Well, sometimes anyways, like when I’m walking back up the hill to where we live from Sowerby Bridge station and I’ve got a 13kg camera bag on my back. Or today, when I was training for my charity cycle ride In India!
Despite the weather forecast and the ominous looking clouds over the horizon I headed out on a training session this afternoon. Instead of taking the easy option of cycling miles along the towpath of the Calder and Hebble canal towards Brighouse I fancied something more ambitious – and strenuous. Besides, I’d had the excitement of a bank robbery last time so scenery rather than police cars seemed like a good option. My wife had suggested I cycle some of the route the tour-de-France took when it came here in 2014, which seemed like a plan. I’m neither fit enough or daft enough to do what they did, so I took the route in reverse…
We live high up on the side of the Calder Valley which means my route down into Sowerby Bridge is a breeze – it’s all downhill! But after that I was on a (mostly) steady climb along the Rochdale Rd to Ripponden. It’s not a bad road but it’s busy as it’s used by a lot of traffic heading out to the M62 so you have to keep a wary eye out for HGVs as they thunder past you. This changes as soon as you start climbing out of Ripponden on the A58 – it’s pretty much deserted – which is great as it’s a long old slog. You climb 810 feet in 4.4.miles. The first part’s the hardest as it’s the steepest but it didn’t get much easier today due to the fact I had to fight a cold headwind. It’s actually a really attractive ride as you’re very much out in the wilds. On the way I stopped off to admire the views from the dam on the Baitings reservoir. It was only when I was on the parapet that I appreciated just how bloody cold the wind was, so I didn’t hang around after the obligatory training selfie!
After the reservoir the climb get harder as you gain another 364 feet in 1.8 miles. At this point you’re really exposed to the wind as its open moorland and there’s no trees – only electricity pylons! It was a relief to crest the ridge and sight Blackstone Edge reservoir, where Turvin Rd branches off to the right along the reservoir edge.
If you keep on going at this point, you’ll be in Rochdale in another 7 miles, but today I was heading for Cragg Vale. This is the longest continuous ascent in the UK if you’re going in the opposite direction. You gain 945 feet in 5.7 miles. Maybe one day, when I’m fit enough, I’ll try it, right now I’m just happy to freewheel down it! The road starts high up on the moorland before following the East side of the valley, twisting and turning through the picturesque village of Cragg Vale. You can hit some impressive speeds but you have to be wary of road conditions unless you want to be going arse over tit at 35mph or more…
The beauty of cycling the road on a weekday is you won’t encounter much traffic or many cyclists. At weekends it’s very different because of the Tour de France connections and the fact there’s a cracking community run pub in Cragg Vale called the Robin Hood. Dawn and I often walk to it for lunch at weekends, but today I (regretfully) whizzed past as the rain was chasing me – and it was beginning to win…
Once in Mytholmroyd I opted to cycle along the main A646 Burnley road back towards Sowerby. I’d hoped to have stayed out longer and headed for Hebden Bridge but the rain changed my mind. I had the option of cycling along the canal from here but the towpath is a bit of a quagmire in parts which is a shame as the Burnley Rd’s narrow, knackered and very busy. Swerving around potholes can be a dangerous business when you’ve got an HGV up your backside, but I stuck it out as far as Luddenden Foot where the canal towpath improves. Mind you, there’s another reason to abandon the Burnley Rd here, it begins another 200ft climb whereas the canal is level and HGV free, so it’s a much nicer 1.5 mile return to Sowerby Bridge!
Back in the Bridge I paid a brief visit to see some old friends who run the Jubilee Refreshment rooms on the station, have a swift pint (which I felt I’d earned) and get warm before attempting the last couple of miles home. The only drawback on this section is there’s a bloody fierce cobbled hill where I make no excuses for dismounting. I rather like my skeletal arrangements and have no wish to change the order by cycling up cobbles!
Despite having to cut the trip short I’d enjoyed it. I can feel my stamina improving each trip. West Yorkshire may not be flat, but where we’ll be cycling in Rajasthan, India is – so this this hill training should stand me in good stead.
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