NORTH YORK MOORS RIDE – 10/09/16
Cycling is a great way of keeping fit and healthy. We all know that.
It has other benefits too.
You can meet new people, make new friends and generally get out there interacting with the world.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes it can get a bit boring. The same roads and lanes day after day, week after week. After a while you are yearning to try something just a little bit different
So when Chris put on the club’s Facebook page that he was going to arrange an “away day” it certainly got my attention.
As soon as I read the words about a relaxed and social ride I was sold and I replied declaring that I was definitely up for it.
The route would be based on a sportive that Chris had taken part in previously called the White Horse Sportive.
Yeah yeah whatever.
What an adventure this would be going on a road trip to find some new and exciting cycling territory.
If only I had read Chris’s post a bit more thoroughly. Later when I had deigned to read the whole post properly and checked out the route the awful truth dawned on me.
I had just volunteered to go on a ride in the North Yorkshire Moors.
Starting in the North Yorkshire market town of Helmsley we would head south on the A170, up a hill, before taking a right turn and making for Ampleforth, up a hill.
Then it would be on to the village of Wass where we would make a special detour to go up a hill.
We would then pay a visit to the Kilburn White Horse a huge figure covering 1.6 acres cut into the Yorkshire hillside.
To get to the Kilburn White Horse we would have to go up a hill.
Turning north we would then travel to Boltby where we would go up a hill before moving on to Osmotherley. Between Boltby and Osmotherley were several hills.
After a planned stop at Osmotherley we would then leave the village continuing in a northerly direction up a hill. The village of Carlton-in-Cleveland would mark the most northerly point of the route.
Here we would go up a hill.
Then a southward track would take us back towards Helmsley.
Before the finish however would be Newgate Bank where ….we would go up a hill.
I hope you are getting the picture? A relatively short distance of 57 miles but seemingly all of it up hill.
There were seven of us doing the ride. Chris, Carol, Mark, Steve, Jason, Phil and myself. The Magnificent Seven or The Poor Judgement Seven depending on your point of view.
Chris had decided he wanted to start from Helmsley at 9 am which meant leaving Cottingham in convoy at 7 am. I had a go at giving Chris some stick for the early hour but my heart wasn’t in it. He’s too nice and I was too tired.
I can’t remember a thing about the journey which is a bit worrying as I was driving but at no time did Mark, my passenger, have to reach over and grab the wheel which is normally a good sign.
Having parked up in a side street near the market square in Helmsley we got ourselves and our bikes all sorted ready to depart.
Then after the mandatory photographs our Cottingham Road Club North Yorkshire Moors Away Day Ride could get underway.
There was no easy lead into this ride. Immediately we started a 1 mile climb out of Helmsley at an average of 3 % and that was followed by another 1 mile climb at an average of 6 % to the top of Beacon Bank near Ampleforth.
There were some mutterings of discontent along the lines of how life was so unfair starting straight away on significant hills. Little did we know that this in fact was the easy part of the ride.
Well not strictly true actually as Chris knew exactly what was coming.
I tried to pump him for information.
” So Chris it’s just more of the same is it ? We haven’t got any stupidly steep climbs on this ride that are 25 % or something crazy like that have we ? ”
” Stupidly steep 25 % climbs ? ” replied Chris ” Hang on a minute ..1, 2, 3 .. ” I didn’t like the way this was going ” I’d say we’ve got about 4 of them ”
” Oh OK ” I said . Outwardly calm, inwardly I was not in a good place.
THE FIRST STUPIDLY STEEP CLIMB
Having descended through Ampleforth we soon reached the village of Wass just over 6 miles into the ride.
Here at a junction off to our right was a road that plainly was the bottom of a very steep hill. There was a gradient sign at the bottom that said 16 %.
Jason in particular was very keen to go up this hill describing it as a “cheeky optional extra”. So we all set off up this 1 mile climb the intention being when we got to the top we would just turn round and come back down again. Something only Hill Lovers think is a good idea.
The climb itself was almost completely enclosed by woods on either side of the road and very soon it got tough or as Jason would say ” cheeky “. This was a proper climb.
Jason loved this climb a little bit too much. Listening to him spurring himself on put me in mind of a 70s porn star.
” Yeah come on give it to me !! ”
“Have some of this you know you want it yeah !! ”
….and my own personal favourite double entendre…..
” It’s big but don’t let it frighten you, yeah !! ”
We were well spread out on the climb, everyone going at the speeds they were comfortable with. The speed I was comfortable with was “very slow”. It was going to be a long day and for me it was all about survival.
Having all got to the top without incident we turned around and went straight back down the hill we had just rode up. Next stop White Horse Bank
WHITE HORSE BANK
Well not quite the next stop.
Carol was keen to take photos of views and places of interest on the ride and every so often she would give the call
” Photo stop ! Photo stop ! ”
I am a bit of a philistine as regards history, historical buildings and artefacts.
12th century Cistercian abbey anyone ? Yeah whatever.
Can we get on please this is effecting my average ! I didn’t say anything though as she would have just told me to shut up.
As we approached the bottom of White Horse Bank I again attempted to pump Chris for information.
” So Chris, on a scale of 1 to 10 how hard is this climb ? ”
Just as I finished the question the 25 % gradient sign came into view.
“Oh Sh…..Never mind Chris. I know the answer ”
White Horse Bank is another 1 mile climb twisting up through the woods averaging out at 10 % but maxing out at 20-25 % on a number of wicked hairpin bends.
I stuck it in bottom gear and got straight into the very slow rhythm I was comfortable with. When it got to the very steep bits I would do a little bit standing on the pedals but I tried to minimise that as I can’t keep it up for long.
Not knowing the climb was a real disadvantage. When you came round a corner hoping that would be the end of it and saw the road rising up again….well let’s just say it was disheartening.
We were strung out again but I was struggling up with Phil close by.
A well meaning couple walking down the hill told us the top was just round the corner. But that was to where they had parked, actually the climb kept going after that. Another mental body blow.
But eventually the woods began to clear and the sunshine was finding it’s way through the trees indicating we were coming to the top.
We all gathered at the top for a mutual well done session.
That was 2 tough climbs out of the way now. They had been hard but my bottom gear ratcheting style and occasional standing on the pedals had got me up.
I felt confident that whilst there would be pain and suffering ahead I would be able to get up the stupidly steep climbs that were to come.
You know what they say……..pride comes before a fall.
MASSACRE AT BOLTBY BANK
After a pleasant descent from White Horse Bank we started a 4 mile gradual climb that took us to the village of Boltby.
On the other side was the next stupidly steep climb of Boltby Bank.
I have looked at several sources now and all of them give different information about the gradient of this climb. I am going to go with Veloviewer that states that the climb is about three quarters of a mile long with an average gradient of 13 % and a maximum gradient, albeit briefly, of 30 %.
Some sources have the max gradient as low as 20 % but I’m sorry I don’t believe that.
After a little kink at the bottom we were confronted with a long straight road stretching away and very much up into the distance. I think this is what made it so hard.
Roads that twist and turn up a hill will give you little stretches of tarmac where the gradient will ease and give you time to recover. This was just full on steep hill no respite all the way to the top .
Bang ! Have some o that ! ( Now I’m sounding like a 70s porn star ! )
Still I never thought I would fail to get up it. It was going to be brutal but I thought I could do it.
We all strung out again with Steve, Chris and Mark up ahead in the distance. I could see Steve tacking from side to side. Not just a little bit but the whole width of the road about three quarters of the way up. This was the steepest point. As Steve was going so well today this gave me a clue as to how tough it was at this point.
I was deploying my ratcheting technique for all I was worth. My speed was very low and a couple of times I wobbled and nearly went off into the bushes.
At the steepest point I was having trouble with the front wheel coming off the ground and had also started the full road width tacking manoeuvre.
My speed was almost literally snail’s pace. I just didn’t have the power in my legs to speed up.
Then my bike handling let me down. I tacked too aggressively and my direction of travel was straight for the shrubbery on the side of the road I couldn’t pull it back. I was going to have to stop.
I pulled my foot out and stopped. Bugger. Turning round to look down the hill there were other casualties. Phil had ground to a halt and Carol was on the floor squirming out from underneath her bike.
This hill had decimated half the group.
Carol was OK ….physically. We pushed our bikes until the gradient allowed us to get going again. I was pretty disheartened at not getting up the hill but I have put it into perspective now.
To quote a young Boris Becker ( in a comedy german accent )
” I didn’t lose a war. Nobody died. I lost a tennis match ”
But it wasn’t a tennis match I lost, it was a metaphor for …..Ok you probably got that anyway.
One day, I shall return……with a car !
THE SCENIC PART OF THE RIDE – WITH HILLS
But you know this ride was not all suffering, pain and torture. Most of it was but not all of it.
Between Hawnby and Osmotherley was some amazing scenery and with the sun putting in more of an appearance and the temperature of the day warming up it really did get quite pleasant on this stretch.
It’s just a pity that in-between Hawnby and Osmotherley there were 2 more category 4 climbs and one cheeky half mile climb of 9 %. But when you emerged onto the top of these climbs the views were spellbinding .
An added bonus of the beautiful views was that quite regularly we were getting the call from Carol…
” Photo stop ! Photo stop ! ”
So we could have a rest as well as admire the view.
Maybe it was worth all the pain to see this beauty ? What am I saying, of course it wasn’t ! Haven’t you heard of a car ?!
Coming down off the moors we soon reached the sanctuary of our planned coffee stop at Osmotherley. We had covered just 33 miles.
COFFEE STOP AND DEATH CORNER
I am not really sure what food is on the recommended list for cyclists craving something to boost energy levels mid ride. However, there must be a list.
We set about eating everything we could lay our hands on that is probably not on that list.
There were bags of chips from the chippy, sausage and bacon sandwiches, chocolate bars, cheesecakes , sponge cakes you name it.
It was like feeding time at the zoo.
Before we set off again Chris warned us that not far down the road was a downhill with a very tight bend and we should look out for it.
Yeah whatever. Where’s my cheesecake ?
Later Chris would describe this corner as “Death Corner” which if he’d said that in the first place I would have paid more attention !
We left Osmotherley by way of a tough little climb ( I can’t keep saying “cheeky” ) over two and a half miles that then turned into a steep descent down into Swainby.
Death Corner lay in wait on this descent. My estimate was that the downhill gradient was about 15 % when the road turned sharp left, very nearly back on itself.
I was approaching far too fast before I realised what was coming up and started to brake. To add to the jeopardy there were little streams of water running down the tarmac to make it into a perfect skid pan.
I would like to tell you that I displayed wonderful bike handling skills to get round that corner, but I didn’t. I slammed the brakes on, locked up, started skidding to the outside of the bend (nearly taking Jason out on the way ) and went..
” Whoaaa, Whoaaaa , Whoaaa !!!! ”
Isaac Newton, however, was just about on my side as my motion was brought to a stop just before the tarmac ran out and the bushy, prickly stuff started.
Well at least I kept my dignity intact….
NOT ANOTHER ONE ?!- CARLTON BANK
After Swainby there was a very welcome 3 miles of relative flat as we approached the village of Carlton-in- Cleveland.
Between Carlton-in-Cleveland and Lord Stones Country Park lay Carlton Bank a 1.1 mile climb with an average of 10 %.
The climb could be broken up into a straight bit which was steep but not mega steep followed by a sharp left hander and then an arcing right hander to the top. The 25 % stuff was around these two turns.
On the approach I got in front ( briefly ) so I could get a picture of everyone before we inevitably got strung out. I had not got many pictures of Steve as he was going really well up the hills and I was seldom ….ok never …..in front of him.
Later Chris accused him of cheating somehow in a way that we hadn’t yet figured out. Steve countered with the explanation that his excellent form was due to losing weight and cycling a lot . Preposterous ! I’m not buying that !
When the sharp left hand bend came along being on the right hand side of the road, where the gradient was slightly less, was obviously desirable.
The fact that this was the wrong side of the road as far as oncoming traffic was concerned was a little inconvenient but we all managed to negotiate it safely.
On the long arcing right hander to the top there were a number of killer sections but most importantly they were followed by little plateaus of relief that enabled you to get your head together for the next bit.
In short there would be no repeat of the Boltby Bank debacle here.
THIS IS MORE LIKE IT
From the top of Carlton Bank we had about 10 miles of descent and flat to cover ( with the odd little lump thrown in ) before the last climb of the day at Newgate Bank.
This was definitely more like it. We could do some proper cycling now which is of course all getting in a line and going as fast as you can.
That didn’t stop Chris trying to throw in one of those cheeky optional extras.
He went up and down the line asking how people felt about taking on an ascent of Bilsdale a big lump of a hill we could see off to our right with a TV transmitter on top of it.
“Well Chris ” I said ” If the others are up for it then I’m up for it ” which clearly meant under no circumstances did I want to go up this optional extra hill.
As fate would have it we did not pay a visit to the Bilsdale Transmitter as we had missed the turning some time ago.
I think Chris knew that if he had suggested we turnaround and go find the turning then he would not have been killed in the rush. He may possibly just have been killed.
NEWGATE BANK AND THE END
And so we homed in on Newgate Bank the last climb of the day. Yet another 1 mile climb with an average of 7 % maxing out at 12 % in places.
On other rides this would have been the big climb of the day but this time it seemed like a nice easy one to finish off with.
From the top of Newgate Bank there was a well deserved 4 mile descent to the finish line at Helmsley. This was much more my kind of territory and I actually did a bit on the front to make up for the previous 50 miles where I had gone missing.
Back in Helmsley after Carol had accosted a couple to take our photo there really was only one thing left to do …..Pub !
As we sat in the pub nursing our pints of beer, shandy and orange ( guess who was driving ) we reflected on the day.
That was the end of what was, for me, an epic bike ride and day in the saddle.
I know it’s a cliche to say it but it had been a pleasure to be part of a diverse bunch of people who all came together to help each other get through a very tough physical challenge.
Had I enjoyed it all of the time ? No I hated going up those stupidly steep hills but for sure I enjoyed all parts of the day where I was stationary, cycling on the flat or downhill (apart from Death Corner ) and eating.
I had also enjoyed immenselyJason’s 70s porn star dodgy double entendres but sadly they too were at an end.
Maybe there was time for one last drink.
“Anybody fancy a fill up ? I’m gagging for one ! ”