30 Days of Biking in the South Pennines

Joining in the fun with #30daysofbiking

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Why I didn’t ride my bike again – Hannah, Day 28 & 29

I know I have already made a few excuses for not riding, but I am making another.  Actually, it’s less of an excuse, and more the case that I am gratuitously using this blog to say thank you.  Maybe some of the people to whom the thanks is directed will get to hear of it.  The rest of you get to look at Kid 1 looking rather sweet, but in a totally uncycling related bless her cotton socks way.

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Post-op brave face

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Late night stoic portrait

Yes, on what should have been Day 28, she broke her arm playing in the garden.  No, it’s not Kid 2 it A&E (as would be expected), it’s Kid 1.  She fell, she squealed, I asked her what she’d hurt, she said she’d broken her arm, I looked at the banana shaped arm and agreed with her diagnosis.

So off we drove to Calderdale Royal Infirmary and here my list of thanks begins: to the paramedics who helped her out the car with smiles on their faces, to all the A&E staff who ushered us from registration to xray and beyond without a minute of waiting, to the people who gave her painkillers, plastered her arm and brought me tea.  To every member of staff who was unfailingly cheerful, helpful, kind and sympathetic: thank you.

And then on – to Huddersfield for an overnight stay and surgery in the morning.  Again – friendly staff who remained friendly right through the night.  Confident, clear advice and question answering.  Sympathetic staff from cleaners to consultants.  Not once did Kid 1 feel frightened or upset by what was happening to her.  In exactly 24 hours she had fallen, gone to two hospitals, undergone surgery under a general anaesthetic, had pins and wires put in her arm, and made it back home to the sofa.  A painful experience for Kid 1, but not the painful ordeal it might have been.  She’s got plenty of healing to do, and with a bunch of metalwork in her arm there’s more treatment to go, but the treatment we’ve had so far couldn’t have been better.

To everyone who crossed our path in the last 24 hours, thank you.

I may be a little tired and emotional, but if you have to have an unpleasant injury, the South Pennines is not such a bad place to do it!

And just so this post has a very tenuous cycling link – once she came round Kid 1 said ‘look at my new cycling glove!’.  I like the way her mind works 🙂2014-04-29 14.04.05

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Ruth’s Diary of a Novice : Day Almost 30 That’s All Folks

This is my last word on the subject of 30 Days of Biking because, whilst I have been biking, I can find no more time for blogging (is that a sigh a relief I hear?). My last words are about my philosophy on sport, so they are tremendously profound (not).

I was always the last person to be picked for a team at school. I was always the last out of the changing rooms to make sure all the good team positions had been taken by the keenies. I was invariably relegated to goal on the hockey pitch to spend a happy hour dreaming about other stuff, thereby avoiding all the frantic action mid field and making the goal defenders work twice as hard to avert team disaster. In short, I was rubbish at sport. By sixth form I wore this skill like a badge with such pride that I was voted Sports Captain of my ‘house’ by friends who had just discovered the meaning of irony.

At university I found a friend who shared my lack of enthusiasm for sport and we spent many happy hours on the badminton court laughing a lot. In my diving I have met buddies  who are happy to stay diving on a single cylinder, pootling to depths of not more than 30 metres, happily playing with the fish. My philosophy is therefore that any type of sport should be fun and it’s not compulsory to push to excel. There is of course a place for the winners (provided they win fairly) but there is also a very valid place for those who dabble, amble, pootle and giggle. Without joyous acceptance of us ‘losers’ walking up hills with our bikes, a sport can become elitist and marginalised. Cycling it strikes me, as a novice dabbling at the edges of real understanding, is going in all the right directions. It’s a totally inclusive, open and welcoming sport, and there’s no real need to say more than that. I am no longer in the changing room pretending to tie my laces, I have crept out and participated at my own pace, in my own way.

Nothing could illustrate the ‘fun’ nature of whizzing about on any sort of wheels better than the Fantastical Cycle Parade that I cycled to on Saturday in Todmorden. Here even hippos were on wheels, making me feel far less conspicuous in my lycra. Part of the Yorkshire Festival and therefore the Tour de France, this event took the whole cycling idea into a wonderfully different dimension far removed from “sport” but instead firmly into “fun”.

So as my 30 days come to an end, I find myself reflecting on what it has all meant to me.  As a project manager, my life is depressingly dominated by definitions of outputs and outcomes, all of which can be artfully distorted to prove whether a project has been astonishingly good value for money, or not, depending on whose side you’re on, mine or the auditors. So here are my outputs and outcomes for my imaginary auditor;

1. I have got myself back on a bike after cart wheeling myself off one into a canal 13 years ago due to a bit of adverse camber. A soft landing you might think – yes and equally so for my new baby who was securely fastened to the bike seat as it also plummeted gracefully to silty depths. I have a hunch this is why, 13 years later he still won’t get on a bike, but has learnt how to scuba dive.

2. Actually I did get my son on a bike…on the back of a tandem….but he was still pedalling so it counts.

3. I have got my neighbour back on a bike after her rather nasty accident on a downhill mountain bike route where she broke lots of bits n bobs. We now have a pact to go out at least once a week on our bikes when 30 Days of Biking ends.

4. I have got my work colleague back on a bike after years out of the saddle. This achievement comes at number 4 cos she’s a fittie fell runner, not a lazy lush like me and my neighbour.

5. The cleaner at work has started cycling to work again because she has ‘seen the light’, but I’m not really sure that it was me that switched it on. However I’ll count it as an output anyhow cos the auditor won’t notice.

6. I have 30 excuses for not cycling to work on any day at all, ranging from “I forgot to take my bike home” to “I had no pedals.” On the whole I think the list is quite an impressive achievement in its own right and one which any child could easily tailor and adapt for homework purposes. I might sell it to my son.

7. And finally, I have lost weight, enjoyed myself, conquered hills, not conquered hills but not minded, got wet, got cold, got hot, got sweaty, I have had my bottom measured, I have bought padded pants, I have ridden a tandem and a 29er, I have made new friends and learnt new stuff.

To conclude (cos auditors do like a conclusion), its all been remarkably good value for very little money and at the end of the day, I remain the last person that anyone would pick for their team, but at least I am playing the game and enjoying it.

So its goodbye til next year when hopefully you’ll join me in 30 Days of Biking South Pennines. Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you for cheering me on.




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Say hello, wave goodbye (Day 27)

With heavy legs from yesterday’s hilly excursion, today was always going to be a ‘flat’ short ride.

I’ve long since learnt that there’s no such thing as flat in the South Pennines so I did my Cragg Vale loop in reverse going out via Todmorden and Littleborough, up a windy Blackstone Edge before dropping down Cragg Vale into Mytholmroyd.

With it being Sunday morning, the traditional time for club and other cyclists to take to the roads, I hit upon counting how many I’d see on my twenty odd mile jaunt. To make things more interesting I decided to say hello to as many as possible and note the number that didn’t bother to respond.

In the seventy five minutes I was out I counted an amazing ninety three cyclists of all shapes sizes and types, and of those I’m glad to say that only ten didn’t acknowledge my cheery wave or garbled hello.

After unusually battling the wind down Cragg Vale, I got home with the warm fuzzy glow of road based camaraderie!


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Shopping local (Day 28)

Today I went shopping on my bike, not my usual jaunt for bread and milk, but a quick trip to drool over cycling goodies at Victor and Liberty‘s new home just off the Cragg Vale road.

Situated on the Top Land Country Park near where the Bakehouse coop (my favourite bakers) are located, Victor and Liberty have set up a showroom for their line of niche cycling clothing and accessories.

In another of those real-life meets after numerous ‘tweetervations’ it was good to finally put a face to a name plus I got to meet Sidney the dog.

In hindsight it was a blessing that I went by bike as I came away with just a pair of beautiful Cafe Du Cycliste arm warmers, had I been on foot or four wheels I may have well spent considerably more!

It’s good to shop local!


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Dalesman for a pot o’ tea and beans on toast (Day 26)

I’ve been in the valley for six months now and haven’t managed to make too many long distance (for me) rides. With a free day in the calendar and the sun in full effect I decided that I’d ride up to to Gargrave on the southern edge of the Dales to visit the fabled Dalesman tearooms.

I went out over Cock Hill (wind assisted all the way) then headed over to Stanbury, past the reservoirs towards Colne, then pushed on west of Lothersdale before dropping down into the Broughton Hall estate (where the Rapha Tempest event will be held in the summer) before crossing a busy A59 to finally end up in Gargrave.

You can’t miss the Dalesman, situated on the crossroads right next to the river Aire, it’s part tearooms, part sweetshop and an extremely popular cyclist haunt. However, when I arrived mid afternoon, it was just my bike locked to the railings and inside a few tourists filling up on cake.

Beans on toast and a pot of tea later I was on my way home, skirting Skipton following the Aire valley I traversed the likes of Carelton, Cononley and Sutton-in-Craven before getting back into familiar territory at Oakworth and the stiffer than expected ascent into Haworth.

As ever in these parts, it was a tough ride, and whilst it came in at only a smudge over 50 miles, there was 6700ft of climbing with some leg sapping climbs on the return. On back roads most of the way, it was a great ride out and another classic cycling café ticked off the list!


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Riding a bike really is like riding a bike – Hannah, Day 27

Between school holidays and my mum visiting, I realised I needed to do a bit of planning to make rides more meaningful than a quick evening or early morning dash round the block.  So last night I got organised and arranged to borrow a step-through women’s bike from Gayle Appleyard of local architecture practice Gagarin Studio.  Then this morning I informed my mum that we were going on a bike ride.  She didn’t argue, but she did say she hadn’t ridden a bike since 1997. We set off along route 66 to Hebden Bridge, and despite my mum’s slight apprehension, it turns out that riding a bike really is like riding a bike – you can just get back on and you don’t forget how to do it.  The new fangled technology – suspension forks and indexed gears – were a bit alien to my mum, who claimed to prefer her old steel bike.  This was an ancient single speed, steel, dutch style bike with rod brakes which she used to ride around with me on the back in a seat which makes a mockery of current safety standards and kite marks.  I’m pretty sure this is near identical. 1970 schwinn 17 I grew up out in the sticks up a rough forestry track, so the fact that my mum hauled a massively heaving single speed bike over gates and along rough tracks is only slightly more impressive than the fact that I didn’t fall out and maim myself on any of these excursions.  Maybe this is where my slightly carefree attitude to rough descents comes from. We made it to Hebden just in time to see the young star of Le Grand Depart riding his new birthday bike for the first time.  It was a tad too big, but this wasn’t going to stop him riding it round the park.  I barely dared look as he stretched out full reach on the drops to grab the brakes and stop – I worried about how high that crossbar was compared to the length of his legs.  However, he was clearly delighted with it, and was still riding it after we’d done the skate park, the swings, and the Park Life Cafe.

Torn between admiring Kid 1’s one handed riding skills and anxiety over the well being of Birthday Boy’s crown jewels, I suddenly heard the screams of Kid 2.  He was on the floor and not getting up – not a good sign in a child that usually bounces.  The screams also had that pitch that I know signals a real physical injury rather than just hurt pride.  As I rode towards him, he got up, and I could see his nose and mouth were obscured by mud and blood.  A worrying development. Kid 2 specialises in the kinds of incidents that very nearly require A&E/air ambulance/ plastic surgery.  Body surfing head first down the ravine in Nutclough Woods, high speed balance bike crashes – he’s tested my nerves many times.  Scrabbling around for tissues (at least having a cold for weeks means I actually had some with me) I mopped up the blood and hoped all his teeth were still there.  After a few worried minutes, it became apparent he’d just given himself a fright and a fat lip as a result of trying to copy his sister’s one handed skills.  Another close shave.  There was nothing for it but to continue the ride home, so, with Kid 2 crying all the way back to Mytholmroyd we finished our ride (I did push him along though, I wasn’t so cruel as to make him ride all the way under his own steam).  He’s fine now – some people pay good money to have their lips look like his.  I hope Birthday Boy made it to his party unscathed.

Post Face Plant Unhappiness

Post Face Plant Unhappiness

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A Mixed Bag – Feeble Excuses & Trying a Bit – Hannah Days 19-26

I haven’t posted since day 19, when I said I was going to stop being pathetic and go for a ride. I did. I set out with the intention of just riding to the top of the hill and back, so I didn’t bother with my helmet or any other cycling paraphernalia. Then it was rather lovely, and so was the view, so I came back by an offroad route, realised it only takes one stone in the wrong place for your pimped hybrid to twitch all over the place, and scared myself a little bit. Maybe a helmet wouldn’t really make any difference, but I did feel a bit exposed. But a happy little ride nonetheless.

Day 19 View

Day 19 View

Monday, day 20, and I was coughing again. A last minute token ride round the housing estate. Tuesday, still coughing, a ride down the hill to running club, a fell run (more coughing), and a ride back up the hill. Technically a ‘brick’ session I suppose, although it’s my chest that aches more than my legs.


Wednesday, day 22, and it’s Hurstwood again, but this time with both Kids 1 and 2. Kid 1 hadn’t been for ages, and managed to do the whole route unaided, including the steep ups and scary downs. I have a serious proud Mummy morning as she focuses on pedalling and steering and conquers everything in her path. She looks stronger and more confident than her 5 years, and she looks genuinely athletic. She’s proud of herself, but I’m not sure she could ever be as proud as I am. Kid 2 has not forgotten his tumbles on a previous trip, and is nervous of the steepest drop, but still gets down it with me helping him. He also makes it up one of the little hills for the first time. Both deserve their milkshakes at the International Grill in Burnley afterwards.20140423_112623














Thursday just didn’t happen. I missed a chance to try out a trailer bike in the park in the morning, and then I was knackered. I should have gone out for a token spin round the housing estate, but my soul was broken. The problem with living half way up a hill is that even the most token gesture ride is going to involve an uphill. Feeling repentant, I got up first thing on Friday morning, jumped straight onto the bike, and repeated Monday’s up-the-hill-and-down-the-wood ride, this time in the fog. This leaves me slightly light headed, and makes me crave healthy things for breakfast – maybe I should ride before breakfast more often?

Or maybe not. I am coughing again, and sneezing – so much so that I awake in the night to find my husband has decamped to the spare room. He is riding the Fred Whitton Challenge in a fortnight, and the Etape du Dales the week after. He does not need me sneezing on him in my sleep and scuppering all his training.

And so we’re up to date. It’s day 26.  Today’s ride was another token effort, though this time it did have a purpose – I needed to check the path we’re hoping to use as a walking bus to school. School is half way up a steep hill, so I’m prepared to accept that very few children will ever ride to school, but if we can get a few more out of their cars and using their legs it can only be a good thing.

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On the buses (Day 25)

This morning my legs ached, the ache that I get after a race and whilst unpleasant it’s a good thing, showing yesterday’s ride was a solid effort. Therefore today was a quick lunchtime ‘cross ride on the flat.

At Luddendenfoot, where Route 66 joins the local road, the car park was packed full of vintage buses including one that caught my eye, HTJ522B a red Lancashire United bus exactly like the ones I knew as a kid.

I got chatting to it’s owner who told me that No. 167 was from a depot up the road from where I grew up in 70’s Wigan. That very bus probably took me an my Mum up and down the hill for our regular shopping trips but it’s now used for weddings and part of the Mersey and Calder Bus Preservation Group’s collection.

It’s amazing what you get to see on the bike if you keep your eyes open!


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Fastest round the Coop (Day 24)

There’s a magical day that comes once each year when the countless hours of training reward with a feint glimmer of what might be.

Today was meant to be a turbo session, to be frank, I just couldn’t face it. It’d been a glorious day and I’d missed it all travelling and working so I decided to grab what was left, get outdoors and do the Cragg Vale loop on the road bike (Hebden, Mytholmroyd, Cragg Vale, Littleborough and Todmorden).

Given that the session was meant to be strength based I stuck the bike in the big ring and rode as hard as I could up Britain’s longest climb, leaving it as late as possible before I dropped the gears – I’m not the strongest rider in the world but I can spin!

I felt weirdly strong on the climb, which wasn’t particularly wind assisted, and as I passed the lake at the top decided to carry on as hard as I could for the remainder of the ride.

Once home I uploaded my data only to find I taken a whopping eleven minutes off my time for the ‘Coop loop’, the Strava name for the Cragg Vale circuit, and taken almost another minute of my best time up the climb.

Today was that day, the day when everything might be possible and the ‘cross season proper is still months away!