Friday, 20 February 2015

A Dales Loop

On Saturday Cath was leading the Skipton CC club ride so I had the day to myself to fill. Having kept myself indoors on the turbo-trainer for virtually all of January to avoid icy roads I was keen to get a longer ride in.

It always helps to have an aim when getting out and for this ride I was looking at both distance and pacing. Pacing isn't that hard to do on a road bike in flattish terrain, if you've a heart rate monitor you just aim to keep your HR within certain bounds. Things get more interesting and harder when there's lots of up and down involved add in riding a mountain rather than a road bike and it simply adds to the interest.

I'd worked out a route that took me through Skipton, Appletreewick and Hebden mainly via roads before striking uphill past the old mines at Yarnbury and dropping down to Kilnsey (cafe stop). The second half crossed Mastiles Lane (with the added incentive of trying to clean the initial climb) to Malham Tarn, down to Malham, up on to Weets Top, down to Hetton then over Barden Moor and back home through Skipton. A total of 96Km.

Riding a mountain bike on the road is an exercise in frustration, even with the forks locked out it isn't particularly efficient with low pressure tyres set up for off-road activities. It wasn't until the climb up from Parcival Hall that the tarmac finally came to an end. For two kilometres. Then it was back on the black stuff to get to Hebden.

I'd ridden down the track between Hebden and Yarnbury but never up it. It's actually a very steady climb with a few small rocky steps and a couple of beck crossings along with several gates to break up the flow. Riding through the old mines was surprisingly hard work - along with a headwind the surface was that slightly soft texture you get following a thaw (the last time Cath and I were up here it was sheet ice and we did a total of 6Km in over an hour). It was like riding on sand.

It was a relief to get on to the tops and scurry along next to the occasional snow bank. Mossdale came soon enough and I only had the top three gates to deal with on the descent to Conistone as the farmers were out feeding their stock so the lower gates were open. Across the valley to the cafe at Kilnsey: 3hrs15mins for the first 48Km.

Half an hour and I'm replenished but I've one of the big climbs of the day to come: Mastiles Lane. Since I was pacing myself for the whole ride rather than rushing at individual sections it didn't turn out too bad - I nearly had to put a foot down right at the top when I spun on some exposed damp limestone but managed to push through. 

Then it was on over to Malham Tarn. One of the problems with drawing out a somewhat convoluted route on a map is that once on the ground you can see shortcuts to points ahead. So it was that I could see Weets Top all of ten minutes to the south when I still had to go west to Malham Tarn, down to Malham and then climb back up. Very tempting!

The climb up to Weets Top from Goredale along Hawthorns Lane is a real drag, quite steep and seemingly never ending. Then, when you do leave the road it's still uphill at a similar angle. The payoff is that in the next 6Km to Hetton there's very little uphill. Which is probably just as well given that there's another hard climb coming up.

I've never managed to clean the climb from Rylstone up on to Barden Moor and so it proved today, just one section just below the top defeating me. The ride over the moor and down to Halton Heights is a blast with one quick change of line to avoid a cyclist coming up the track (only the second I'd seen all day).

The last bit of off-road is one I've never done before: Halton Heights down to Halton East. A good firm track at first there's then a section of rather deep muddy dips to get to the fell gate. From here on down it's very bumpy and muddy.

Once back on tarmac it just remains to get home - with one last hill in the way. Total moving time was just under 7hrs giving an average speed of 14kmh. Not bad since it's the longest ride on the mountain bike that I've done since early September. That time I'd done 8Km extra in the same time so I've a little extra fitness to get back.

Overall not too bad - didn't feel particularly fatigued afterwards and I could have kept going at that pace for some time longer.

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