Festive 500 Final Ride!

Well, this isn’t how I pictured finishing but I rode around the block (a big block) to complete 6.56′ / 10.5 km and take my total to beyond the magic 500 km to around 504. 

That’s enough for me. My phone, as usual, crashed this time within two miles of leaving home – I only noticed as I took it out to get a photograph… 

It was wet, it was dark and it was windy so at least the weather was consistent for the whole week!

Good luck to everyone who is finishing theirs off today and well done to those who have reached (and smashed) their targets. I wish everyone happy and safe cycling for the coming year. 

John. 

Festive 500 Day/Ride 5

Today, I was invited out with a local cycling club, Alba Rosa (ARCC) who are a fine bunch of people and very good cyclists. 

The plan was to ride a repeat of the route I did on day 2, taking in Norwood Edge and Greenhow. The weather however had other ideas. Once we got to the top of Norwood, the wind and rain had really picked up (despite a promising start to the day) and knowing how exposed the moors are at Greenhow, it was decided to take an alternative, lower route with hopefully more shelter. 

We had a brief stop at the top of Norwood Edge to regroup and then enjoyed gusting side winds and hail on the descent to the turn off to Swinsty and Fewston reservoirs. I would say the decision to take an alternative route was the correct one!

The road drops between the reservoirs and then climbs up onto the top of Askwith Moor where we met some other ARCC club members and founder Mr. Jamie Tweddell (who is a very strong cyclist despite insisting on persevering with triathlon) and descended down into Askwith itself. 

More rain, more hail and more wind. Along the bottom of the valley towards Ilkley we rode, with a few members peeling off, beaten by the weather (and one with the valid excuse of having tickets to see Jaws at the cinema!) 

We persevered onwards to Bolton Abbey with a plan to have a coffee, some cake and discuss what to do next at the Cavendish Tea Room. That place has the biggest flapjacks I have ever seen. So big that I didn’t even have to use my emergency banana or muesli bar! A huge improvement over yesterday, I have to say. 

The general consensus was that we should head in the general direction of home as it was cold, wet, miserable and we had cycled a reasonable distance already so we rode back towards the main road and went in exactly the opposite direction up the A59. It turns out that there’s an ‘interesting’ hill that we had to climb first as it’s a popular Strava segment. In true cycling fashion, this cavalier attitude towards the weather was rewarded with the heaviest hail, strongest winds and biggest gusts of the day. 

The hill was indeed interesting and challenging although I doubt my Strava time is anything to speak of (I’ll check later as my phone was still holding up at this point) but it’s certainly a route I’d do again from Long Causeway, up Low Lane and into Draughton. From there there’s a very pleasing descent down the A65 past Chelker Reservoir and then down through Addingham. A pleasing little ditty from my jersey pocket let me know that my phone had decided it had enough of recording today’s ride. 

From here, the rest is mapped on Bikely but it’s a familiar story of simply following the road through Ilkley, by-passing Otley and on into Leeds. A stop at The Stables pub for a couple of celebratory pints of York Guzzler and I was feeling pretty good about the ride. The hard days really are easier with company. 

A short ride home and that’s my Festive 500 completed…. Except it isn’t. Once I plotted the rest onto Bikely and added up the distances, I discovered I’m only at 493.6 km so I’ll have to pop out tomorrow to do the final 6.4 km tomorrow. 

I was hoping to avoid riding tomorrow but I’ll squeeze it in somehow. 

I didn’t take any pictures today but I am told there are some, taken by ARCC’s photographer, of me so I shall see if I can find them. I’ve also kind of given up on gear reviews – I wore the same as yesterday and it all performed exceptionally and I remained comfortable all day. 

Links:

http://app.strava.com/activities/34775185

http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/festive-500-ride-5-2#

 

Festive 500 Day/Ride 4

Today, I was feeling a little bit sore and stiff from yesterdays efforts, especially across the shoulders from all the bike wrestling on those steep ascents but, after some breakfast and coffee, felt pretty good and ready to go again. The forecast was of course for heavy rain and moderate to strong winds. 

Today, I wore exactly the same attire as yesterday as it all worked so well. I also enjoyed riding fixed so much that I decided that the trusty fixed gear should be treated to another day out in the countryside. 

So, off I set with the intention to ride a reasonably flat sixty miles / one hundred kilometres. I took the same route as day one, all the way out of Leeds, through Headingley and out on Otley Road, bypassing Otley itself and following the road all the way up the dale through Ilkley and on towards Addingham and Bolton Abbey. 

Other than the rain, it was a fairly uneventful journey, the purpose of which just to get some easier kilometres in towards the total. 

Onwards past Bolton Abbey, it took some self control not to stop at all the excellent cafes clustered around the area but I rode on through. This is where the weather worsened, the gradients increased and the wind decided to make an unwelcome appearance! 

I had decided a loop through Grassington would be appropriate and hopefully give me enough miles but, with all those hills in my legs from yesterday (along with the previous two days riding) the lactic acid was building up on every short climb, never mind the longer hills. What was a reasonably enjoyable ride before soon became harder and harder as I used more energy (even my emergency banana wasn’t helping here) and it cold colder, wetter and windier. 

I do a lot of my cycling by myself from virtue of cycling through the week when most people are at work but the good company and camaraderie of yesterday was still fresh in my mind and it made the loneliness, solitude, drudgery and quite honestly, misery of this ride all the more apparent. It was a stark contrast to yesterday where, no matter what went wrong or how lost we got, spirits remained high. 

The roads were in a terrible state also with hidden potholes, some collapsed verges and regular floods, some coming up and over bottom bracket height which meant my feet got soaked They were already getting damp but it was manageable and they were staying warm-ish but they started to go cold and, soon enough, numb. Although it’s that numbness that seems to manifest itself as pain. I think I’m starting to get trench foot 

Onwards and upwards I went. (My easy/steady flat ride wasn’t quite turning out as I’d planned with nearly 4,900 ft of ascent by the time I retuned home!) I stopped briefly for a photo opportunity and then through Burnsall, Threshfield and finally Grassington I cycled. I’d forgotten how steep some of the climbs in this area are – there’s a few twenty percent gradients to tackle and my legs were screaming by this point. 

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I would have have liked to stop in Grassington but I had the feeling that if I were to stop, I might never want to start again. I needed to feel like I was on the way home before allowing myself a break. After Grassington is the village of Hebden. I stopped briefly to check the map, take a photograph and, with a disappointing ‘bleep’ my phone crashed…. Again. I was furious, cold, miles away from home, running out of water and with only a couple of oatcakes to keep me going, morale was at an all time low. Not to worry, I thought, I brought my camera today too as I promised to try and get some more pictures. I took one with my camera which then, in a beautiful display of technological solidarity with my phone, showed the low battery warning and shut down.

 

Image

 

I’m not pregnant, that’s my gloves stuffed up the front of my rainjacket! 

Oh well, the only thing left to do now was to head for home. Down Hartlington Raikes, through Hartlington and into the very picturesque village of Appletreewick. I needed a lot of willpower not to stop here – I’ve visited both pubs previously and they are friendly, warm, cosy  and both sell exceptionally good food. I would have just curled up by the fire and slept had I gone into either. 

From Appletreewick, it’s a familiar road down to Barden, across the river and up through Springs Wood onto the road back to Bolton Abbey. From there, it’s a fairly straight forward ride down the valley to Leeds so I figured it was safe to allow myself a stop. Besides, I’d run out of oatcakes and water so needed a refill.

I wanted to visit the Tea Cottage as it’s one of the places I’ve never been before. Local sausages, mashed potato and home-made gravy sounded fabulous as did a freshly ground coffee. That ordered, I took out my phone and swore at it for a while. That did the trick and it sprung into life. More swearing. 

At last the food arrived! It was awful. I have never had such a miserable lunch in all my life. Two, tiny supermarket sausages, smash and packet gravy. Oh, and instant coffee. If I wasn’t so cold, wet and drained I might have found the energy to complain but instead I just wanted to get it down and get on with the ride. A quick visit to the toilet (to warm my hat and gloves under the hand drier before putting them on again) and it was back in the saddle. I treated myself to a winter collar and silk glove liners for an extra bit of warmth and luxury on the last stretch. 

Despite the disappointment of lunch, it certainly did the trick and as luck would have it, the rain had eased off to drizzle. A straight ride back the way I came and that was today’s 108 km done. Unfortunately the ride recording stopped at the great Raikes End phone disaster but a trip to Bikely soon had the final figures. Another unfortunate effect of these mishaps is that my Strava total is now 305 km when it should be 393.5 km which is much more like it. So, more riding tomorrow and hopefully a social one! 

Link to Strava:

http://app.strava.com/activities/34560449

Link to Bikely:

http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/festive-500-ride-4-2#

Festive 500 Ride 3

Today I planned to meet a couple of Fixed Gear Friends for a ride out to another of Yorkshire’s famous climbs (and the longest continuous gradient in England) Cragg Vale. The weather forecast for today for the whole area was for heavy rain all day and strong winds. 

With this in mind, I decided more extreme measures were required and I wore:

  • L/S Merino Baselayer
  • Classic Bib Shorts
  • Deep Winter Tights
  • Winter Socks 
  • L/S Jersey
  • Merino Hat
  • Rain Jacket (Rapha Condor Club edition.)
  • Overshoes

I also took some silk glove liners and the winter collar in case it got even colder. 

It was an early start and off we set into a light drizzle but with little wind. The ride out of Leeds was fairly uneventful and we trundled north through the lovely town of Saltaire (where the famous Salt’s Mill is located) and out into the countryside. 

From here, the ride was a little chaotic… I wasn’t leading it so hadn’t thought about the route or planned it and, as it turns out, neither had Sam or Tim! There was a lot of map checking, head scratching and dead ends but it also meant that we all got to cycle on roads that we’ve never cycled before  and see scenery we’ve never seen before. 

Through wind and rain and up hill and down (the wrong) dales we went, happy to be cycling and happy to be on the Festive 500 in each other’s company. It only took us an extra four hours and the best part of forty miles to actually find the Cragg… But we celebrated this with a pint in the pub and a very satisfying lunch. 

The day was marching on and, with some time constraints, we took the decision to cycle up Cragg Vale, back down again and then get the train home from Mytholmroyd. I still have no idea how to pronounce that properly. So, off we set. The climb itself isn’t anything exciting and barely exceed 5% but the locals are very proud if it, often upgrading it to the ‘longest continuous gradient in the UK.’ It’s reasonably well sheltered to start with and winds up through streets of houses and an occasional pub but, once towards the top of the moor, all that changed and it was into the heavy rain and 20mph+ headwinds. It was hard going, especially after the 4,000 ft of fixed gear climbing we’d endured to get there but up  we went. All my gear performed faultlessly and, as usual, comfort is the key word. I also didn’t look too out of place in the pub!

The top was a brief moment of celebration and opportunity for pictures followed by a fantastic descent all the way back to Mytholmroyd and the train station. A short journey back to Leeds and then a short cycle home and the day was done. 

All in all, a good days cycling only let down by my phone which crashed halfway through the ride losing 37km from my Festive 500 total! Raging. However, there is photographic evidence that I continued the ride with Sam and Tim so hopefully that’ll suffice as evidence. 

My total now stands at 248 km on Strava or 285 actual km cycled. 

Sam’s excellent blog on his Fixed Gear Festive 500 is worth reading and can be found by scrolling down at:

http://thenorthrace.co.uk/

Thanks for reading so far! 

Festive 500 Day Two.

Today’s ride promised to be a repeat weather wise of yesterday so I treated my legs to a little bit of embrocation (which must have got onto the pad in my shorts causing a little bit of pre-ride dancing) and decided to wear:

  • Long Sleeve Baselayer
  • Classic Bib Shorts
  • Winter Tights
  • Long Sleeve Jersey (2010, I think)
  • Winter Socks
  • Overshoes (lesson learned from yesterday.)
  • Winter Collar
  • Merino Hat
  • Rapha + PS Town Gloves (as my town gloves hadn’t quite dried.)
  • Classic Wind Jacket (which was tucked in my jersey pocket as it performed so well yesterday.)

The ride today was out of Leeds again and towards the town of Pool-In-Wharfedale. It’s a pretty uneventful cycle out that far but shortly after Pool, a turn off the main road takes me onto country roads which are much quieter.

The first excitement of the day comes cycling down towards Lindley Wood Reservoir in the Washburn Valley which is right at the bottom of Norwood Edge – a fantastic climb. It was at the top of Norwood that I decided to don the Wind jacket as it was starting to drizzle lightly and the northerly wind was making it feel a little bit colder.

The ride from the top of Norwood Edge is a fantastic undulating (but mostly descending) road that takes you up to the A59. The drizzle had definitely set in now! Crossing the A59, the road then takes you past the famous listening station at RAF Menwith Hill and onwards and downwards into Nidderdale and onto Summerbridge. A left turn here and a short while later there’s a descent all the way down into Pately Bridge. ANyone who has cycled around this area of Yorkshire before knows what comes next – the amazing climb of Greenhow Hill all the way up to Greenhow itself. So far, so good – the drizzle and wind are persisting but I’m comfortable, happy and the legs aren’t feeling too bad.

Shortly after Greenhow, the road descends down into the Yorkshire Dales National Park which, even in this weather, has beautiful scenery. I should take photographs but I prefer to experience rather than document and the stopping to take photographs and the interruption takes away from the ride a little bit.

From here on, it a reverse of the outward route I took yesterday down New Road, past Bolton Abbey (where I stopped at the tearoom and had an amazing fruit flapjack and an average coffee.) After my little stop, during which time the drizzle had promoted itself to rain, it was a straight run through Ilkley, past Otley and back into Leeds and home. All my gear performed faultlessly( and I don’t think I’ve ever worn a pair of bib shorts more comfortable) although my bike has developed some squeaks – I’ll have to investigate those tomorrow.

So that’s my total up to 194 km and approximately 38% completed.

Here’s the ride:

http://app.strava.com/activities/34202875

Festive 500 Day One.

I was a little bit late starting (some people have already finished it!) but with some responsibilities on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day now over with, it’s bicycle time. 

Today I wore:

  • Long sleeved base layer
  • Country Jersey (France)
  • Pro Team Thermal Bib Shorts
  • Leg Warmers
  • Winter Socks
  • Oversocks
  • Merino Hat
  • Town Gloves. 
  • For Emergencies: Wind Jacket. 

The ride started off pleasantly enough and, from my home in Leeds rode north towards Ilkely and onto Bolton Abbey. The temperature was 8 degrees C and there was no rain forecast… 

From Bolton Abbey, I rode onwards towards Barden Bridge and the climb up New Road towards Appletreewick and onto the B6265. From there, it was a short section to the right turn onto Reddish Gate/Blake Gate. So far, I was perfectly comfortable and happy with all gear performing well. 

This is where things got interesting. I suffered quite a severe bonk around here, it started to rain heavily, the wind picked up and the sun went down… Here comes the misery. 

Out came the Wind Jacket and my emergency banana. So, with the weather getting bad and nothing in my legs, I decided it best to head straight for home. Unfortunately, this is at the point on the ride that’s furthest away from home anyway. 

The Wind Jacket did a fantastic job – it kept out the rain for well over an hour and when I did get wet (which wasn’t much to speak of) it kept me comfortable. Whether wet or dry, cold or warm, the best I can ask from any item as that it keeps me comfortable. The Thermal Bib Shorts were another revelation. I’ve only been using them for dry rides but the worked very well indeed, keeping my thighs warm and my muscles (reasonably, considering the bonk) happy. 

The town gloves were another item I hadn’t envisioned using for such extreme precipitation but they too performed well and kept my hands comfortable almost all the way home. Towards the end of the ride, my fingertips were numb but they outperformed any of my expectations, which, when it comes to Rapha, are always high. 

The Merino hat was superb in the rain. It got wet, obviously, but continued to insulate and kept my ears and head happy. For such a small and inconsiderable item, it really is superb. 
The only casualty was my toes. The oversocks are great and without the rain would have.  been fine but for the torrential downpour I rode through, they just weren’t the right item. 

But, from the start of the rain, down towards Otley and then onward to Leeds and home, I rode through some of the worst the British winter has for us and arrived in a pretty good state!

All in all, a good (if late) start despite the weather. 

http://instagram.com/p/TtikB8xXbw/

http://app.strava.com/activities/34057741