on the whole thing. It was a great way to finish the ride and I was buzzing at the bottom and wondering if I really should have headed back to the car.
Then I just had to remember where I parked my car in Hebden Bridge. I stopped behind a bus at some traffic lights, then realised as a policeman cycled past me that the bus was parked. I got the map out to make it look deliberate....
A quick hose off of bike and a wander around Hebden Bridge before setting off home.
A final total of 30.02 miles and 3:45 of riding time (faff time not recorded!). After the fast riding from Heptonstall the average speed had crept up to 7.9 mph, amazing what a tailwind can do.