What a few weeks it’s been; settling into my new home (still have a pile of boxes I have no idea what to do with), sorting out student accommodation in Leeds with my Son, working extra hours at Big Bear Bikes with the new Endura summer stock arriving ( I’m thinking a pay rise might be nice?!), hosting ‘OutdoorChics.com’ for a Girlie day’s riding in the Howardian Hills and training for Fred Whitton becoming more intense, no wonder I’m frazzled! Energy is something we all take for granted until it’s lacking.. and I am the worst culprit for pushing my body to the limit then wonder why I can’t get out of bed in the morning!
My riding goal pre Fred is to complete the Moorland Magnificent 7 challenge route (which I still haven’t worked out how to post on the website as a GPX file for you to download to Garmins etc. I shall endeavour to fathom it out this month…. promise!) I’ve started to tick off each monster climb, and am now stringing a few together to get the old legs used to multiple insults in one ride.. this may just help to cope with facing Hardknott Pass at around 90 miles into the challenge.. I can but pray!!
My fellow Fred warrior Mr P and I rode up the notorious Chimney Bank last week, something I haven’t done since Autumn 2015. After much debating whether or not to at the superb Graze on the Green in Rosedale (it WAS the shortest route home after all….), and having already ridden over to Egton Bridge and up the Delves (another 33% job), it was with some trepidation and a belly full of coffee and cake that we slowly but surely ascended the beast that is number 55 on the Country’s top 100 climbs.
It’s one of those hills that puts the fear of God into you; you’ve heard all the stories, the Tour de Yorkshire refusal to include it in the route is indicative of the serious nature of this killer ascent. ‘If you can get up the right side of the second hair-pin you’ll be fine’ they say… and if you don’t?! I’ve been up it twice before, the first time landing unceremoniously in a heap on the verge to the applause of some less than sympathetic ramblers when momentum ceased before I could unclip.
I was this time prepared for the wall that greets you after the aforementioned hairpin ( I managed the right side of it, poor Mr P had to battle up the inside due to an old truck that had to pass at that point!). Resourcing every morcel of strength I had ( what no more gears?!) I gritted my teeth and tried to remain seated for as long as possible to save the legs for later on….Mistake! In my attempt to prevent back wheel spin which has occured before on some steep climbs, I felt the front wheel lift from the tarmac…Wheeleies up Chimney? Different! I stood up pretty sharpish and zig zagged my way up the wall before it eased off a bit and I dared to sit down again. I’m now thinking, could I have done this 90 miles into a gruelling ride??
With Chimney conquered I had the confidence I needed to go for more Moorland beasties and since then have reacquainted myself with Blakey Bank and Caper Hill. Caper climbs out of Glaisdale on a very narrow ‘straight up’ gravelly lane with grass growing in the middle of it. (Loving the sound of that one eh?!) The worst nightmare on this treasure is that you’ll come across a stubborn sheep blocking the road, or a car coming down it… or, as I had that day, being followed up by one (a car that is, not a sheep).
Caper is a test of strength, nerve and stamina. It goes on forever at a consistent 20-25%. It’s a handlebar gripping, teeth clenching leg burning climb that you can see in the distance leaving Glaisdale village, it just seems to go vertically up the hillside. Fortunately when you approach the bottom of it you can’t see the whole climb and you just have to get your head down and focus on getting to, and crossing the cattle grid about half way up. Once over that it’s a matter of will power and leg strength to keep going to the top.
With the car behind me, I battled my way up. (Thank God for 32t cassettes!) Why didn’t he park the car and wait til I got to the top?! I could hear the engine overheating, he was struggling with his gears… I had to concentrate like mad to stay focussed and keep going. ‘I ain’t stopping now mate… you’ll just have to wait’… I can get quite bolshy on steep climbs. Fortunately for me the driver was an ex-cyclist who had himself cycled up Caper in the past and he stopped to give me a pat on the back when I reached the top. ( I bet they were taking bets as to whether I’d make it or not! ) Another question… could I have done THAT after 90 miles… doubt it.
People ask me how, and mainly WHY do I put myself through the type of experiences I describe above… I mean why would you inflict the pain and suffering upon yourself that climbing steep hills on a bike incurs, when you could be sitting at home drinking coffee and reading the papers on Sunday mornings? Or shopping, or another less strenuous way of whiling away the weekend… Why would you?
The answer to me is simple, it’s because the challenge is there. Why do people climb mountains? Why do people sail the oceans? Why run further, faster than anyone else has done before? It’s because we can, and for some of us the challenge is what keeps us alive; stimulating body and soul to keep boredom at bay, to give us the thrill and satisfaction that comes from having accomplished something amazing. It cannot be understated, it’s an incredible feeling and you do become addicted to it.
By the time I write again in two weeks time I will have ridden at least a Magnificent 4 in one ride, may even have been talked into attempting the whole 7… just hope my legs hold out; the mind is strong, the body? We’ll see.
Happy Easter everyone. Have a fantastic Bank Holiday, enjoy the great outdoors and be kind to cyclists on steep hills! 🙂 I’ll be back on the 21st.