December 3rd saw Dave and me make the familiar drive a few junctions west, along the M62. A beautiful, cool, blue sky day in Leeds rapidly clouded over as Dave kept his foot to the floor in his van (some poor time management skills conspiring against our ability to make Paul’s 10am start time). Windscreen wipers switched from flip-flop……flip-flop to flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop and I questions the intelligence in wearing just a relatively thin soft shell (which I’ll review soon) and no waterproof.
The weather, bouts of illness and other commitments meant that it was a select bunch who braved the typical Yorkshire weather. A very select bunch. Four of us to be precise. Route leader Paul, Alan “Crossjunkie” Dorrington, Dave and I set of at a nice pace back down the valley road towards Mytholmroyd. After spinning our legs out on the main road, Paul led us off and straight up the steep sided valley wall to our right. These are roads and lanes that I know relatively well in places, and it was interesting seeing them linked together in new ways. There were also plenty of surprises. Most of them taking the form of very steep, cobbled climbs. They would be tricky in the dry, but with slick tyres, a 39-23 lowest gear and a layer of greasy slime many were unrideable. It was still good sport seeing who could make it the furthest up the slope, and better sport trying to walk up slick stones in carbon soled road shoes.
The route (above) crossed back over the Calder Valley at Sowerby Bridge, and climbed up yet more (thankfully less steep) cobbles, eventually spitting us out under Wainhouse Tower. We cruised through Manor Heath and past my parent’s house, taking advantage of momentarily brighter weather. Temptation to stop for a brew was strong, but we climbed back out of town, up the steep (yes, it’s a running theme round these parts) sided Beacon Hill. At this stage Alan had to bow out to guarantee getting home in time for family duties later that afternoon. We remaining three navigated across main roads, via back streets, rarely used lanes and post-industrial landscapes. We even got treated to a blast of bright autumn sunshine while we re-grouped in Luddenden. It was at this point that we took an executive decision, however. The cold and wet was causing Dave’s Renard’s to flair up, and Paul and I didn’t have a huge desire to stay out a great deal longer. The original route (above) was to take us up yet more steep cobbles and over the moor, into the prevailing westerly wind and finally descend into Hebden Bridge. We chose to drop back down to the shelter of the valley, and blast on back, quick-sharp. Sometimes, I rue these kind of decisions. We weren’t tired, we could have happily done the distance. I don’t like leaving things un-done. However, this time, we were counting our blessings as the heavens opened, and followed through with the threat of en epic downpour, as we tucked our heads down and pushed home.
And so it was. Paul hopped on the train back to York. Dave and I threw bikes in the van and put the heaters on full on the drive back to Leeds.
The ride wasn’t long. It wasn’t fast. But, it combined the natural beauty of the south-Pennine landscape with the cobbles, mills and stone walls of a previous era brilliantly.
A big thank you to Paul for organising, and doing a fair bit of time on the front. As he says in his blog, I can see 2012 being the year for twitter rides. What better than to be shown round an area by someone who knows it intimately? And I do like putting a face to people’s 140word personas.
I’ll be there.