Today I did one of the craziest events in the South Pennines. Ronde van Calderdale. An almost insane route around all of the best of the cobbled climbs around the steep sided valleys of Calderdale and Kirklees, rolling in at 70 miles with 10’000ft of climbing. It’s all in aid of the Kirklees Cycling Academy. Basically, we ride something daft and beautiful, they use the funds to get kids cycling and into grass roots racing. It’s win all round as far as I can see.
Photo – David Todd.
Ronde van Calderdale was written by ex-pro Michael Collins and based on the European Spring Classic Ronde van Vlaanderen, but you know what? I don’t think you need to go to Flanders when you have something this daft to do on your doorstep.
Let’s be fair, this ride is brutal, really brutal. Most of the remaining gritstone setts are only on funny little back roads, often too steep to still be used by traffic, some are still used and if a car does come up behind you, there’s often the revving of engines as if the car isn’t sure it will make it let alone a bicycle.
I’d been dithering about which bike to ride, I could have taken my Kinesis ATR Tripster again, low gears and disk brakes. Yet somehow that felt like cheating, so I decided to ride my lovely Kinesis GF-Ti V2. Last year for my birthday my partner Ali bought me some purple Chris King hubs, I’ve had them built up into some classics rims, perfect for today, light, fast and bombproof, a marvellous blend of retro style and modern tech.
300 or so riders set out from Spen Valley College. It was great to see lots of the people I first met here last year when I was reviewing the event for Cyclosport.org. Especially the Alba Rosa lads, I love what they’re doing with their club in Leeds. We wound up and down the hills, whipped by rain, blasted by rain, boiled on our way up, froze on the way down. We were fed by volunteers, the feed stations stocked to the gills, on we rode, ticking off the local classics the further we went.
What makes this event so charming is the camaraderie of the riders, nobody seems bothered by what time they’ve done, gathering in groups at the tops of the cobbles to cheer each other up, snapping pictures and laughing. I chatted with some lads up from Hackney, they were a little surprised by the climbs but were loving the event.
I managed all but Old Lane climb, the gritstone surface wet from the rain was as sloppy as hell. Lots of the climbs were sloppy, most of them I couldn’t stand up on the bike making it doubly hard. I have aching buttocks, well at least it means I was using my gluts!
There aren’t many events that I do where I’m that bothered about the goodie bag but with Ronde van Calderdale they’ve certainly got it right with a really nice cap and a complimentary beer. Great event, highly recommended, I’ll be back again next year.