So it was off on a tour again this weekend, however it was a bit different to what I’ve been doing recently. Back to the lightweight option and strapping as little as possible to the road bike. This trip had been in the pipeline since January or February when Sam at work had invited me to join him and some of his friends on a trip starting in York and heading out west to the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. We were staying in youth hostels as the two other members of the group Chris and Tim work for the YHA. I hadn’t stayed in a youth hostel since university so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
The plan was to set off from York at lunchtime on Friday so in a fit of enthusiasm I decided to ride there from home. This would have made perfect sense were it not for the fact that the actual planned route for the day passed within about 8 miles of my house. However extra miles in the legs is generally good. Less good as there was a headwind all the way to York and I got lost navigating into the city centre. The headwind however did mean that we had a tailwind as we left York together and headed west.
The destination for the day was Haworth and Tim was going to join us there. It was a nice ride on generally familiar roads. The weather for the weekend wasn’t forecast to be great and when we stopped in Otley to refuel late in the afternoon the rain started. It didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits though and we set off over the south tip of Ilkley moor to Keighley and then on to Haworth. Naturally the main road from Keighley to Haworth would have been far too boring so we took in the cobbled and at times 20% climb of Hainsworth lane for a bit of ‘fun’. It seemed a lot harder than the last time I rode it but Strava says it was a new personal best so I must have been going faster despite the damp conditions. Sam’s comment was that there was no shame in walking any hill steep and slippy enough to warrant a hand rail! Once the climb was conquered it was all downhill to the YHA in Haworth. It’s a really impressive building and I have to admit it was good to have a comfy bed, hot showers and a drying room to get clothing dry at the end of a days ride.
The hostel in the morning also did a decent breakfast for £5 where you could pretty much eat as much as you wanted. So loaded up with Weetabix and a cooked breakfast it was time to set off for Lancashire. The first part of the day involved a steep descent followed by a climb to cross the valley to Oakworth. After that it was along the tops on a really nice smooth rolling road before descending into Pendle district. It became apparent that Chris and I were fairly evenly matched in terms of fitness and that Sam and Tim were happy to pootle along a bit behind and catch us up at the top of hills.
The first major climb of the day was the Nick of Pendle which was steep but relatively short, stupidly I hadn’t started my GPS on the descent into Sabden so stopped to do it halfway down. This put me behind everyone else and try as I might I just couldn’t catch Chris by the top of the hill. After we had regrouped the descent over the other side to Clitheroe was sketchy to say the least. Corners, newly ‘dressed’ roads (i.e. gravel), traffic and a cattle grid on a corner. We all got down safely though and stopped in Clitheroe for a pastie.
After a few more miles we came to the second big climb of the day which was Birdy brow. I rode up this hill last year and on that occasion found I couldn’t shift into the inner ring at the bottom so then had to chase everyone up the hill after fixing the problem. This time I was in front and the hill felt a lot harder than before. The two teeth difference between running a compact 50/34 chainset last year and a 52/36 this year seemed to make a big difference. Once over the top there were a few more lumps and bumps before a lunch stop at the Cobbled corner café in Chipping. After lunch it was decision time as our options were 45, 47, 61 or 66 mile routes.
We decided to split up with Sam and Tim taking the more direct 47 mile route to Slaidburn whilst Chris and I headed off around the back of hills and through the Trough of Bowland to complete 61 miles to the same destination. It has to be said that the Forest of Bowland is pretty lumpy. A couple of short steep climbs directly after lunch certainly seemed to take their toll and I was feeling pretty tired at this point. However the view from the other side of the hills was fantastic the landscape dropping away to the west coast. The drizzle had lifted so you could see Blackpool, the lake district and the Isle of Man. Eventually we had to turn back into the wind which was gruelling at first but as we entered the Trough of Bowland it became more sheltered. I also seemed to get a bit of a second wind on the climb through the Trough possibly as my body had managed to process the large lunch I’d had. The descent after the climb was again a bit hairy mainly due to having to squeeze through a 1.5 metre gap between a sheep sat on the road and a car parked looking at it! After a final push we reached Slaidburn before the hostel opened at 5pm so joined Tim and Sam in the pub.
After we had all slept for about 9 hours there was sadly no buffet breakfast at the Slaidburn hostel. We had thought ahead though and bought ready brek from the village shop the day before so that gave us some initial energy to get us going on the journey home. The night before in the pub we’d planned a route that would take us to Skipton without a huge amount of climbing as people were starting to tire. At Skipton the plan was for us all to go our seperate ways. Sam to get the train home and Tim to cycle to Haworth to reclaim his car. Myself and Chris could then press on towards Leeds and he could take a left turn and head back to York. The weather was a lot better on Sunday and we made good time on the 25 miles or so to Skipton. There were a few climbs between Airton and Hetton which I had somehow completely removed from my memory after riding them on last years White Rose Classic. However with relatively fresh legs everyone seemed to cope with the climbs pretty well. At Skipton we had a nice lunch and said our goodbyes.
Chris had decided to join me heading over the gated climb to Bolton Abbey and along the Wharfe valley as he hadn’t ridden those roads before and it was really pleasant zipping along in the sunshine at around 18mph. After passing the rugby club at Ilkley we picked up Lars and his son and gave them a tow. This meant that when Chris turned left at Askwith for the drag up and over the moor towards Harrogate I had some company and a good chat down through Otley to the base of the Chevin. Even with three days and over a hundred miles in my legs the final spin up the main road and into Leeds seemed a breeze and I actually felt much better than on Saturday afternoon. The rolling road down the Wharfe valley was so much less taxing on the body than the sharp ups and downs of the day before.
Another great trip out on the bike with good company and covering 187 miles over the three days put my cycling total for the week past the 300 mile mark. Always a good achievement. I definitely will use youth hostels again in the future too. The facilities are good and if you’re trying to travel light they provide most of the things you need. You can hire towels for a couple of quid a night for example. I also think that if I was doing a longer camping trip then I would probably try to stay in a hostel at some point to get clothing dry if the weather was bad.