Transportation as training.

The title isn’t mine, the link to where it’s from is at the end. However the sentiment is definitely something I agree with totally at the moment. I really can’t get motivated to just set out on an aimless loop ride currently, unless there is a destination/a reason, I have to be riding to somewhere!

However I have this little idea knocking around in my head about doing some cycle touring later in the year and so I need to be training, putting in the miles and getting some back to back days under my belt.

With this in mind I decided to take a days leave and rearrange one of the my days off to give me some time (Friday and Saturday) to ride with a reason/destination (the Rip It Up/Grazes house gig in Manchester). Now I had to choose my weapon, naturally being slightly unhinged I just decided to ride my singlespeed Cross x check as I like the idea and simplicity of ‘touring’ with less to go wrong.

I planned out my two routes in advance with both focused on how I thought I’d be feeling on the day rather than particularly being a ‘scenic’ option. Friday was the ‘direct’ route straight down the A62 from Leeds through Huddersfield and over the Pennines into Oldham and then Manchester.

I put my head down and ride?

I knew that on Friday I’d be fresh, I’d have food as I could leave home with it and I could leave relatively early and take my time on the journey. To be honest it was pretty uneventful, I’d forgotten that there was more than one valley between Leeds and Huddersfield but that didn’t stop me making good time. Once in Huddersfield I took a break had a coffee and hung out with a homeless guy from Middlesbrough at the station, he was also trying to get to Manchester but only had 7p to his name. I got him a cup of tea for ‘watching’ my bike and gave him a couple of quid for the bus so hopefully he got there too.

Banana consumed for energy the next part of the journey was what I thought was going to be the worst, I had no idea what to expect crossing the Pennines. I’d looked at the map and the contours to try to gauge which road across would be least steep and had toyed with the idea of going further south to Holmfirth and across rather than the direct route via the A62. A friend of mine who lived in Huddersfield currently had said that the A62 (aka the Manchester Road) was ok and not too steep going west so I gave it a try. She was right too the climb out of Huddersfield is actually really pleasant and it’s not until you hit Marsden that it gets tough, from there on it’s probably a good 5 miles of constant up that is steep enough to take real concerted effort whilst still never being so steep as to suck all your momentum. Naturally had I had gears you could have simply shifted down and span up it in a leisurely fashion but where would the fun be in that?

Nope I’ve learnt that the key things with riding single speed up hill for any length of time are rhythm and changing body position. Usually if you can maintain a good rhythm and momentum then you can get up anything really you just alter your cadence to the steepness of the climb at that point, obviously getting out the saddle if required on really steep roads. I usually end up singing songs to myself often repeating the same bit over and over again in time with my pedalling. Changing body position (e.g. from leant low over the bars, to sitting further back, to standing up out of the saddle) enables you to utilise different muscles at different times, it’s why you they do it at spinning classes at the gym. When I first heard this I thought it sounded like bullshit but it seems to work, so unless someone tells me I’m wrong I’ll stick to it. It’s the sort of thing you can find yourself doing naturally anyway, but it’s nice to be able to control or plan it to pace yourself up a hill.

With a sense of achievement I crested the hill and headed down the other side into Delph, I then realised that the Pennines aren’t just one big ridge! So most of the height I’d lost whizzing down hill I had to then re-gain via the climb to Scouthead, it wasn’t too bad and once at the top I knew that there were only two climbs, so I stopped and had a couple of the sandwiches I’d packed. From Scouthead, through Oldham and into Manchester is literally almost all downhill, and then the centre of Manchester itself is really flat. The drivers however are seemingly mental and I was cut up on numerous occasions, the cyclists seemed much ruder than their Yorkshire counterparts as well with very few saying hello or giving me a wave or a nod. I arrived at the house about mid afternoon with  a total journey time of 4.5 hours, which considering my stops were relatively lengthy isn’t bad for the 47 or so miles I’d covered.

The gig was great, loads of people rammed into a living room going mental to some good hardcore punk. My recovery from the ride consisted of the Protein powder I’d taken with me, a plate of pasta, a packet of crisps and two packs of biscuits. Carb loading? I  knew it would be a late night which was probably going to impact my ability to ride back the next day so getting about 5 hours of sleep on some comfortable sofa cushions on the floor was actually better than expected.

I set off about 11am on my way back, I knew that I would be tired today so the route I had in mind involved heading out to Rochdale then taking the canal towpath round through Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and then onto Sowerby Bridge. From there I could head through Brighouse climb up to Cleckheaton and then through Birkenshaw down into Leeds. I’d cycled the canal path from Luddendenfoot through to Todmorden and back last year so knew that although it wasn’t going to be tarmac it shouldn’t be too rough. Obviously this wasn’t the direct route so the distance was further but I’d figured the trade off for that was that there would be fewer hills.

Home is where we are today.

I had however made two slight miscalculations though, number one I hadn’t had any breakfast (or coffee for that matter) although I had remembered to bring some extra Torq Energy powder to put in my bottle and number two the last time I rode the towpath it was late summer/early autumn and the weather had been dry. The ride out to Rochdale was relatively uneventful but once I hit the canal towpath I realised that it was very wet and pretty muddy, this was nothing my Schwalbe Marathon tyres couldn’t handle and I was pretty impressed with the grip for a ‘road’ tyre but the riding was a lot more hard work than I had banked on. With an empty stomach I had one focused goal, reach Hebden Bridge without ‘bonking’.

As I crossed back in to Yorkshire I took the one photo, I felt it necessary to take, this isn’t to say I didn’t see interesting stuff. I saw it all the time it’s one of the great things about riding a bike, plus the scenery was great. However I didn’t want to stop to take a photograph and break my flow as it were I was just happy riding along and storing it all as memories. However as I crossed back into West Yorkshire I had to stop to go through a ‘pinch point’ on the towpath so I naturally recorded this meteoric event.

Entering back into God's county. 😉

The reason I had my heart set on Hebden Bridge as my first stopping point for the day is because there is a great vegan/vegetarian bakery there and I was going to have to eat at some point, so it was a natural place to get some good food. For the life of me I can never remember the name of the place but it’s on the main street and you can’t miss it. Today the guy who runs it and bakes all the stuff was standing out front handing out samples to people, and didn’t seem to mind this crazy cyclist who was (literally) caked head to toe in towpath mud frequenting his shop. As it was just gone 2pm by this point a lot of the savoury snacks had gone but I managed to grab the last spinach and sos mix roll and a chocolate cherry biscuit cake slice thing.

Energy levels restored I pressed onwards and before I knew it was in Brighouse, my route took me up Clifton Common past my old house and this was the only hill of the entire two days that beat me. I never owned a bike when I lived in Brighouse but I’m pretty sure I’ve been up that hill on the Tricross at some point in the last couple of years. Sadly today it was just too steep for 42×17 and 40 miles in. However once past that it was plain sailing through the rest of the ride into Leeds, the A58 up to Birkenshaw required some digging deep as fuel reserves were starting to get low again. I also accidentally left a guy in the dust when riding past the prison in Armley after giving him a cheery hello as he turned out of a side street. Sometimes though when you’ve got one gear and are pushing up hill you have to keep going at your pace irrespective of being sociable. After a ‘mini-bonk’ on Cardigan Road which I managed to push through although I’m sure I didn’t look in brilliant shape to any passers by I returned to the familiarity of Stonegates (aka the hill I ride up once if not twice or even three times every day) and got home. A return journey of 58 miles completed in pretty much bang on 6 hours, slower going than Friday but that was to be expected.

Now back to the title, I’ve just ridden 110 (give or take) miles over 2 days for fun, transport and training. To this guy it’s a drop in the ocean, 210 miles in 16 hours. I almost can’t even comprehend that, however currently like him I am pretty damn stoked!

One thought on “Transportation as training.

  1. Good story well told Ben. And well done. It sounds like a lot of fun actually, to have a real purpose for a ride.

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